Saint-Cloud is the scene of the only Flat meeting, the other fixtures being for trotters. Patrick Weaver previews races on the 10-race card...
"The 9lb she gets from Gannat could be crucial on the soft ground."
A Grade 3 bumper takes pride of place on the Saint-Cloud card, which starts at 10.10. Jockeys with Flat licences ride in French bumpers and they count towards the Flat jockeys' championship.
The Prix d'Estruval at 12:10 is one of the most important races of its kind for fillies and mares and top Maxime Guyon, Pierre-Charles Boudot, Stephane Pasquier and Mickael Barzalona have won recent runnings.
The obvious place to start is the Grade 1 Prix Jacques de Vienne for three-year-old non-thoroughbred fillies last November, a race won in 2017 by the Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante. Conveniently the winner, Gannat, is in today's line-up. She is no 'good thing', though, as she has a 12lb penalty for winning in excess of £45,000 in 2019 - each filly has to carry 2lb extra for every £7,000 won.
Last seen at Cheltenham
Her trainer Alain Couetil also runs Goldie Star, sixth in the Jacques de Vienne, and Genola, a winner at Argentan and Angers last seen at Cheltenham finishing third to the geldings Audacity and Ocean Wind on New Year's Day.
Etienne Leenders has won four of the last 12 runnings. He relies on Farafra who returns to the scene of her Grade 2 non-thoroughbred success last autumn, when she beat last year's winner of the d'Estruval, Fee Mano, 10 lengths.
The winner should come from the four above. My order-in would be Genola-Gannat-Farafra as Genola is a tough cookie and the 9lb she gets from Gannat could be crucial on the soft ground.
The most valuable
Next up is the most valuable of the five handicaps on the second half of the card, the Prix de la Gloriette over 10 furlongs at 12:50.
Boudot has clicked with Top Max, since taking over from Olivier Peslier, with three seconds in handicaps and a success in a non-handicap at Le Lion d'Angers. Coincidentally he again bumps into Moonlight Symphony who beat him a short neck at Maisons-Laffitte, but instead of giving her 14lb he only has to concede 7lb.
Hallalulu did the rounds when trained in England. She was with Ed Dunlop, William Haggas and Mark Johnston, reaching a mark of 80. She romped home at 29/1 in a claimer on her first start in France at Deauville, and has been placed three times at Chantilly since.
Richemont is placed as often as not, and was third off his current mark in January. Reliable Son has only once finished out of the first three. His single success in eight starts came on his only previous visit to Saint-Cloud. Krunch has been placed on all three occasions when Ioritz Mendizabal has ridden her.
Yet to win in Paris
Noxareno's hat-trick of wins came at lesser tracks in the provinces. He is still looking for a win in Paris.
Kiev has a poor record in handicaps off lower marks but showed a good attitude when winning a conditions race by a head on the all-weather at Deauville after Christmas.
La Roseliere has won all her three starts in the sticks and was beaten under a length on her handicap debut over this trip at Deauville
Henri Pantall's figures of 1 winner from 44 runners last week are pretty ghastly. That aside, his Suquitho has a lot going for her in the Prix de la Gaillarderie at 14:00.
She has been placed on her two previous visits to Saint-Cloud, stays 10 furlongs and recorded a cracking speed figure when beaten in a photo on her final start of 2019. But for her yard being out of form, I would make her the bet of the day but she is still the pick in her race.
Those from yards with winners in the last week include Van Halo, Albir, Bobydargent, Idiosa, Truco, Astrologia, Perfecto, Trentino, Light Of Cristo, and What If whose trainer, Alex Fracas, won with his only runner in the last eight days - Valentino at Longchamp last Monday.
Could make the frame at long odds
Trentino looks a few pounds too high in the handicap but could make the frame at long odds. Barzalona is an interesting booking for bottom-weight Idiosa, who has featured prominently in both her races since joining Andrea Marcialis in the autumn.
Ziveri is a tentative each-way tip for the handicap at 14:35. He has not finished in the first 9 home in any of his handicaps since being claimed after his third at Chantilly over a mile when with Frederic Rossi.
Go back 14 months, though, and he won over today's course and distance with Christophe Soumillon in the saddle. His poor form over shorter trips has caused the handicapper to drop him 18lb, which might be enough to enable him to win a weak race like this off top weight.
Mezidon closed out 2019 with a success at Lyon. He is up 4lb for that but would still have a realistic chance of following up.
Of the rest, Ministrable has won two all-weather claimers at Pornichet where he was fourth in handicap company last time. Je Suis Charlie was not beaten far off today's mark at Chantilly last time. Gaetano Donizetti won over seven furlongs here at Saint-Cloud in October. In a race of has-beens on the downgrade, you can't rule out Jo Hughes' Lefortovo. As a three-year-old in 2016 he won twice and was rated 88. He rarely figures at the moment, but is on a career-low rating of 55.