If Flat racing isn’t for you and you’re struggling to find some racing to get excited about on Epsom Oaks Day, then maybe the twilight Toulouse card is the place for you. This an 8-race card, but we start with 3 races over jumps whilst the daylight holds and they look to be the better races on the card. The hurdles track at Toulouse is around the outside of the Flat oval and is generally pretty fair, with a 3-furlong run from the home bend to the line. By contrast, the Chase course runs around the inner loop and as such is very tight around the bends and as a general rule of thumb it pays to look for a horse that will race prominently. The stats support that theory, with every winner over fences since October having raced within 4-lengths of the lead and that is something to bare in mind in the Handicap Chase at 4:18 (UK time). At the time of writing, the ground is forecast to be good to soft, 3,4 on the penetrometer and that gives a different angle compared to many of the other jumps tracks further North, who tend to race on a softer surface.
We have some racing royalty in race 3, with a full-sister to French Champion Hurdle winner De Bon Coeur, but there are angles in each race over obstacles and I’ve put together a selection for each contest below.
Race 1 - 3:15 Prix Du Pont-Long Hurdle
On the figures, A Babord should really win this. She has achieved more than any of her rivals and if she returns to the level of form that she showed when completing a hat-trick at Pau in January 2021, she will outclass this field. However, since returning from an absence at Fontainebleau in March, she hasn’t looked the same horse in 3 starts and has failed to see out her races. She was beaten fair and square over fences at Dieppe last month and on ground that looks to be better than ideal for her, she is probably worth opposing with the weight that she has to give away.
There are 2 horses who need considering here, Tilin Talan and Parimix. The former was 3rd at Dax when last seen and the winner of that race, Risk du Brizais, franked the form when winning at Compiegne earlier this week. He was 3rd over hurdles here in September behind the very talented Batman For Ever and after just 6 starts he remains unexposed, though this will require a career best from him. His rider, Anthony Beuadoire is good value for his 2-kilo claim and rode an impressive winner at Angouleme last week. I think he will be involved in the finish, but at the weights I still prefer PARIMIX. Francois Nicolle’s son of Gemix returned from a lengthy absence to finish 4th behind Virgo Celestin at Compiegne last month. That is arguably the strongest form on offer here and given the way the race panned out, we can upgrade this form even further. The runaway leader and eventual 2nd, Hipster Paradise set a blistering early pace and had a 20-length lead turning for home, with only the winner, the 62-kilo rated Virgo Celestin able to mow him down. Parimix was given a relatively quiet ride, as could have been expected given the 13-month absence he was returning from, but he kept on nicely in the home straight to finish a never nearer 4th and matched the time of the winner from the 2nd last to the winning line. With the benefit of that run under his belt, he should strip much fitter and although he is a 5-race maiden, he has consistently run to the level of form needed to win a contest like this. The yard have a 24% strike rate at Toulouse and they look to have found a good opportunity to get this 5-year-old off the mark.
Race 2 - 4:18 Prix du Touch Handicap Chase
In October 2020, EXPRESSO COLLONGES finished 3rd in the Prix Montgomery, a Grade 3 Handicap Chase at Auteuil and one of the most competitive jumps races held in France. That form worked out nicely, but he wasn’t seen again until he reappeared at Bordeaux last month, finishing 6th in a Handicap Chase. The ride at Bordeaux is best described as quiet, but he finished full of running and galloped strongly through the line, albeit 20-lengths behind the winner. That outing was clearly to get him back on the track and confirm he was sound and with the benefit of that “pipe-opener”, he looks to have a favourites chance in this contest. This is a handicap chase for horses who have not finished in the first 2 in the last 12-months and are rated 56-kilos or less by the French handicapper. Based on the level of form that he showed in pattern company at the end of 2020, he looks thrown into this contest and should make his presence felt despite the top weight on his back.
Race 3 - 5:05 Prix du Bouconne Hurdle
If we had no form to assess, then DE BONNE GRACE would be an absolute certainty for this contest on her breeding alone. She is the daughter of Santa Bamba, a Grade 2 hurdle winning mare, who is also the dam of De Bonne Grace’s full-sister De Bon Coeur, a multiple Grade 1 winner, including the French Champion hurdle in 2018. Having ran respectably in 3 starts as a Juvenile last season, she made her return in the Listed Prix Miror at Auteuil in April. The form book will show that she pulled up, but she was still in with a chance at the 3d last and was only out of contention once they turned for home, which is where Lucas Zuliani allowed her to ease down. That was her first start since September and given the fact that there had clearly been an issue and her obvious value to her owners, it is no surprise that she was gently handled at Auteuil once her chance had gone.
The fact that Francois Nicolle is persisting with her race career would suggest that she is showing enough ability at home to give connections optimism and on paper this looks to be the easiest contest she has lined up in. There are some others worthy of a mention, starting with Isatis Macalo. She was a decent AQPS bumper horse last year, including at Graded level, but she hasn’t translated that form in 2022 and will need to show a lot more than she did at Compiegne last month. Cadet Vert won over fences at times in April and was 4th back over hurdles at Dax last time. He brings some solid form to the table, but has a pronounced knee action that would suggest he needs softer ground and this race is much deeper than either of his recent starts. It is a similar story with L’Ange Vert, who has run to a consistent standard without really looking like getting his head in front. If there is a danger, then it surely comes from the Lageneste and Macaire team. Desiro Pol won on the Flat over 1-mile 7-furlongs at Mont-de-Marsan in September and has run well over hurdles since when 2nd at Nancy, but he looks a real stayer in the making and will probably be outpaced at some point here. The yards best hope is the Lyon Parilly winner Aziyade, who won in a decent time over 3800 metres 6-weeks ago. That form has worked out well enough, but he did get a very enterprising ride from Kilian Dubourg, who stuck to the inside line to save ground and with a penalty for that success, he could be worth opposing.
There is a sense of now or never for De Bonne Grace, but she has shown enough ability to win a race like this and given the circumstances around the PU in her form from Auteuil, she is likely to be a bigger price than she should be.
Thanks for reading, don’t forget to sign up for Free email updates on the homepage.