Fridays action comes from La Teste in south-western France. There are in fact 2 Group races on the card, but both of those races are for the Arabian bred horses and as much as I love the quirks and stories of French provincial racing, I haven’t yet managed to get my head around the Arabians and so I’ll give those races a miss. However, what we do have is some decent thoroughbred racing on the undercard, including the Listed Prix Millkom at 3:06 which looks to be a very strong renewal. I have covered La Teste several times in my recent blog posts, partly because this is the height of their season, but mainly because it is one of my favourite tracks in France. Flat as a pancake, with tight right-handed bends and an easy to read draw bias, its an ideal track for speed figures and often throws up some decent form clues for the bigger meetings held further north. Close to the Spanish border, this card has its fair share of Spanish runners, which can sometimes confuse the form, but if you know where to look it can be a great angle for punters too.
Racing gets underway at 12:50 (UK time) with a Class 2 conditions race for the 3-year-olds over an extended 9-furlongs. There are 4 Spanish runners in this race, Kaspar, Marchelo, Cocklina and Fosforescencia. I’ve done my best to find the replays online and have a look through their official ratings with the Spanish jockey club and while I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on the Spanish form lines from Madrid and San Sebastian, I don’t think any of the 4 will have the class to deal with the French runners here.
On paper, this race really revolves around Friendly Face. Rated 45.5, he essentially has 15lbs in hand on most of his rivals and given that he runs in the Tabor colours and is trained by Andre Fabre, he will probably be a short price. He is impeccably bred, by Galileo out of High Celebrity, who was beaten just 2 lengths by Tiggy Wiggy in the 2014 Cheveley Park stakes and with that mix of stamina and speed, it could be argued that he would handle this drop in trip. However, his form hasn’t supported that pedigree. He failed to win in 3 attempts in maidens and it wasn’t until he stepped up to 10-furlongs that he managed to get his head in front in a Saint-Cloud handicap and even then he needed a strong pace and almost every yard to do so. Last time out he was 6th in the Listed Prix Nureyev at Deauville 3 weeks ago and although he wasn’t ideally placed on that occasion, the sectionals show that he really struggled to quicken when the pace lifted and on such a speed track like La Teste, I’m actually quite keen to take him on. He may well bounce out and make all, which will make this look foolish, but on all the evidence at hand I don’t think anyone could back him at short odds with any real confidence.
Haviassor is the one I’ve come down on and I think he could represent a decent each-way play. Trained by Christophe Ferland, he remains relatively unexposed after just 5 starts and although he has quite a bit to find on the official ratings, he has shown a decent turn of foot and could well have the necessary speed to cause an upset. He probably did too much too soon on his last start at Dax, but kept on nicely into 2nd, splitting 2 last time out winners in the process. The 4th horse ran reasonably well in a Clairefontaine handicap earlier this week, so there is a solid if not spectacular look to the form and he should certainly have enough ability to run into a place. Julien Auge is a very capable rider and from stall 3 he should be able to get into a prominent position before they reach the bend and I really like his chances. When comparing the 2, I think that Haviassor is better than his official mark of 38, whereas I'm not sure that Friendly Face has done enough to justify his mark of 45.5, so there may not be as much between them as the ratings would suggest.
The Prix Millkom is Race 5 and I think Mouillage is the most likely winner. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, he has been a model of consistency and has never finished out of the first 3 in his 10 career starts. A winner on his last run at La Teste in July, when he won a Class 1 contest over a mile, he was last seen finishing 3rd in a Listed race at Deauville 3 weeks ago, beaten half a length. In truth, he should probably have won that race, but he was left with slightly too much to do by Cristian Demuro and by the time he had clear racing room, the winner had got first run. However, he closed exceptionally strongly, all the way to the line and a repeat of that effort should be enough for him to win this. There are plenty of dangers in this line up, in fact the official ratings would leave just 8lbs between all 7 runners, but I think that this course and distance will suit Mouillage more than any other.
The other race of note comes at 4:14 with a 3-year-old maiden over 12-furlongs. I’m not a great one for backing newcomers and I will leave it up to your own judgement as to whether you decide to get involved, but I can’t resist a small play on Parliament. A half-brother to Arc winner Sottsass was not the pedigree I was expecting to see making its debut in a September maiden at La Teste and given that he is such a late comer to the track, it is probably fair to assume that everything hasn’t quite gone to plan with him. However, it is interesting to see that Qatar Racing have kept the faith with him and given his pedigree, he wasn’t likely to be particularly precocious anyway.
Having looked at this race, it is easy to see why Ludovic Gadbin chose this as his starting point. It certainly isn’t the deepest race and most of the field are beginning to look quite exposed. Cerrado looks to set the standard, having finished 2nd in a similar race at this track at the end of July, but that form is nothing spectacular in hindsight. A maiden like this will probably not take a great deal of winning and he may not need to run to much more than a mark of 75 or so to win this, which given his breeding is a definite possibility.