Updated: Apr 12
There is probably more attention on this Thursdays Compiegne card than normal and it almost entirely revolves around the return of LE BERRY. David Cottins likeable grey dominated the 4-year-old circuit in 2020, winning all 6 starts and finishing with Grade 1 glory by taking the Prix Maurice Gillois at Auteuil in November.
It is perhaps a little surprising to see this son of Gemix return over hurdles, given everything that he achieved over fences last year. However, I prefer to look at it more as clever placement by his connections. He only ran a couple of times over hurdles as a juvenile and as a result, is actually in receipt of weight from his 5 rivals here. Although the drop in trip may not be ideal, he has shown an electric turn of foot in his races that would suggest he has the gears necessary to cope.
Now at this stage you may be thinking that this is little more than a walkover, a Grade 1 horse dropping into a conditions race with little to take him on. However, this race has some depth to it and if Le Berry isn't fully wound up, there are some horses who are at least capable of giving him a race.
HOOLIGAN, trained in the UK by Tom George, is a fascinating runner. Last seen winning a valuable handicap hurdle at Newcastle on Eider chase day, this 6-year-old is very unexposed (3-4 over hurdles) and on the evidence we have, is well worth his UK mark of 136. He was suited by the strong pace set at Newcastle, but finished easily the fastest horse from 3 out to the line and so should be able to cope with this more tactical affair. It won't be easy to give weight away to his rivals, but he has not yet reached the peak of his ability and rates an each-way chance.
FANTASTIC SIVOLA is another graded chaser who is taking advantage of these race terms over hurdles. He won the Grade 3 Montgomery Handicap Chase at Auteuil in October and returned from a break at Angers in March, staying on best to win a hurdle race over 2m4f. That form looks relatively strong, with the 2nd Gentilhomme, running well in a Listed hurdle at Auteuil on its next start. The Chaille-Chaille yard is operating at around 35% strike rate in the last 2 weeks and he is another who is more than capable of putting it up to the favourite.
With 1 win from 11 starts, PACHA SENAM wouldn't look to be the most obvious danger, but that doesn't really give a true reflection of his career achievements. Placed on each of his last 4 starts, he has been very frustrating for his followers. However, he has frequently run well in grade races and his 1 career success did come at this track in March 2020. His return at Auteuil last month, when 2nd to subsequent winner Betong Emery, was full of promise. The form of Francois Nicolle's yard has been a little hit and miss in the last month, but if he puts it all together, he is likely to be involved in the finish.
There are 2 other runners in the line up that I should mention. VOLKOV JELOIS ran very well at Cagnes-Sur-Mer during the winter series, but all of that form was over fences and the form from Cagnes-Sur-Mer doesnt always translate to the northern tracks. Given that he was well beaten on his last start in January, he may well need this run. ASSAD LAWAL makes up the field, he is 0-10 and on what he has achieved, he would be a shock winner of this.
There is no doubt that Le Berry is the best horse in this race by some distance. However, he has much bigger targets than this in 2020 and if he is gong to get turned over, at likely very cramped odds, then first time out, over hurdles at a shorter than ideal trip is the time to take him on. For that reason, I think it is worth chancing HOOLIGAN each-way. He has been very progressive in the UK this season, whilst his trainer Tom George has had a lot of success recently with horses sent across to France. He does have weight to give away, but he is a really likeable type who should take well to the track at Compiegne and represents some value to cause an upset.
HOOLIGAN - 0.5 Point Each-Way