THE only Flat racing in France today is at Chantilly. Racing journalist Patrick Weaver previews the 10-race card...
"There will be plenty of burnt fingers this morning if Celestin gets beaten in the the opening race."
Several favourites have run below expectations this week, but many have justified market confidence.
Two that obliged were trained by Pascal Bary, a fact not lost on bookmakers who originally made his runner, Wanaway, favourite for the Group Three Prix Texanita at 13:12.
Wanaway hit the ground running this spring with a Listed success at the track gained at the expense of Abama, My Love's Passion and Bavaria Baby.
As she does not have a penalty for that you would hope she can keep that trio at bay again. She was the outsider of the four that day, though, as she was not their equal last season.
The well-backed favourite is Wooded, who has solid form over seven furlongs, including a second and a third in Group company at Longchamp and Saint-Cloud.
Had this race been over seven, he would have been my pick but over six he might not be able to peg back Wanaway.
Bary also has a well-fancied runner in the Prix des Veneurs at 12:30. His Julius Juliusson is well worth considering as he has finished in the money in his three maidens at Grade One tracks. His trainer has had a winner each day this week and his other runner was a close second.
A 9/1 shot this morning, he is one of six in the line-up that are good prospects and I particularly like Khalid Abdullah's Marbling.
She was strongly fancied for her only start to date at Compiegne but, having got to the front a furlong and a half out, she threw the race away by running across the track to the far rail. Marbling was only a neck down at the line, the winning favourite, Syrdarya, staying against the stands' rail.
There is not a lot to chose between the pair but Marbling has the greater scope for improvement of the two.
Hurricane Ivor made a winning debut over 5f on good to soft at this track 12 months ago, but the form has not worked out too well. He was odds-on for a Group Three over the same course and distance the following month but only beat one home. His recent work on the gallops has been eye-catching, so perhaps not surprisingly he has come in from 5/1 to 11/4 overnight.
Crew Dragon got off the mark over course and distance on heavy going. Ayaad and Spirit Intime have 5lb penalties for their wins on the all-weather at Deauville.
The runners with the best form all seem to have peaked. You could give Ernesto De La Cruz, Gold Step and Fantastic Diamond a chance on their best efforts of the last 12 months but they are impossible to fancy on their latest outings.
There will be plenty of burnt fingers this morning if Celestin gets beaten in the opening race, the Prix Belvedere at 10:00.
Christophe Soumillon's mount was priced up at Evens last night but starts the day around 4/7.
It is his first race on the Paris circuit, but his provincial form last year is as good as it gets outside the capital. He improved with each race as a two-year-old, concluding his season with a six-length victory in a Listed race at Toulouse.
Delta Spirit ended last season with a two-length win in a conditions race on heavy at Saint-Cloud. Moshadid is back at the scene of his recent success in a maiden over nine and a half furlongs the week before lockdown. Coronado Beach has won two of his three races at Deauville, the first of them a claimer. He certainly needs to improve to be placed in this more exalted company.
If Celestin carries on where he left off, he ought to win comfortably but if he starts at 4/7 he is best watched.
The Prix De La Pistole at 10:30 looks a compelling match between Godolphin's Bionic Woman and the Aga Khan's unbeaten filly, Simeen.
Bionic Woman makes more appeal as she has run fourth in the Group One Prix Marcel Boussac on Arc Day since winning a maiden at Saint-Cloud in September.
Simeen, on the other hand, beat a poor lot on her second start at Deauville. The runner-up that day, Lilly Bird, coincidentally takes her on again but can not be fancied as she has finished unplaced in all her subsequent races, the latest a claimer at Compiegne.
Jessely was another to win at Deauville last summer, but she ended her first campaign with a last of eight in a Group Two at Maisons-Laffitte.
As with Celestin in the opener, if Bionic Woman is 100 per cent she looks a safe bet to start her campaign with a win.