The biggest day of the year at La Teste, with 2 Listed contests and the Grand Prix de La Teste at 4:00, this is a really quality card to get stuck into. Situated in south-western France, this tight right-handed track hosts both Flat and Jumps racing, though it is Flat racing that we focus on this weekend. The sprint races operate on a straight sprint track, where it favours horses who can track the pace close to the rail, whilst the round course is tight and needs a well balanced horse to negotiate the tight bends.
We start with a 2-year-old maiden over 7-furlongs at 12:58 UK time. 3 of the 6 runners met in a similar contest here on 9th June, Quessigny (2nd), Prince des Galles (4th) and Speed Ball (5th). That form has yet to be really tested, although the 4th placed horse, Start in Front did win a small maiden at Dax on his next start. Prince des Galles made the running that day and was very keen in the early stages, pulling for his head. He probably paid for those exertions and tired in the later stages. With the benefit of that experience, he could well improve and is very closely matched with Quessigny, who was ridden more patiently on the day. Given that Speed Ball has since been well beaten in the maiden won by Start in Front at Dax, I don’t think any of that form sets a particularly high standard and all 3 are worth opposing.
El Ojancano for the Remolina Diaz yard does make some appeal. He was 4th in the maiden at Dax, when he raced keenly in rear before making some good late progress. He looks a nice type by Recorder and will win races in time, but he was very green on debut and ran with a high head carriage in the closing stages, so I think he will need to find a lot of improvement to win this contest.
With no obvious standard set by those with experience, it is to the 2 newcomers that we must turn. Bacchilde is a son of Darbirsim and it is worth noting that both his dam and grand-dam won as 2-year-olds, so he is likely one quite precocious. If there was any significant market support then he would be of interest, although the yard is not renowned for having first-time out winners.
Christophe Ferland certainly can get a juvenile ready to win on debut and it is very likely that Cilantro will know his job. A son of Wootton Bassett out of Pitamore, a talented filly for the same owners who won on her debut, he makes plenty of appeal on paper. Given that he has been supplemented for this race without any recent entries would suggest that connections have been waiting for the right race for him and this looks a very winnable opportunity.
Race 4 is the first of the Listed races and what a race this is. The Criterium du Bequest is a really mouthwatering contest for the 2-year-olds over 6-furlongs. 6 of the 8 runners won last time out and 4 of them are unbeaten. The 2 colts, Maroon Six and Juste Bere have run to a very high standard and are worth their official ratings of 42.5, though in a field like this they may struggle to give weight to some very speedy fillies. Juste Bere has led on all 3 of his wins to date and has proved a very hard horse to pass, from stall 4 he looks the most likely pace angle and certainly looks to have more potential than Maroon Six. However, this drop back to 6-furlongs isn’t obvious to me and I wonder if he may find himself outpaced.
At first glance, I thought Samedi Rien would be the one. She missed her engagement in the Prix Robert Papin last weekend so connections have supplemented her for this race instead. She has been on my list to follow since her debut and is a group winner in waiting I’m sure. However, she has been drawn in stall 1 against the rail and given that she has broken slowly from the stalls on both her starts, she may find that she ends up behind a wall of horses which can often happen from that draw at La Teste and although she hasn’t blown the start completely, it is still a concern and would put me off having a bet.
Al Wakrah deserves respect as she arrives here on the back of 2 wins at a lower level at Chateaubriant and Le Lion D’angers, but the form of those races hasn’t really worked out and this is a much deeper race and I think she may well be outclassed. Accakaba (Christophe Ferland) is 2 from 2 over this course and distance and takes a step up from class 2 company. She is well drawn in stall 3, but she has had the run of the race in both starts so far and with so much talent around her, I think she will need to find a lot of improvement to win this.
Drawn in stall 8 is not ideal, but given the impression that Exigency made on debut at Paris Longchamp I’m prepared to overlook that. To quote a good friend of mine, she “travelled like a travelly thing” throughout the Longchamp race, tracking the leader of a strong pace before holding on well once she hit the front 2-furlongs out. The 3rd has won since at Chantilly to boost the form and this drop back to 6-furlongs should be in her favour. There is just a chance that she is a superstar and if she wins a race of this depth it will only add to that view.
The 2nd of the Listed races comes at 3:25 with a mile contest for the 3-year-old fillies. 13 go to post and in truth this is almost impossible to work out. On the round track, getting a prominent position is so important which means the likely favourite Silvestri could struggle from stall 12. I’d be keen to take her on but thats as far as my study can get as there are so many in with chances in what is likely to be a messy race, so I will leave it alone.
The final race that I have previewed is the Grand Prix de La Teste at 4:00, a Class 1 conditions race for the older horses over 1-mile. 7 go to post and we have a real mixed bag in terms of form. Spanish trainer, Guillermo Arizkorret Elosegui runs 2, Sir Roque and Baciver. Both have won decent races in Madrid this year, but they look to be slightly below the standard that others in this field have achieved so I think this will end up being a fruitless trip for the Spanish raiders.
With a career record of 20-8-6, Al Mashrab warrants respect. Having amassed over €100k in prize money, Jean-Claude Rouget’s 6-year-old is extremely consistent and has a very good record on right handed tracks. However, after 20 starts, we do know his limitations. An official rating of 38.5 is fair, but it is worth noting that he has never won above a Class 2 level and if this were a handicap, he would be in receipt of over a stone from most of his main rivals. Oftenwork was a very promising juvenile, but he hasn’t really delivered what I thought he once would. Even though he won on his comeback at Toulouse in February, he has been well beaten on 3 starts since and I don’t think he has the class to win this.
That brings this race down to 2 horses, Kihavahfushi and We Ride the World. Kihavahfushi is the likely pace angle in the race and is ideal drawn to try and make all from stall 1. He won a Class 2 race over this trip at Lyon in June, form that has been boosted by the 2nd winning at the same track next time out. He then finished 2nd last time out in a Handicap at Chantilly under Mickael Barzalona. He is very consistent and always runs his race, but he had the ideal trip last time out and didn’t get the job done. He is effectively 11lbs wrong at the weights with We Ride the World and that is probably going to prove insurmountable.
We Ride the World stands out for me in this contest. If we take the official French ratings literally, he has at least 10lbs in hand on the rest of this field and he placed in a Group 3 at Deauville as recently as last August so it is fair to say he is more than capable in this grade. Charley Rossis 6-year-old was also a winner last time out, when getting home by the narrowest of margins to win a valuable “Quinte” handicap at Longchamp. That looked to be a well executed plan and he was given a peach of a ride by Anthony Crastus, who is also on board for this race. Connections are clearly keen to strike whilst the iron is hot and this looks to be a brilliant opportunity when you consider how well he is treated at the weights. From stall 4, he should be able to track the pace and is likely to show that he is too good for these rivals.