There is a jumps card at Dieppe and a Flat card at Vichy today. Something for everyone with racing journalist Patrick Weaver previewing the best of the 19 races...
"Farnice is back at Dieppe for the first time since taking a novice hurdle on his debut."
Analysing racing entries over the last 12 days, it has quickly become clear why Francois Nicolle is champion trainer. He won over €9million in 2019 because he knows the limitations of his horses and puts them in races they can win.
Hell Boy is a prime example in the Group 3 Prix Romati at Dieppe at 13:07. He won on his chasing debut at Compiegne by over 30 lengths, yet does not have a penalty.
Can he beat more experienced chasers? Hell yes, because he was rated 155 as a hurdler last year, 14lb higher than his four rivals.
Typically Nicolle is looking for a 1-2 at this level, and Flyingstartandco's owners will be happy enough with €20,000 should he come second. The five-year-old has failed to make the first four in his Listed and Group chases since winning a novice chase in March 2019. He was fifth behind two stablemates at Compiegne last week and should follow Hell Boy home if ridden for second, rather than taking the favourite on.
Corazones has gone seven runs and 18 months without a win. None of the five runners has previously raced at Dieppe.
Farnice and easy does it
Farnice is the pick in the Prix Melinoir over hurdles at 13:41. Another Nicolle-trained favourite, he has finished fourth in Grade 1 races over hurdles and over fences at Auteuil. He has fallen in his two most recent races over fences and is back at Dieppe for the first time since winning a contest for unraced three-year-olds on his hurdling debut.
Kobrouk started out with Macaire, had a year with Nicky Henderson and is now with David Cottin. He mixes chasing with hurdling and appeals each-way. He was rated 140 in England after finishing third at Huntingdon in a valuable two-mile handicap back in November.
Marlonne and Rock The Race are consistent but need to improve to finish ahead of Farnice as he is rated higher but gets 4lb.
Pesk Ebrel is the best of the many crocks on the way back from long-term injuries. A winner on the Flat at Dieppe, he had a touch of class about him as a novice hurdler, coming third to Master Dino in the €270,000 Grade 3 Champion Juvenile Hurdle for 3yos at Auteuil in November 2017. Opium has been off the track even longer. He won two decent juvenile hurdles at Fontainebleau and Auteuil when with Guillaume Macaire in the spring of 2017. His owner now has him with Sindy Marsch, whose approach is more tender.
Champion jock is in top form
The champion jockey on the Flat is in action at Vichy. Pierre-Charles Boudot had a treble at Deauville yesterday and has won on 20 of his 66 rides since racing resumed last week.
His mount in the Prix du Rocher de Bouligny over a mile at 13:24, Tantpispoureux, was due to run in the race that Zarkallani won at Chantilly in March but was a late withdrawal. The son of top mare Zarkava won by three lengths in a fast time, with Half Light five lengths back in fourth. With an 11lb swing, Half Light has a good chance of coming out on top but Christophe Soumillon was supremely confident on the winner who won with a bit in hand.
House Of Kings was rated 84 when he was with Clive Cox last year. He ran to that sort of rating when a three-length winner at Chantilly on the all-weather before the break, so has definitely trained on.
Blanche Doree has been off a year and changed yards. She won two at Deauville when with Jean-Claude Rouget. This is her first start for Andreas Schutz who has had three thirds but no winners since racing resumed last week.
Grace Spirit closed out her second season with a second in a Listed at Fontainebleau that was within a few pounds of her career-best form. Prior to that she had finished six lengths ahead of Nooramunga when the pair were out of their depth in a Group 3 at Deauville.
This was a tricky race to assess but I take Tantpispoureux to beat Zarkallani and will be doing the reverse forecast.
Soft Light looks rock solid
There have been a fair few favourites turned over of late including the last three odds-on shots to run from Jean-Claude Rouget's yard at Pau. Soft Light's trainer has been waiting for the right 12-furlong race to him going, and he runs in the Prix Biloe at 13:58.
The four-year-old, who was runner-up in two Group 2s last year and then surprised a few when sixth in the Arc at 85/1, will be aimed at the top races on the Continent over the trip this season.
Chapiron starts the day as 11/2 second favourite. He ran to his official rating of 97 in an All-Weather Championships Fast-Track Qualifier at Kempton in February when a four-length second to Rainbow Dreamer over two miles. He ran out of puff in the straight and 12 days later was placed in a conditions race over today's trip which is perfect for him.
Goya Senora is having his first start over the distance, having previously raced at up to 10 furlongs.
Styledargent beat a subsequent winner of Khalid Abdullah's, Marbella, on his last visit to Vichy. He is not in Soft Light's class, but is a better each-way bet at 16/1 than the Godolphin runner Sublimis who is half his odds.