Racing In France: The Jumps

 

Good friend and French Racing anorak, Martin P (@quevega on Twitter) has shared a few pointers for racing in France – which returns on Monday. What follows is ”Part 2′ , with a focus on Jumps racing. 

You can find Part 1, the Flat, HERE>>>

Below Martin provides a general overview of French Jumps racing, touches on Jockeys & Trainers of note as well as the odd other useful snippet. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. For those of you who may wish to do your own research there’s a few useful websites mentioned at the bottom of the post

Over to Martin…

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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.

 

Jumps Overview

It was a touch remiss of me not to give an overview of how a sizeable number of races in France are planned when doing the Flat preview but broadly speaking (outside of handicaps and maiden races) they operate in the same way as the jumps in that there are a large number of races held on the basis of not having won this year, or for horses who haven’t won 15k over fences since 1st January 2019 or even for those who’ve never placed over fences.

Some of the last named category will no doubt sound particularly appealing to those with moderate horses who’ve been beaten out of sight in minor races though it’s notable that they also attract high class hurdlers who are making their chase debut.

As an example of the unusual conditions and how these can be exploited the Prix Printemps, a 4100m hurdle at Moulins on Tuesday, is for horses who haven’t won 7k this calendar year. There’s a set weight for 5yo’s and then for those aged 6 and up. For each 1.5k won this year there’s a kilogram penalty and for every 3k won last year a similar penalty so the current top weight Park Square, a horse I have rated around the 108 mark were he to run in the UK, has to concede 6kg to Grade 1 performers Punch Nantais, Kobrouk and Device who are all returning from lengthy absences but are still in top stables. In the event it’s unlikely all three of those will run but it’s a decent representation of what some horses towards the top of the weights can be up against.

Before going into any greater detail on the various types of jump races (they’re the same as the UK, hurdle, steeplechase and cross-country) it’s probably worth pointing out that we’ve lost a sizeable number of the minor races in France for the period 11th May to 13th July so there’s every chance field sizes will be larger than I’d usually expect.

While hurdles are pretty self-explanatory other than to say they’re of the fixed brush variety there’s a huge difference in fences when compared with the UK.

There’s a brush fence, small open ditch, large open ditch, butte en terre (basically a small hedge, a rounded bank and then another small hedge), a big water jump, a filled in water jump (the water bit is sand) now known as the beach fence and a bullfinch and that’s just a few of the fences at the main track at Auteuil.

There are a number of other different fences and a number of steeplechase courses cross the centre of tracks ala the one we’ll see at Compiegne on Monday.

It is however common place for the closing stages of a hurdle race and that of a steeplechase race to be run on the same course (in this instance the last two obstacles would generally be hurdles).

Cross-country races generally take place at the smaller courses, for example there’s none at Auteuil and one three or four per year at Compiegne and Fontainebleau. I’m a big fan of the cross-country course at Dieppe personally while those at Le Lion D’Angers and Lyon-Parilly make great viewing as do the events at the minor tracks of Corlay (very picturesque and they run through a field of crops), Le Pertre (just a lovely setting) and Nuille-Sur-Vicoin (they go through a river and then up the side of a very steep hill but the standard of racing isn’t high).

 

Jockeys

Jockeys wise Jonathan Plouganou was in the headlines last jumps season thanks to his partnership with the David Cottin-trained Easysland and while he’s not the force he was as a rider thanks in no small part due to a serious arm/shoulder injury he is well worth considering and currently sits eleventh in the jockeys table.

Riding for a top yard is always handy and taking that into account the likes of Bertand Lestrade and Gaetan Masure look strong contenders for improving on their current seventh and eighth places in the championship while Kevin Nabet is another riding for a top yard who’s likely to ride plenty more winners in 2020.

Clement Lefebvre has made a good start to the year and he is a jockey to note particularly when riding in the provinces for Gabriel Leenders. With a strike-rate of over 30% when riding at both Vichy (8/26) and Moulins (7/23).

It probably comes as no surprise given the successes of James Reveley and Felix De Giles in France in recent years that the country is becoming a popular destination for British jockeys.

Charlotte Prichard made a good name for herself in the point-to-point field here in the UK and she has built on a couple of promising seasons as an amateur in France by making a flying start to the 2020 season.

Prichard currently sits sixth in the jockey standings with ten winners from 37 rides in 2020 despite having fewer rides than all of those above her in the table and less than half of the top two Clement Lefebvre and Felix De Giles.

The promising young rider is no doubt aided by the female jockeys claim and riding for a top trainer in David Cottin and it’s notable that she can boast a 29% strike-rate when riding for the former Champion Jockey, while she also rides for another top trainer in Guillaume Macaire for whom she rode Pollexfen to victory in a claiming hurdle at Fontainebleau in March.

Johnny Charron comes highly rated by a number of good judges and while like many of his fellow riders his strike-rate at Auteuil isn’t great (10% for 30/276) he is a jockey to note, particularly at Toulouse where he is 6/11 in recent years.

 

Trainers

Onto the trainers and it probably comes as no surprise to learn that Guillaume Macaire features towards the head of affairs but it’s Francois Nicolle who currently tops the table with 35 victories from 173 runners in 2020. Macaire has had just over half as many runners and no fewer than 63 fewer individual horses hit the track this year and as such I’d expect him to make up ground on his main rival in the coming months.

One important feature of racing in France is the way in which jockeys are booked with many trainers using several jockeys with horses and rides booked on the basis of which jockey will suit which horse rather than having a stable jockey as Nicky Henderson or Willie Mullins would have in the UK and Ireland.

With that in mind I wouldn’t put readers off backing a second or third string from a top yard even if it’s ridden by an apprentice jockey or one that might be considered below the top tier.

 

In relation to tactics it’s important to note that French attitudes to riding and racing differ slightly from those in the UK and Ireland. With prize money as good as it is and often down to sixth place and lower there’s an emphasis on not bottoming a horse. If you’ve the option of three 50k races in a period of a month there’s little point in giving one a hard race for 7k for example so it’s important to take that into account.

Final decs are in for the four-year-old chase on Monday at Toulouse and a horse from my notebook may make her chase debut in the race. I was very impressed with Sacre Coeur’s debut on the Flat on rain-softened going here early last year and was disappointed she failed to add to that victory in two subsequent Flat starts. She’s shown good form in three starts over hurdles since however including when winning her penultimate start. She travelled well enough into the race when fifth at Compiegne last time out but failed to pick up after the last which is a slight concern. She is one of two engaged for Francois Nicolle with High King the trainers other representative. Gemystory looks likely to prove tough to beat if replicating his hurdling debut effort when runner-up to a subsequent Group winner, he has however disappointed since and is on a retrieval mission on chase debut.  

With a couple of Angers fixtures coming up it seems prudent to highlight Louisa Carberry’s decent strike-rate at the track. Carberry has saddled 41 runners at the track which is situated not far from her Senonnes training stable for seven victories with two placed efforts following Dinette De Ballon’s success over hurdles on heavy ground at the track in February.

Also based at the Senonnes training centre Alain Couetil is best known for his exploits on the Flat, including when saddling runners in the Arc in recent seasons. While he has just a few runners over jumps he boasts a near 33% strike-rate (21/64) (Flat and jumps combined) with horses returning from over a year off the track.

Patrice Quinton has a great record at his local track of Granville, though sadly for this feature his 24% strike-rate (124/509) has mostly been achieved with short priced horses and with no PMU meetings there the chances of readers being able to back them are somewhat limited. Of far more interest is his record when travelling horses to the other side of France with the handler boasting an impressive 33% strike-rate (55/167) at Strasbourg and a 26% strike-rate (19/72) at Nancy.

I’ve touched briefly on the excellent start David Cottin has made to his career and with an increasing number of youngsters, plus the more established chasers and hurdlers, he looks set to challenge the big two – Guillaume Macaire and Francois Nicolle in the coming years.

In the more immediate future it’s notable that he has a 4/9 strike-rate with his runners at Moulins and has a battalion entered at the track for Tuesday’s meeting, while down the line when Pau resumes in December he’s the trainer to note there with a 20% strike-rate (57/278) since taking out a training license in 2017. Cottin is another with an impressive record off a break with a near 41% strike-rate (9/22) with horses following more than a year off the track and a near 21% strike-rate (11/53) with those returning from between 181 and 365 days off the course and he looks sure to have his horses primed for the return from the enforced absence from racing.

 

Trotting

With regards trotting, which is also available to bet on with UK firms, the major races mostly take place at Vincennes including the seasons feature, the Prix D’Amerique on the last Sunday in January.

There are two types of trotting in France, driven racing using the traditional sulky (cart) which is pulled behind the horse and mounted trotting were the jockey is sat on the horses back. In each case a breaking of the gait (from trot to canter) generally results in disqualification and a horse being eased out of the contest.

Jean-Michel Bazire is a name to note with regards both driving and training while Eric Raffin is another top driver to look out for if betting on the trotting events.

I’ve been impressed by Yoann Lebourgeois in recent seasons and he looks set to have another productive season while the Abrivard family, most notably Mathieu when riding in mounted races are others to look out for.

Martin 

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For those of you who would like to do your own further research, the following sites may be of interest. They’re all free to register…

paris-turf.com

www.geny.com

www.racingandsports.com.au

www.france-galop.com

www.letrot.fr

 

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