Good friend and French Racing anorak, Martin P (@quevega on Twitter) proposed writing a few words about our October trip to Pardubiche – but, what happens in the Czech Republic stays in the Czech Republic! (as an aside, it’s such a great weekend, I recommend visiting) Instead, I’ve convinced him to share a few pointers for racing in France – which returns on Monday. What follows is ‘Part 1’, with ‘Part 2’ (more jumps focus) on the way in a couple of days time. There’s plenty of gems below with some decent ‘way’s in’. Enjoy.
Over to Martin…
With the French action set to take centre stage for the foreseeable future here are a few tips and hints with regards to form study, courses and what to look for when assessing the French action.
Trainers & Jockeys…
I’m sure the vast majority of readers are familiar with the big names in French racing, the likes of Andre Fabre from the training ranks and Christophe Soumillon of the jockeys but it may come as a surprise to learn that while the latter currently sits in second place in the jockeys table Andre Fabre lies in twenty third in the training equivalent.
The top of the trainer’s championship is dominated by those who have had their horses on the go since the first all-weather races in January, with Frederic Rossi leading the way in terms of prize money and Jean-Claude Rouget, who can boast a 25% strike-rate (20/80) this season among those to the fore.
The majority of Rossi’s horses will be appearing in the big field handicaps and claiming races and while he has registered eight Group race success so far, including two in 2019, they have all been at Group 3 level and he has had a lot of success at Marseilles Borely, where he has saddled 176 winners from 756 runners in recent years and a track that is situated not far from the handlers Calas training base.
One of the smaller trainers numbers wise to hit the top ten this campaign is Christophe Ferland. Unlike many of his rivals the handler is based not in the Paris region but in the training centre at La Teste De Buch, just outside Bordeaux and he is worth paying particular attention to when traveling his horses to Compiegne where he operates at a 33% strike-rate (10/30) and Craon (8/21).
Ferland ended the early part of the 2020 campaign in good form with five of his last eight runners proving successful, including debutant Euclidia at Toulouse on 14th March.
Jockey wise Christophe Ferland regularly employs Julien Auge who has ridden 265 winners from over 1400 rides for the handler while Gregory Benoist fares best percentage wise, with a 32% strike-rate (34/142).
While the temptation for many is always to follow the big names and those you’ve heard of it might be worth steering clear of the likes of Pierre-Charles Boudot and Christophe Soumillon when racing resumes next week, particularly at the Paris tracks with both operating at a sub-20% strike-rate at the Parisian turf tracks (Longchamp, Chantilly, Saint-Cloud, Compiegne and Fontainebleau) while Soumillon’s creeps up to just above the 21% (149/695) mark on the all-weather at Chantilly.
The weight allowance for female riders has seen plenty of success for women jockeys in recent years with the rapid ascent of Mickaelle Michel through the jockey ranks in 2018, proving a highlight that has led to a contract in Japan for the young French rider.
While Michel is likely to be back riding in France in the coming weeks, it’s perhaps worth highlighting a number of other female riders who have had success in recent times.
Delphine Santiago has been a regular on the Flat jockeys circuit for a number of years now though it’s worth noting that the majority of her winners have come at the minor provincial tracks.
It’s less than two years since apprentice jockey Axelle Nicco rode her first winner aboard Zita Des Echanault in a minor race at Wissembourg on 21st May 2018 but it’s notable that she currently sits tenth in the jockeys standings, having ridden 15 winners from 83 rides in 2020. The young riders talents were most recently advertised when taking a Saint-Cloud claimer aboard La Gaeta on 15th March and while she is still establishing herself in the Paris region, it’s notable that she appears to ride the turf track at Compiegne well with a near 43% (3/7) strike-rate while similar comments apply to the all-weather surface at Chantilly (3/8 for a 37.5% strike-rate).
While most readers will no doubt be familiar with the big names at Longchamp it’s notable that Toulouse, a slightly smaller venue in the south of France, also plays host to Flat action when the season resumes on Monday.
Ioritz Mendizabal leads the way in terms of the number of winners on the Flat with a total of 141 from his 797 rides in recent years while Jean-Bernard Eyquem, fairly quiet this year with just 12 rides to date is the only other rider to break the 100 winner mark (125/716).
In terms of strike-rate Christopher Grosbois’ 43% hit-rate (3/7) sees him top the Flat jockeys from just a handful of rides.
Toulouse also stages a number of Arab and Anglo-Arab races throughout the year with the Group 2 Qatar Prixe De L’Elelevage on Monday being one such race. The 2000m (1m2f) contest could see as many as three Al Shaqab Racing horses make the line-up with all three trained by Thomas Fourcy, one of the leading Arab and Anglo-Arab trainers in France.
Fourcy is a rare visitor to the Paris venues but is a name to note further South having had two winners from five runners at Toulouse in March while he also saddled Lady Princess to a valuable handicap success in Qatar the previous month.
Angers is set to host a number of meetings in the next couple of months and Thomas Fourcy has won with four of his five runners at the dual purpose track.
While there is Flat racing at Longchamp and Toulouse on Monday the latter also plays host to jumps racing the same day while there is a full jumps card from Compiegne on Monday afternoon/evening also.
I will deal with that, more jumps stats and the Tuesday jumps fixture at Moulins, at a later date but it seems prudent at this juncture to add some pointers for the Flat cards at Saint-Cloud and Marseille-Vivaux.
The first named venue is set to host the first two-year-old race of the season, the Prix Kefalin over 1200m (6f) and trainer Didier Guillemin looks the man to watch in this event having made a flying start with his juveniles 12 months ago. Bobby, a Diamond Green colt out of a Flat winner in Mindset (Vettori) is the handler’s sole representative at this stage and while Mindset has produced useful jumpers in addition to her Flat performers it’s notable that Bobby is a full-brother to winning debutant and the subsequent Group 2-placed juvenile Sexy Metro.
Unlike in the UK and Ireland there are a lot more races for unraced horses in France with two 1600m contests for three-year-old’s also featuring on the card, while there are also a couple of claiming events and two 2100m conditions races for the classic generation.
With regards the track itself Saint-Cloud is a left handed and there is often plenty of give in the going.
Christophe Soumillon (280), Maxime Guyon (229) and Stephane Pasquier (206) have all ridden over 200 winners at the venue but it’s notable that all three have in excess of 1,500 rides to their name at the picturesque track.
Marseilles Vivaux are also set to race on Tuesday with a 950m claimer for juveniles set to open the card while they also stage six handicap races over distances between 1500m and 2600m. Unlike Saint-Cloud all eight races on the card are set to be run on the all-weather track.
A plea from one of the top jump jockeys Bertrand Lestrade for jockeys to only ride at one meeting per day during the early stages of resumption may render this next stat useless with regards Tuesday’s fixture but Christophe Soumillon boasts a 31% strike-rate (104/332) at the track and there’s every chance he will find his way to the South of France later in the year.
Stephane Pasquier (5/14) is another jockey to note and while he’s had just a handful of rides at the track he ranks highly in terms of strike-rate while previously mentioned trainer Frederic Rossi is among the trainers to follow with 133 winners from 677 runners.
Thanks for reading,