The main meetings in France on Saturday are at Bordeaux Le Bouscat and Angers. Patrick Weaver, who is based in France, previews the races at the two tracks...
"This grade should be right up his street, but he will need to be at the top of his game to win."
The Grand Prix de Bordeaux at 12:15 is the most valuable race this afternoon at Bordeaux Le Bouscat. It is a cracking contest with eight runners that have a near-equal chance at the weights, based on their current official ratings - rare for a non-handicap
Joe Francais has won all four of his races in the southern half of France - two at this track, a maiden at La Teste de Buch, and a race on soft at Cagnes-sur-Mer on his return from a six-month lay-off this January. He had four tough tasks on the Paris circuit last year and his connections called it quits last year after he finished down the field in the French Derby at Chantilly. This grade should be right up his street, but he will need to be at the top of his game to win
Diamond Vendome was the only one of the eight that lined up for the Grand Prix de Vichy last summer that had not won a Group or Listed race. He put that right with an emphatic win but it appears to have taken a lot out of him. His subsequent form has not been as good as it was that day.
Mr Satchmo has four Listed victories on his CV, and two course successes. They have enabled him to tuck away over a quarter of a million euros for his Aussie owners, who have found another winning opportunity here if he is at his best. Aubevoye finished two lengths clear of Diamond Vendome and three and a half ahead of Velma Valento at Cagnes in February. How relevant that form line is on a different surface over 110 yards shorter is anyone's guess but Diamond Vendome has a 3lb pull with the first and third.
Cnicht, Apollo Flight and All Grace have not run in 2020, so are possibly at a disadvantage. It is disappointing that Joe Francais is as short as 2/1 on the Sportsbook and Mr Satchmo is only 7/2, but they are my two against the field with the former marginally preferred now his stable has hit form.
Probable winner for Middleham Park Racing
Middleham Park Racing director Tim Palin should be celebrating at home after the Prix Achille Fould at 13:17. Jean-Claude Rouget has chanced upon an uncompetitive race for Mensen Ernst who was with Richard Hannon for the first half of last year.
Since joining Rouget, the three-year-old has won two over nine and a half furlongs here, finished fourth of 7 in a hotter race and come second to the smart L'Imperator at Toulouse. The only one of the six runners that stands between Mensen Ernst and a third course-success is Influx, a son of Golden Horn that got off the mark at the third attempt at Salon de Provence on soft last Saturday. There is not a lot between them, to be honest. Mensen Ernst is rated 3lb higher but has not raced since the lockdown whereas Influx has. Both trainers are in form. It could go either way.
Sagaroi's trainer in form
David Guillemin had a treble at La Teste de Buch on Wednesday and is unlikely to leave Bordeaux without a winner. His Sagaroi, which runs in the Prix Joseph Peyrelongue at 13:52, has finished in the first four in all his races in the last three years bar the single Listed race he contested at Toulouse. As this is an ordinary conditions race he should finish in the frame. He might even win it as he has had a run in 2020, unlike his main rivals.
France has as many local Derbys as we have local Nationals. The Languedoc Derby is relevant here as Norathir was third in it last June. It was uncompetitive, with just five runners, but a good enough run to give her a chance in this company. Guardian Fay won a maiden on very heavy going at Saint-Cloud after three seconds in similar company at the top tracks in Normandy and Paris. Pirata Tesoro and Picnic Royal are inconsistent handicappers that win now and then.
Nicolle homes in on Angers' evening meeting
It is a quiet day as regards jumpers with just the two races over hurdles at the start of the card at Angers. Top trainer Francois Nicolle doesn't run any in the claimer at 16:17 but has two unraced geldings Blueberry Hill and Best Story in the Prix Bois des Roses for three-year-old maidens at 16.52. Stable jockey Angelo Zuliani is on Blueberry Hill but the betting market has in the past been the key to this race.
The master trainer owns one in the last race of the day, the bumper at 20:00. Hiper des Mottes is with Joel Boisnard, who will keep her until the time comes for her to go hurdling. As her dam won five bumpers, including her first at Royan, Hiper des Mottes is not one I would want to oppose, despite her trainer being 0-16 since racing resumed.