French Connections

Laurent Barbarin has shortlisted seven French runners for your Tracker this week, including an Ascot bumper entrant that will carry the green and gold silks of JP McManus for new trainer Tom Lacey.

  • Thursday 13 February
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ROCKADENN(Julien Merienne)

This son of High Rock could be one of the very few French horses lining-up at Cheltenham in March but all depends on his run this Saturday at Haydock. After opening his account at Cagnes Sur Mer on his chase debut in a claimer at the end of November, he went on to win three more races at the Riviera track including the Listed Prix Christian de L'Hermite over 2m3f on January 5. His trainer Julien Merienne has kept his horse in good shape since returning to his home base in Western France and wants to give it a go in UK.

He stated: “We are going to Haydock because it is a left-handed track and we want to have a feel about English races. This is more a test than anything else and this will guide us about the next step we take with the horse. Depending how he runs on Saturday, we could either have him entered in the Cheltenham Sales on 12 March or depending on his rating go for the Grade 3 Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle, or why not the Triumph Hurdle but that is unlikely.”

Obviously from Cagnes Sur Mer to Haydock, this is a totally different game, but Rockadenn’s connections want to try something different and we can only wish them the best possible result. Rockadenn will be associated to Julien Merienne’s nephew Adrien Merienne his usual partner.  

Entered 2.40 Haydock Saturday, Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on 13 March.
 

MARAJMAN (Emmanuel Clayeux >>> Willie Mullins)

This son of Rajsaman finished third in a newcomer contest at Auteuil in his only start in France in December 2017. He has not been seen on the track since. His dam won two chases at Auteuil but has had only two foals since retiring to the breeding shed, Marajman and Master Work who never raced in France but is a four-time winner over the obstacles in UK for Philip Hobbs. At this stage it is very difficult to assess Marajman but one thing for sure is that all this time off will have only done him good.

Entered 2.15 Clonmel Thursday
 

GLAJOU (Emmanuel Clayeux >>> Paul Nicholls)

Sold for €90, 000 at the Arqana Autumn Sales last autumn, this AQPS by top NH stallion Network was unplaced in his two starts on the flat before finishing third in both his runs over hurdles at Lyon-Parilly not long before he went through the sales ring. His dam Toscane was a very smart performer on the flat winning three races including the coveted Prix du Bourbonnais at Saint-Cloud but achieved very little in six attempts over jumps.

Her first foal Darkhan was a modest performer in France having only won one handicap hurdle at Lyon in his entire racing career. Her second foal Firenzo never achieved anything decent in six starts on boths sides of the Channel. One of the best guidelines for Glajou is probably his third place one length behind Blacko in his last start in France on 8 October. Blacko is now unbeaten in two runs over hurdles in UK and was a comfortable winner on both occasions.  Judged on that form, Glajou can be given some consideration if he is to run in a maiden hurdle.

Entered 3.30 Sandown Friday, 2.05 Market Rasen Sunday

 
DJASEK (Mikel Delzangles >>> Anthony Martin)

This Aga-Khan bred gelding is by Rip Van Winkle out of Darjana, a dual winner in France who is a half-sister to top-class performer and triple Group I winner Darjina. Darjana has produced three modest winners from five to have run thus far. Djasek was well beaten in his first two starts in the spring of 2019. He was gelded early May and put away for few months.

On his return to competition in mid-October he was sent to the small racecourse Orléans and made all to break his maiden tag by eight lengths over 11f, on a ground described as good to soft, beating a very moderate bunch of horses. Though he showed on this occasion he has enough speed to handle potentially fast early fractions in a 2m maiden hurdle. He was sold in November last year for 17 000 €uros to Tony Martin at the Arqana Autumn Sales.

Entered 1.10 Gowran Park Saturday

 
GINFLIX (Isabelle Pacault >>> Tom Lacey)

An AQPS filly by Al Namix and is the second foal to run and only winner out of Une Tornade who won once on the flat and once over fences in France. Ginflix finished fourth of thirteen on debut at Corlay in June last year in an AQPS contest for three year olds fillies. She opened her account in her second start two weeks later at Argentan by two lengths beating three subsequent winners in the process. Gannat who finished second that day went on to win two races including the very valuable Grade 1 Prix Jacques de Vienne at Saint-Cloud last November which is the best flat race for Three Year Old AQPS on the calendar.

Glory Star who finished third ran three times on the flat since for two victories and one second place. The fourth horse Goa Lilwon his next start on the flat in France before being exported to UK where he scored over hurdles at Kempton in January and was most recently fourth in a Listed Hurdle at Musselburg. The least we can say is that the form of Ginflix’s success at Argentan has worked out well and she should be closely followed on her local debut that could be in a bumper this coming weekend in the colours of JP McManus.

Entered 4.45 Ascot Saturday
 
SOLO(Guillaume Macaire >>> Paul Nicholls)

This son of Kapgarde and Flamèche, who won seven races over jumps from fourteen starts under Guillaume Macaire, ran twice in France before he was exported to UK in November 2019. He finished third to Stratagem (see result at Bangor last weekend) on debut at Auteuil in October in very soft ground, beaten three lengths but he subsequently put in am impressive winning display in heavy ground over 2m2f one month later, scoring by fifteen lengths after making all the running under a very confident Adrien Fouchet.

As in many other cases before, Guillaume Macaire’s horses can improve a lot from their first run and that’s exactly what Solo did. There is no need to recall all the ex-Macaire-trained horses that have been successful at the highest level in UK and Solo could just be another very exciting import.

Entered 1.37 Wincanton Saturday, Triumph Hurdle Cheltenham 13 March.  
 
 
NANABELLE (Serge Fouchet >>> Nicky Henderson)

By Archange D’Or, Nanabelle if the first offspring of a dam that won three times over jumps in France. She is unbeaten in two starts over hurdles at Cagnes Sur Mer this winter and was a comfortable winner on both occasions. She was trained in France by Serge Foucher who was Kauto Star’s first handler before he was exported to UK. Although Nanabelle was impressive at Cagnes Sur Mer, the form at the Riviera track always is to be taken cautiously as some horses only succeed there and never reproduce anything similar elsewhere.

The daughter of Archange D’Or beat 18 horses in her two successful starts but only two of them have since won races and that was at a very modest level. In conclusion, the combination of the form plus the aptitude to Cagnes Sur Mer are two factors that must be considered and it makes Nanabelle a very difficult filly to assess. She has a good cruising speed though and will definitely enjoy distances around two miles.

Entered 1.37 Wincanton Saturday, 2.40 Market Rasen Sunday

French Connections
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