The fixture at Deauville is the main meeting. Patrick Weaver looks at two handicaps as well as the mixed cards at Lyon Parilly and Le Lion d'Angers...
"If she is as good as she was last year, this maiden should be a doddle."
There are three cracking meetings to get stuck into - Deauville being the first out of the stalls at 10:10.
The feature handicap at the track on France's north coast features the first four home in the Prix du Var on the Mediterranean coast in mid-February. Monargent, Tabularasa, Allez Henri and Khochenko take each other on again in the Prix du Pavillon Royal at 12.50.
The placed horses are all on the same weight as they crossed the line together, two lengths adrift of Monargent, who drew away in the closing stages. The winner is up 7lb for that success, but he should be able to follow up.
Chasselay's in the hunt
The late enforced move of the meeting from Longchamp to Deauville should be to Chasselay's advantage. The top weight won at the track last August, and was beaten a short head and a nose off his 8lb higher rating here in October.
Contrastingly Electron Libre has yet to finish in the first six at Deauville whereas he won off a 7lb lower mark at Longchamp last year.
High Dream finished last year on a career-high rating. He tries 10 furlongs for the first time at the age of six, though, and you would wonder why he has not raced over it previously.
Boy to break his duck on handicap debut
A different trip and trainer will hopefully enable My Sweet Boy to break his duck in the 10-furlong handicap at 14:00. He was claimed after running second to Happy Star at Lyon La Soie, over shorter and the extra furlong should suit him.
The only runner to have won this year is Mixologist. He won a maiden at Saint-Brieuc by a length and a half from Coeur Elephant. The first three pulled well clear of the fourth at that country track, resulting in his mark going up 2lb.
Aarhus was disqualified from sixth place at Fontainebleau, having finished third in end-of-year maidens on heavy at Angers and Durtal. Like the majority of these, he is making his handicap debut, and his mark is fair, though based on his best run last year rather than his recent form.
Moremi won his first claimer - at Le Mans last September. He has not been placed in his six subsequent ones so makes his handicap debut off a 12lb lower mark than he had following his sole success.
Zuliani at Lyon for two rides
Francois Nicolle's main rider, Angelo Zuliani, is at Lyon Parilly for two mounts, Father James in the Prix du Col de Porte at 16:10 and Srheliga in the Prix Georges Courtois at 17:10.
With Nicolle being in such good form I am inclined to side with Father James, a winner over hurdles at Auteuil whose owner Sue Bramall formerly trained in Ireland, France and England, where her best horse was Antonin.
Gabriel Leenders had three winners over the weekend. He saddled the two that scored at Auteuil, and watched Gold Tweet romp home by 30 lengths at Vichy. His Fripon Du Seuil has won at Pau and Nantes and is a worthy top weight. His other runner in this, Farces Attrapes, won her first chase at Angers and has been off since pulling up at Clairefontaine last August. Fripon du Seuil looks the greater threat of the two to Father James.
Launceston Place appeals in his claimer at 18:50. He has finished in the first two in seven of his last 10 races, and was only beaten a length when third of 14 in handicap company at Marseille last week. Rated 70 when he left the UK in 2018, he has a 100% record in claimers.
Skalleto has won two handicaps in the last six months. He was particularly impressive at Cagnes on his penultimate start in February, but let his backers down badly on his return there two weeks later. Dark Side drops into claiming company for the first time as he is currently on an unrealistic handicap rating, 9lb higher than when he last won.
Calvin was claimed after his second at Chantilly to Alfieri in February. He was nearer last than first on his only start for his current yard in a claimer at Saint-Cloud last week, but is not out of it on his best form.
Joly's worth the Risk
Last but not least is the Ascension Day fixture at Le Lion d'Angers, usually attended by 18-20,000 but this year behind closed doors. The mixed card normally hosts a €100,000 Cross Country race that Willie Mullins and Philip Hobbs have contested in the past but that has been postponed due to the Coronavirus to a date in June, when hopefully the usual large crowd will be able to attend, albeit in masks.
Joly Risk should take the first of the chases at 16:25. The five-year-old won by 20 lengths at nearby Angers in February before falling at Auteuil on his next start. The fences here are less formidable than those at the Paris track and he gets an age allowance so the syndicate that owns him should have cause to celebrate long into the night.
The three-year-old maiden over seven furlongs at 18:00 should go to Sheikh Mohammed Obaid's Queen Kahlua. His filly was placed on all her starts in 2019. Third time out she was runner-up over course and distance to Torpen, who following two wins at Deauville this winter is now rated in the low 90s.
The others to have raced are pretty dire and she has most to fear from the five newcomers in the line-up, which all get 4lb inexperience allowance to help create a level playing field. If she is as good as last year, though, it should be a doddle.
Back Monargent Each-Way in the 12:50 at Deauville at 6/1
Back Father James to Win in the 16:10 at Lyon Parilly at 9/4
Back Joly Risk Each-Way in the 16:25 at Le Lion d'Angers at 4/1
Back Queen Kahlua to win in the 18:00 at Le Lion d'Angers at 11/4
Back Launceston Place Each-Way in the 18:50 at Lyon Parilly at 4/1.