Number 7 in the series and time for something a little different. We have looked at some of the more high profile recruits with big price tags, often going to the big yards, but todays horse is not so well known. Venetia Williams knows her way around a decent French horse, Royals Pagaille, Fanion D’estruval and others spring to mind. Todays horse comes from the Lageneste and Macaire team and after 6 starts, he is probably the most exposed horse in this years list. Normally that would make me cautious. The French handicapping system is very different to the UK and yet in the majority of cases the British Handicapper takes a simple conversion of 2.2lbs to a kilo and leaves it there. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but that generally leaves a horse between 7-10lbs higher than they perhaps should be.
France is very different. Better prize money, races based on age and ability along with a Tote monopoly mean connections have less need and less inclination to land a touch. As a result, fewer horses are left unexposed. I was asked about the handicapping system recently and that helped me to try and think of how to approach some of the more exposed horses that are sold across the Channel.
Let’s take Laskalin as an example. Sent to Venetia Williams just over 18 months ago after a successful spell in France, he was a Listed winner for the Mescam yard, winning 5 of his 13 races in France and had a French rating of 65-kilos when he was sold. The UK handicapper moved him to a mark of 143, but he has struggled in 4 starts for the Venetia Williams team and has been dropped to a mark of 129, which is probably a much fairer reflection of his overall ability and now he can run in Class 3 company, he should find a race or 2.
There are exceptions of course, Gaelic Warrior a good example of some creative handicapping that so nearly landed a win for his connections, but in the main, I would always be cautious of a horse who goes straight into handicaps when they arrive on these shores. Yet despite that reservation, I can’t let this horse go.
Zertakt (Venetia Williams)
3 wins from 6 starts is a very tidy return. Zertakt has already amassed a healthy €80000 in prize money. Having won over hurdles twice at Toulouse in the early part of the year, he was last seen winning a handicap hurdle over 2-miles and 2-furlongs at Auteuil in June. Having tracked the pace, he took up the running at the 3rd last and kept on well to produce a decent time figure, with a final circuit time 4-seconds quicker than the other handicap hurdle over the same course and distance. His Sire, Walzertakt, stayed 2-miles on the level, whilst his Dam-sire, Clety, also won over extreme trips on the Flat, so it is probably fair to say that he will stay much further in time. He is the first-foal of a dam who won twice over obstacles in her 13-race career, whilst her half sister Mater Matuta was a Grade 3 winner over fences at Auteuil.
He has a French rating of 63-kilos on the back of that Auteuil win, which if taken literally, as it most likely will be, would equate to 139 in the UK. It’s hard to weigh up what the Auteuil form is worth. The 2nd had won last time out, but the 3rd and 4th have been well beaten since, though he was conceding weight to most of the field. Normally that would make me hold back, but given his pedigree, it is perhaps surprising to see that he has done so well running over what looks to be an inadequate trip. He travels, finds well for pressure and does appear to have a turn-of-foot when needed. With so much stamina in his pedigree, a proper test on softer ground could be right up his street and 3-miles could bring about any amount of improvement.
Sold for €195,000 to Guy Petit at the Arqana sale, he told Jour de Galop “He goes to Venetia Williams for owners who are reinvesting (Michael and Peter Davies), we have been very lucky with horses from this yard”. He looks perfect for the yard, especially once he goes over fences and there is surely a decent staying chaser in there just waiting to be unleashed.