This looks to be a very competitive card at Vichy this Thursday, with 8 races on the Flat starting at 12:50 UK time. With all 8 races at Class 3 or below, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is nothing more than an industry meeting, but there is a smattering of quality amongst the runners and it may prove to be more informative than it first appears. That statement is certainly true for the opening race at 12:50, which is a Class 3 conditions race for the older horses over 10-furlongs.
This has got to be my favourite type of race, the conditions of races at this level effectively allow horses who would normally be running in a much higher grade to drop down, especially on their return from a layoff. The conditions for this race state that it is for 4-year-olds and over, who have not placed in Pattern company in the last 12 months and who have not won a race or earned prize money above this grade since November. As a result, this looks like the perfect opportunity for Chasselay.
Officially rated 46.5, he is effectively 15lbs better off with his rivals than if this was a Handicap contest. He was last seen winning a Class 1 “Quinte” handicap at Deauville in October and has spent the vast majority of his career racing at a much higher level than this. In August last year, he won a competitive handicap on the turf at Deauville, a race he had also won in 2019, so this is clearly his time of year. Whilst he has been off since October, he has a good record fresh and this is by far the easiest race he has contested for several years. Even allowing for the fact he may not be fully wound up, he has a significant class edge on his rivals and that should be more than enough to see him home.
There are a couple of horses in this field to take note of, just in case Chasselay fluffs his lines. Don Ramiro is also well treated at the weights and as a lightly raced 4-year-old, he has much younger legs than Chasselay. Having started life in the UK with Kevin Ryan, he has thrived since switching to the Montfort team and rewarded their faith by winning a decent handicap on the all weather at Deauville in December 2019. He has been off the track since March 2020 and so will be entitled to need this, but is still worthy of note in this type of contest. Given the absence and the fact that all his best form is on the all-weather, I can’t see him being able to find enough improvement to win this, but he could well be one for next time.
The main danger to my selection may well be Soleil D’Octobre. He is an extremely likeable horse, a front runner who gives everything and always seems to run his race, he has been running very well in a higher grade than this and could be dangerous if he is given a soft lead. Franck Blondel has a very good record on him and so his return is a definite plus, but I have my doubts over whether this race is going to suit. His best form has been in softer conditions and in his recent starts he has looked one paced and I think that on the forecast good to soft going, he may well prove vulnerable to a horse with more raw speed, no matter how well he is travelling in front.
My strongest fancy on the card comes in Race 3 at 1:58, where we have a Claimer for the older horses over the minimum trip. Botch is a much better horse than this level and it is a real surprise to see him drop into claiming company. Rated 40, he has run very well in some decent handicaps and finished 2nd in a Listed race as recently as August 2020. Whilst this is his first run at 5-furlongs, he has travelled extremely strongly in his races and I don’t think the drop in trip will inconvenience him too much. He’s a clear standout on form here and it will be a surprise if he doesn’t manage to get his head in front and he could turn out to be a bargain for someone to claim.
Now we are getting into the handicaps and this is where we have to start to tread very carefully because although the races are competitive, you can write the names of the consistent horses in these races on a very small piece of paper. Race 3 is a great example of how hard these races are to workout, this is a 3-year-old handicap over a mile. Neo Chic won over course and distance last month and sets the standard, but I could definitely make a case for the top 3 in the handicap, Paris Affair, Marguns and Mirage all being well treated on their current marks and so for that reason this will be nothing more than a watching brief for me.
With that said, there is one horse in the handicap races that stood out for me and that is Thaniella in race 6 at 3:36. As a winner of just 1 of his 30 career starts, he doesn’t have the sort of profile that I would normally look for. However, recent form of any note is at a premium in this field and his 3rd paced finish here in July is the standout piece of form on offer. Having been caught behind horses, he had to wait for the gaps to come, but made good late headway between horses to finish 3rd, beaten less than a length. He was wrong at the weights with the winner Raise the Stakes , the 2nd Killing Zoe has since run well in a decent handicap at Deauville next time out and the 4th horse, Goutte de Lune bolted up in a handicap at le Lion D’angers last week, so we can be fairly sure that is a piece of form to be trusted. Olivier Placais has ridden him twice and made the frame on both occasions, although he has yet to ride a winner in his 14 rides, he has looked a very capable rider and so I’m not at all concerned that he hasn’t yet made it to the winners enclosure. In a field of 14, being drawn wider in 13 is not so much a of a negative as it may seem as it is highly likely that he would have dropped in behind runners anyway. The strong pace should suit this son of Nathaniel and I expect him to come home with a rattle as he did here last time out, A repeat of that performance should see him go very close.