You don't get too many five-furlong handicaps to the £ or euro in France, but that's what the feature race at Vichy is today.
Bakoel Koffie heads the weights for the Prix d'Orry at 12:50 and much as I like to back the class horse in this type of race he has never won over the trip. Worse than that, he has won over six and a half furlongs, so is likely to be run off his feet over five.
Nadeem Alward's two victories at Cagnes in January were also over six and a half, so that rules him out as well, while Air de Valse's three wins in handicaps in the second half of 2018 were over six and seven furlongs.
Slickteg has won three six-furlong handicaps in the last 12 months but has yet to placed over five. Pradaro runs over five for the first time. Soho Starlight was run off his hooves on his only stab at the minimum trip here last summer.
You have to get down to Tudo Bem before you find one that has been placed more often than not on his five-furlong starts. He was beaten three lengths over course and distance as a two-year-old when he was last at Vichy.
Muttrah Fort came within a short head of winning over five at Longchamp in 2019 and was beaten a length over course and distance in 2018. Both races were won by Orangefield who gets more today from Muttrah Fort than he did in those races, so he is the best each-way option in a line-up short on five-furlong winners. Muttrah Fort and Tudo Bem are the dangers to use in forecast and tricast perms.
Get in the Mood
Next up are two maidens over five -- one for colts and geldings, one for fillies; so often the case in France.
On the basis that experience of the trip is a necessity if you are going to have a bet, Bentley Mood stands out in the first of them at 13:25. He had the speed to come second in a 9-runner handicap over course and distance last week and Cristian Denmuro keeps the ride.
Matello and Excalibur are better over six and seven furlongs respectively than Bentley Mood is over five, but who knows if they will be able to adapt to the minimum trip on their first stab at it?
Wild Majesty is a half-brother to a maiden sprinter that was rated 72 with Mark Johnston. Thesee is more of a miler on breeding and was entered for a maiden over that trip at Deauville last weekend.
Nehou should win his maiden
Dodging the intervening sprints, we come to the Prix du Bois Renard at 15:45, a maiden over a mile.
The one I recommend is Nehou whose fourth at Fontainebleau in early March is not in every database. These under-the-radar types are often good value first thing, but Nehou is 7/4 favourite and deservedly so.
The form of his fourth over a mile on heavy has worked out well. The winner, Twist, is rated 92 after his third at Longchamp on the day racing resumed. The runner-up won a maiden at Strasbourg and is on a mark of 85. The third recently ran in a Longchamp handicap off a rating of 79.
Looking at those pieces of the jigsaw, Nehou should go very close even if he doesn't improve on his pre-lockdown form.
His market rival on 2/1, Katafonic, is the only real danger on form, as this is a good deal weaker than the maiden for unraced three-year-olds that he contested at Deauville.
Blanc Buisson is willing but slow and I am not even sure Boken is willing. He has been unplaced in three races over a variety of distances, one of them a claimer.
Time for a right old Houley
The lucky last at 16:55 is the Prix de Luzarches for runners that have not won a Listed or been placed in Group company in the last year.
Ficelle du Houley is rated 100 following her success in a €50,000 handicap at Deauville in March. She is consistent and appears to be getting better with age, so it is no surprise her opening odds of 5/1 have gone. She was 11/4 last night.
Brits will be familiar with top weight Roc Angel as he was fourth - behind Matterhorn, Wissahickon and Pactolus - in the all-weather championships final at Lingfield over 10 furlongs last year. He was then a tad unlucky when sixth of 28 off an official mark of 103 in the Royal Hunt Cup over a mile. His form has dropped off since and he is now rated 97.
The trainers of Golden Box and Yanling had not had a single winner between them since racing resumed until Alain de Royer Dupre had one go in at Dieppe yesterday. His Golden Box, who was second in two Listeds in the last 12 months, is 15/8 overnight.
Yanling has better chance than her odds of 16/1 but Andrew Hollinshead will need to have improved her if she is to win her first race since joining him from Matthieu Palussiere.
Kingstar has been in decline since his two-year-old days when runner-up in a Group Three at Chantilly. Bergamesque beat a motley lot at Longchamp last June. The runner-up has finished tailed off twice over hurdles at Musselburgh since changing hands after winning a maiden at Le Pin au Haras. The third won a maiden at Dax and is now rated 81.