There are two chases that stand head and shoulders above the others in France: the Grand Steeplechase de Paris in the late spring and the Prix La Haye Jousselin as winter approaches.
There's no better early Christmas present for an owner, trainer or jockey than to win the principal race of the weekend at 14:50, a chase over three miles, three.
New trip may be Le Berry's undoing
The favourite is Le Berry, a five-year-old that has won eight of his nine chases - the majority by impressive margins; all at distances up to two and three-quarter miles.
His sole defeat came in the Grand Steeple-Chase here over three miles, six in May. He was sent off 7/5 favourite, punters expecting him to stay the extra mile but it wasn't to be.
He dropped away from two out and was fifth behind Docteur De Ballon and Carriacou, Galleo Conti and General En Chef. Eddy Du Balme was sixth, Feu Follet and Figuero came to grief.
Was that an off-day for Le Berry or was it a lack of stamina? We will find out this afternoon but at 5/4 he doesn't appeal.
Carriacou ticks several boxes other than the lack of a recent win. His last success was in the 2019 Grand Steep under Davy Russell, but he has finished in the money in all 11 of his chases since.
This is a race James Reveley would love to win, and he's a near certainty to be placed. It is a pity from a betting perspective that he is as short as 7/2. Were he 5/1 I would be tipping him like a shot to make the first three.
New trip may be Le Berry's undoing
The two at longer odds that appeal most are Figuero and Feu Follet. The pair were second and third respectively to Docteur de Ballon in the Grand Steep last October, and a month later third and second in this race. Their stamina is therefore guaranteed.
There is little to choose between them but Figuero is the longer price as his jumping has let him down on occasions and he doesn't win as often as Feu Follet.
It would be wrong to put you off General En Chef He still held the lead at the last in the Grand Steep and it was only in the last 150 yards that he wilted. As that is three furlongs further than today's race, he should be hard to pass if he gets to the front.
Enjeu Dd'Arthel and Poly Grandchamp ran miserably on their sole attempt at the Grand Steep, finishing some way behind Figuero, Feu Follet and Carriacou. Srelighonn is having his first run beyond two miles, six, so is an iffy bet with regard to stamina on the heavy ground.
At 12/1 Figuero looks better value than Feu Follet, who is half those odds on the Sportsbook. Le Berry looks too short at 5/4.
Saint worth a look in opening chase
The card kicks off at 11:50 with the Prix de France, a chase over two and a quarter miles. Richard Hobson has supplemented Saint Xavier and he's worth a look despite the trip being on the short side for him.
The nine-year-old has been around a bit, and ran well in defeat at Auteuil in several races before winning a Grade 3 over three miles in October 2018. He then finished fourth in the Grade 1 on this card that November.
He's not as good as he was and needs further but Hobson had a winner at Durtal last Sunday, and his runner has won twice as much prizemoney as any of the others lining up.
Freddy Tett rides Volkov Jelois whose form over fences in the last 12 months deservedly puts him among the market leaders. He won twice at Cagnes-sur-Mer last December and was third in his two races at Auteuil this autumn.
Next up is a Listed hurdle, the Prix Bernard Secly at 12:23. My shortlist of four would be Obeone, Astadame, Histoire Rose, and Seduction.
The first three are four-year-olds in form. Seduction won two Grade 3s last year but has been off 12 months. I would choose between Obeone, who has won both her starts at Auteuil, and Histoire Rose, whose record is two wins from two starts over hurdles after winning a competitive bumper at Le Lion d'Angers in July.
Le Listrac worthy favourite for the Maurice Gillois
The Prix Maurice Gillois at 12:58 is for Gold Cup horses in the making. Worth over a quarter of a million quid, it is the most valuable four-year-old chase in Europe.
Typically the runners have met before several times before, most recently in the Prix Orcada when L'Aubonniere beat Le Listrac, Gold Tweet, and Hades.
L'Aubonniere was getting 13lb from Le Listrac that day. This weekend the difference is 4lbso it's no wonder Le Listrac, who beat his stablemate in a Gr1 and a Gr2 in the spring, is favourite to turn the tables.
Francois Nicolle also runs Bimbo Has a winner of a Grade 3 in June that won his prep for this race at Nantes.
Let Me Love, Malbec du Mathan and Sel Jem are others with recent Auteuil victories on their CVs. Although Let Me Love beat L'Aubonniere and Le Listrac (gave the winner 13lb) when he won the Prix The Fellow, you would expect Le Listrac to come out top at level weights.
Le Listrac is the obvious pick on form and ought to bag another Auteuil success.
Keeping track of Ilsensor
It's not often that a horse in my France Galop tracker runs at Auteuil on a Sunday and I think Ilsensor could be the first this year!
One of three Francois Nicolle runners in the Prix Oeneas at 15:25, he was beaten a short head by Yankee Stadium at Fontainebleau last time, having caught my eye when runner-up at Pompadour in August.
His stablemate Keep Hope De Roche is the morning favourite, having won an 11-runner handicap at Cholet two weeks ago. That will stand him in good stead for this race but I'm not sure he deserves to be as short as 4/1.
Conversely I don't understand why Sophie Leech's Yankee Stadium is 10/1 meeting Ilsensor on the same terms as when beating him on his hurdling debut.
Another 'James Finch special', Yankee Stadium was claimed out of George Scott's yard for £6,000 after coming second in a 10-furlong seller at Ripon at the end of August. He has already more than covered his cost by winning at Fontainebleu and doesn't deserve to be double Ilsensor's odds of 5/1.