There is still no date set for a return to racing in Britain although the British Horseracing Authority remain optimistic, they will get the green light from government for a resumption later in the month. I feel that may be a trifle optimistic, however, and believe early June a more likely scenario for a return to action in Britain with the Prime Minister due to outline plans for the first stages of the ease of lockdown restrictions on Sunday evening.
Racing does continue in other jurisdictions behind closed doors including in France where the authorities were given the green light only in the early hours of Saturday morning to resume racing with three meetings today including at Paris-Longchamp who stage four Group races as part of a bumper 10-race card.
The ground was described as good to soft at noon on Sunday, but there was further rain forecast for Paris ahead of racing and the ground could well have turned soft by the time they go to post for the Group 3 Prix De Fontainebleau a leading French 2000 Guineas trial.
Legendary French handler Andre Fabre has saddled the winner of the corresponding race 10 times in the past and has another leading candidate today courtesy of Victor Ludorum who was unbeaten in three starts as a juvenile and was a cosy winner of the slowly-run Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere over today’s course & distance back in October.
The colt – who is 15/8 for the French Guineas back here at the beginning of June – is not penalised for that Group 1 success and is a best priced 4/6 at William Hill to cement his classic credentials. A son of the late Shamardal the favourite is drawn out on the wing, however, and jockey Mickael Barzalona must decide whether to go forward from the gates or tuck in behind and try and pick up the pieces fast and late.
The each way alternative is Helter Skelter (11.55) who pulled hard in rear and was drawn out widest of all when a fast-finishing fifth behind Victor Ludorum under Yatake Take back on Arc Day. Jean-Claude Rouget’s colt has a better draw than the market leader this morning and Cristian Demuro replaces the veteran Japanese pilot. At 5/1 with Boylesports I will be disappointed if he doesn’t run a very big race.
In the Fillies’ classic trial, the Prix Garotte I hope to see Khayzaraan (12.25) make all for Freddy Head. The trainer said in a recent interview that he wished the French Guineas were run today rather than next month as he felt he had his daughter of Kingman in rude health. The selection – a best priced 15/8 with bet365 – has not seen the track since routing the opposition in a minor Conditions race at Chantilly back in September, but she has won her last two starts eased down by over 13 lengths and is an exciting prospect.
The obvious danger is Fabre’s Tropbeau who was last seen finishing an unlucky third in the Gp 1 Cheveley Park Stakes over 6f at Newmarket on ground which looked quicker than ideal for the daughter of Showcasing. She is not certain to get a mile on breeding, but she is a dual winner over 7f as a juvenile and any significant rain would be a plus.
Last year’s French Derby winner and Arc third Sottass – best priced 4/9 – is hard to oppose in the Gp 2 Prix Harcourt although he was beaten first time out by Shaman (1.05) last term and does give weight to his eight rivals this afternoon. Next month’s Prix Ganay is the primary short-term objective for the market leader with another crack at the Arc his end-of-season target.
Shaman finished runner up in the French Guineas after his win first time out in the Gp 3 9f Prix La Force last spring. This is his first race at 10f but do note his full brother Marika won at this trip and his strong finish in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June suggested he was well worth a try at this distance. The selection clearly goes well fresh – he also won on his racecourse debut as a juvenile – and at 6/1 with Boylesports he gets the each way vote.
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