The new Flat turf season is just 10-days away. French Racing has always started early, aided by the fact that there are superb facilities at Cagnes-Sur-Mer on the South Coast which generally avoids the worst of the winters frost and storms. It is early in the year and not every trainer takes advantage of the opportunity to make a flying start to their season, but the likes of Raabihah, Port Guillaume and most famously Ace Impact, have all begun their campaigns at Cagnes-Sur-Mer. Trainers are creatures of habit. Jean-Claude Rouget has a great record at Cagnes-Sur-Mer in the last few years, whereas Andre Fabre hasn't had a runner there in the last decade. It's just the way they choose to approach the season. In this Blog post, as you can see below, I have taken a brief look at their contrasting results in 2023 to try to predict when and where we may see France's leading trainers hit form.
Like a pair of Heavyweight Boxers, they tend to do their talking separately in the opening rounds of the season. Rouget keeps his string locally and targets the Flat races at Cagnes-Sur-Mer and Pau, whilst Fabre tends to favour the All-Weather maidens in the North and the early turf meetings at Saint-Cloud. Only once the Racing shifts on to the Turf full-time in April do they tend to begin to spar with each other.
As you can see from the tables below, both made flying starts to 2023 and I think there is likely to be an angle there in the coming weeks. Jean-Claude Rouget had 32 winners in the first 2 months of 2023, whilst Andre Fabre was operating at a 50% Strike Rate in February, with 8 winners from 16-runners. There is no doubt that Rouget had the better year, culminating in a glorious win in the Arc de Triumph with Ace Impact, but the pair were clear (again) at the top of the French training ranks and there is no obvious reason to think that is going to change in 2024. It is also noticeable that both had a quieter period, by their high standards at least, in the middle of the season before coming on strongly for the big Autumn targets. This year is likely to be another close battle between these 2 old rivals, but by following the patterns that they have tried and tested over many years, there should be an angle to exploit in the months ahead.