Wednesday’s racing in France didn’t inspire me and after an hour or so looking at the Nancy and Fontainebleau cards, I decided it was best to leave it alone. Instead, I’ve managed to catch up with most of the racing from the last 7-days and updated the usual spreadsheets and form trackers. That gave me another opportunity to go back and watch the very impressive Feed the Flame win at Paris Longchamp last week. Ok, so I did put him forward as a selection at 11/2 and when he loomed upsides the odds-on favourite on the bridle and Christophe Soumillon took a cheeky glance over his right shoulder, I did feel like I had this one in the bag, but emotions aside, this was an exceptional performance that needs to be highlighted.
He is a son of Kingman who cost a cool €270,000 at the Arqana yearling sale in 2021. His Dam is a daughter of Montjeu who was unraced, but she has already produced 3 winning progeny, most notably French and US Grade 3 winner Sacred Life (Chad Brown). Further back in the family tree we find Saeed Bin Suroor’s St Leger winner Rule of Law, so there is some hope that this could be just the beginning for Feed the Flame and his page would suggest that he may improve again when he steps up in trip. As a side note, he has a younger half-brother by Dubawi called Gulf Desert and the BHA site reports that he is training with James Ferguson.
He looks like a Kingman and travels strongly through his races in a very similar manner to his Sire. He made his debut at Paris Longchamp on the 9th of April where he produced a superb performance to quicken past the field in the home straight with the minimum of effort. There are far better judges of sectional times than myself and if you want proper advice you need to seek the guidance of Simon Rowlands or Andy Holding, but I have a basic rule that if a horse can run 200-metres (a furlong) in under 11s, they are quick. It isn’t that simple and so much can depend on the track, the ground and the setup of the race, but it’s a basic method that has helped me find the likes of Tiger Tanaka and Elizar and I like it. Feed the Flame ran the final 3 furlongs of his debut in 33.21s, with splits of 11.60, 10.95 and 10.60, all completed whilst essentially on the bridle. The ground was essentially good that day and he got a decent tow into the race as they came down the hill, but it was still extremely impressive, nonetheless.
Enough has been made of last week’s run, especially after the somewhat cheeky approach that Christophe Soumillon took to the closing stages when he realized that his rivals were struggling to go with him, but the sectional times support the theory that this is a very good horse. Despite the ground being officially described as Very Soft, he was able to make up 10-lengths on the leader as they turned for home and ran the final 2-furlongs in 10.93s and 11.60s, despite not coming off the bridle at any point. After the race his connections seemed to imply that the Prix du Jockey Club, for which he would need to be supplemented, is the plan and it is easy to see why on this evidence. He looks like a Group 1 horse in waiting and I will be very surprised if he doesn’t end up competing at the highest level this season.
However, before you rush off to find an Antepost price for this lad to win the Prix du Jockey Club, I have some reservations to share. I think he is a wonderful horse, probably the most exciting 3-year-old that I have seen in France so far this season, but the Jockey Club is a different proposition altogether. If you were to look at Horse Racing twitter after the Cheltenham festival this year you would see how many hard luck stories there are in Antepost punting and that makes sense when you think about it, the more time and the more unknowns you have, the more the odds are stacked against you. So, with that in mind, here are my reservations about backing him now.
Firstly, there is his trainer, Pascal Bary. I have nothing but praise for him, he is an excellent trainer and knows how to train horses at the top level when he gets them, but not everybody recognizes this. In the International betting markets, there are only 2 names that seem to matter to odds compilers, Fabre and Rouget. I’m sure that things are more complicated than that, but there is a noticeable pattern of horses from those yards, especially the unexposed ones, being massively overestimated in the early markets. We saw a great example of this last week when Silver Crack was made an odds-on shot to beat Feed the Flame, who was as big as 11/2 despite a flawless debut. Flip the trainers around and the prices would probably have flipped too. It’s actually developing into a very useful edge into some of these 3-year-old races, but it does mean that Feed the Flame is not going to be treated like a superstar until he wins a big Sunday TV race.
Secondly is the draw. The teardrop shaped track at Chantilly has a massive draw bias and until we know the draw, we can’t factor that into the supposed value of a price. Being drawn out in the car park is a huge negative and it can cost between 10-15 lengths to try to counteract it. Riders are forced to use a lot of energy at the start to get across into a prominent position or they are forced to drop in, ride for luck and try to come wide in the home straight. Neither strategy is particularly effective and if Feed the Flame was unlucky enough to be drawn in stall 17, his chance of winning would halve at a stroke. I still maintain that the best horse in the 2021 renewal was Cheshire Academy, despite the exploits of St Marks Basilica. He was drawn in stall 19 and so Cristian Demuro was forced to drop in. He was last most of the way and despite coming wide and running the final 3-furlongs over half a second quicker than the winner, he had no chance and could only finish 5th.
Finally, there is what we know about the horse. He can settle in rear, cruise past runners with a devastating turn-of-foot and run very quick times on the bridle. It is a joy to behold, but he has done this twice at Paris Longchamp, a track that is ideally setup for that type of horse with a downhill approach to the home straight where the leaders often get racing far too soon. It will be a much bigger task at Chantilly where it pays to race more prominently. If he got a low draw and broke well, then this will all seem academic, but it is food for thought.
I have seen a few suggestions that he is the value play, and he may well prove to be, but we have a lot of unknowns about him and the track at Chantilly to consider, let alone the runners that the Gosdens or Ballydoyle may send. If he gets to the race and he gets a good draw, I will back and tip him without question, but we aren’t there yet.
I am sure that he has the ability to win a Group 1 race and I cannot wait to see him run again, he is the type of horse that we all watch Flat racing to enjoy. He has loads of options, Ascot, Longchamp for the Grand Prix or the Arc trials, the Arc itself, Ireland, the US, we could spend all day discussing possible. He has the world at his feet and there is nothing to suggest that he couldn’t drop back to a mile and compete, in fact he has shown so much speed that it must have been tempting to do so already, but we will have to wait and see.
I’ve put the link below to the replay of his most recent success on France Galop, it is well worth 3-minutes of your time if you haven’t already seen it.