Many of us have recently become more familiar with racing in France – and at Flamingo Park, Jebel Ali, Happy Valley and elsewhere – than we had anticipated at this time of year, due to events and non-events off the track more locally.
The temptation may be to resume normal service and to forget about such things until they next become unavoidable.
Maybe. But French racing in particular deserves more attention than it usually gets from the British punter and racing enthusiast.
There were 38 French-trained runners on the flat in Britain in 2018, of which six won, including three on All-Weather Finals Day at Lingfield Park on Good Friday and the leading 2000 Guineas fancy Persian King at Newmarket in the autumn.
Perhaps more to the point, British trainers were prolifically successful going the other way, sending out the winners of over 80 races, nearly half of them Group contests and 11 of them at Group 1 level. It was a poor year for French racing in the highest echelons and British trainers collectively capitalised.
The need to know your French form over jumps – at least un petit peu – should not need to be spelt out when so many leading performers originate from there. Sky Sports Racing has been the home of French racing for viewers in Britain and Ireland as from January the 1st.
There is a smattering of French-trained runners quoted ante-post for Finals Day already, including the recent impressive Kempton handicap winner Amade. But the most intriguing name there is that of Trais Fluors, who is disputing second in the betting behind Wissahickon for the Betway Easter Classic itself.
Readers may remember Trais Fluors (“fluoride traits”, or similar) from his run at Ascot in the summer, when he disappointed in fifth behind Beat The Bank after blowing the start. He is better than that, as a second in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat the year before shows, and as a listed win on an artificial surface at Deauville in November also illustrates.
In that Deauville race, Trais Fluors beat the smart Rolando by a neck, with a wide margin back to the third, in a time that was almost crazily fast (under 12.0s per furlong from start to finish): I could not find a faster one at the course and distance.
Trais Fluors is highly talented, if a little quirky, and that win qualified him for Good Friday as it was a designated Fast-Track Qualifier. If he turns up, and behaves, he should pose Wissahickon quite a headache.
Replay: Trais Fluors record a rattling quick time at Deauville in November.
Now is a pretty good time to look back over the FTQs that have been run this winter, the sixth of the AW Championships. The following records the winners, closing sectionals (those which are not “estimated” can be found in even greater detail in the results section on this site) and my timefigures plus sectional upgrades. A reminder that a sectional upgrade results from a horse running inefficiently compared to the course-and-distance par.
There are some important races still to take place, including, all being well, at Cagnes and Kempton on Saturday.
But Kachy has already set a very high bar in the Betway Sprint Championship (as chronicled on these pages previously), while the Middle-Distance Championship, of which the Easter Classic is the jewel, is shaping up to be a belter even before the Winter Derby at Lingfield a week on Saturday.
Keep an eye on those forthcoming French qualifiers at Cagnes and Chantilly, also: results at last year’s Finals Day suggest you really should.
Declarations have not been made for Saturday’s AW action yet, and there may be defections as a result of recent directives when they are, but it is possible to form some provisional views nonetheless.
They include that GREY BRITAIN has strong claims in the 32Red Conditions Stakes FTQ at Kempton at 7:15 providing he transfers his form from running left-handed and in a straight line to this right-handed track.
Doubts about his stamina for two miles were dispelled by his “wait and pounce” win at Lingfield earlier in the month, with overall time and sectionals confirming that the four-runner affair represented a reasonable test of stamina. Higher Power could be the one to give him most to do if accepting.
Not many of the three-year-olds entered in the Ladbrokes Handicap at Lingfield at 4:40 are bred to stay 12f at this stage of proceedings, but one exception is BOLT N BROWN, a daughter of Phoenix Reach who probably does not need to step up much on her efforts in a maiden and minor events to take a hand at this level.
The race she ran in at course and distance last time turned into a sprint after a slow mid-race and she was going on well enough at the death, with a 11.3s final 1f, to suggest better is still to come.