Dieppe, 13/8/18

The almost annual Dieppe trip - prepare for a report that starts with a moment of fascinating historical enlightenment (although not The Enlightenment) and descends into the usual ramblings derived from hard to read notes. French racecards may be free, but they lack the space for suitably legible observations. The crowd was a bit sparse, but the meeting was two days before a bank holiday, so perhaps there was a lack of urgency on the locals to rush out on Monday evening.

Going: Very Soft

Race 1: Prix Le Roi Thibault Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Bergerac     2: Soufflenheim     3: The Golden Boy

Winner owned: Gilbert Lenzi, trained: Guy Cherel, ridden: Kevin Nabet

Well, this was rather an eventful opener, appropriately if the race is named after Thibault I of Navarre, who crammed a lot of action into life. The first factor here was that the pre-race odds on Soufflenheim were hovering around 1.2/1.3 on the PMU, so the fact he was defeated was a talking point. He was one of several whose practice for this involved winning claiming chases, so the betting looked to have made a rash assumption on his adaptability - at least without giving others the same respect. Bergerac had won a claiming chase last time, but last year was much better than that level and being too speedy (just) for Soufflenheim on the run-in was predictable. They were eight lengths ahead of the pack, where The Golden Boy had an "interesting" race. Off since November and not yet a hurdles winner, he sat at the back from the start and despite a couple of early errors, he had plenty of time to make up ground. This did not happen, and in the straight he cruised easily through on the bridle to get into third and stay there. Deriganou has fallen in two of his previous five jumps races and shown no past reason to enthuse, so his appearance to slot in the narrow gap between The Golden Boy and the not hopeless Fava Has was progress.

Note for the future: The Golden Boy (2nd) - clearly capable of better than this performance. Deriganou (4th) - not much history to boast about, but potentially progressing.
Bergerac has won, but he knows it has been hard work. Sweet Turtle is showing some derision, but does not do it to Bergerac's face

Race 2: Prix D'Aigueperse Juvenile Fillies' Hurdle [2m 1f]

1: Korkouee     2: Sunka Reine     3: Fantastic Sun

Winner owned: Mrs Suzanne Tessier, trained: Guillaue Macaire, ridden: Bertrand Lestrade

There were plenty of runners for this, including four newcomers and two that only had flat form in the past. The early betting shows favoured Alna Top and Fromentine, but the activity was strongly in favour of Korkouee, who was one of three paddock picks, along with Double Girl and Formentera. All you had to do was follow your eyes and the money, and absolutely not get mixed up between Fromentine and Formentera. Not for a second. The finish was similar to the first race with Korkouee (previous runs at Compiegne and Clairefontaine were both adequate) narrowly outbattling Sunka Reine (new to hurdles, had been sixth at Saint Cloud in a flat race). They were well clear of the remainder, who were led home by Fanastic Sun, fifth in reasonable enough style at Clairefontaine on her hurdles bow. AlnaTop unseated mid-race, too soon to guess where she may have finished. The best result for a total newcomer was fifth, where Hole In One did not live up to her name. Is it time to retire as a failed guess?

Note for the future: Black Owner (8th) - a tall and lanky filly debuting on the racecourse, she looks the sort to be more in need of time to fill out than we in Britain tend to associate with French three year olds.

Race 3: Prix Arenice Chase [2m 3.5f]

1: Kazarov     2: Maximo Meridio     3: Tzar's Dancer

Winner owned: Alain Jathiere, trained: Francois Nicolle, ridden: Theo Chevillard

Thirteen lined up, but for selection purposes it was a two horse race. Do you go for Maximo Meridio, who won a chase on his last run of 2017 and was two out two this year, both hurdles? That took his life time score to a highly admirable nine victories from nineteen races. Or do you chose the younger Kazarov, who had also only tackled hurdles in 2018 - first or second in all three - but a two time runner-up in chases before that? The pair had a good old punch up, with Kazarov leading over the last, Maximo Meridio threatening to get past him on the run-in and then tying up late on so that Kazarov stayed in first place. The rest of the field were possibly unlucky to find two decent rivals that had played the race conditions skillfully, and whilst not exceeding expectation and troubling the main two, they will find other days.

Note for the future: Tzar's Dancer (3rd) - Won a hurdle in March but found himself outclassed in a listed race at Auteuil and pulled up in his chase debut. This was better, and had some sort promise. Son Of Alex (9th) - Has not won since April 2016, but was without any race at all since finishing fourth at Auteuil a year later. His win was a chase at Royan and with the match fitness improving he can win more provincial events.
Kazarov looking for a post-race fight, knowing that he has suitable back-up following him in

Race 4: Prix Choute Juvenile Hurdle [2m 1f]

1: Greywolf     2: Fantastic Sivola     3: Saint Sonnet

Winner owned: G Leenders/A Pucheu, trained: Gabriel Leenders, ridden: Clement Lefebvre

The three year old hurdle for the lads had a fair sprinkling of newcomers and the form of those who had jumped in anger was not especially inspiring. Fantastic Sivola and Risquetout had finished 1-2 in a Pompadour race, but only three others took part and there was no reason to predict the quality required for them to control it to be out of the ordinary. So this was set up for a newcomer to seize the moment (the future is still available to seize, but please form an orderly queue) and we got that with a confident, borderline arrogant, show from Greywolf. He won by about four lengths, and shaped as if he can progress on it, being a bit green in front as the race completed. In all other respects he was in control of the situation. It will be interesting to see if flapping chequebooks appear in front of the owners' eyes. Fantastic Sivola got second, at the expense of another debutant, Saint Sonnet. Elsewhere, runners sporting colours familiar in southern Britain ended up doing less well. Risquetout (Terry Amos, horses usually trained by David Bridgwater) finished sixth and Katpoli (Chris Stedman, horses usually with Gary Moore) set a frantic pace then tied up rapidly and called it quits. An interesting Czech invader, Viconte, had a win and three places in his native land on the flat but jumped a bit too ponderously to get into the serious action.

Note for the future: Saint Sonnet (3rd): Not too big, not too small, did a solid job and can come on a bundle for it.

Race 5: Prix Rene Menard Four Year Old Hurdle [2m 1f]

1: Nigeem     2: Augustini     3: Janidex

Winner owned: Ecurie Babsen Courses, trained: Marcel Rolland, ridden: Dylan Ubeda

This race also featured a couple of unraced horses, but unlike their juvenile colleagues they had quite a lot on their plate against a significant number of horses that had appealing racing achievements. For most people Nigeem would not have necessarily been on that list, never having hurdled before and managing a single Amiens win recently from fourteen flat tries. He also won it very comfortably although second looked more likely until Express Mag hit the deck at the final hurdle. Augustini took a bit of a pull and it told in the end as he trundled on to retain second place. He has problems finding the winning formula but has made the first four in every hurdle race and is built to be a chaser. Janidex was beaten a head at Auteuil on his debut but had been AWOL for nearly eight months since falling in the follow up. The confidence and fitness should have been boosted by this. Janidil and Eho Lord were the other finishers, with the remainder giving up at various points from the third last.

Race 6: Prix De L'Ailly Hurdle [2m 3f]

1: Bucefal     2: Celebre D'Allen     3: Cyrano De Fretel

Winner owned: Georges Lacombe, trained: Gabriel Leenders, ridden: Clement Lefebvre

The result seemed to emerge from a moment of tactical inspiration from Clement Lefebvre. For most of the races the leaders drifted onto the stands rail sooner or later, but with Bucefal he opted to stick with the far fence and suddenly the pair found themselves sprinting away from Celebre D'Allen, who looked to have nicked the advantage before the last, and Cyrano De Fretel, who was trying hard to foil that move. It made for a hefty nine lengths success by Bucefal, which is not bad for a horse that seemed to be battling to grab a place three hundred metres earlier. Inspection revealed no breach in the space/time continuum on Bucefal's side of the track. Celebre D'Allen is an interesting horse as he began by running in British bumpers for the current owner. In France he has won an Angers hurdle (headline should be "Happy At Angers") and on this evidence can continue to do a good over there. On the other hand, being comprehensively outsprinted by a horse whose past four wins were all in cross country chases cannot have pleased him. Super Nonant never threatened to expand his portfolio of wins from one in fifty-seven races, but having seen him race a couple of times before, a sneaking regard has been established for his sticking to his guns - sport is social, not combat. Although perhaps the metaphor should be sticking to his drink of choice, as guns do rather imply combat.

Note for the future: Roli Talisker (5th) - He had not raced for seventeen months, but his last victory, over two years back was in listed company. This was not a bad return and he should soon be competitive if sticking to this grade of race.
For a horse with only one success in a couple of dozen races, Cyrano De Fretel is quite keen on the job, but Roi De Talisker did not need to be so impatient. For proof see Bucefal settling nicely at the back

Race 7: Prix Mandarino Four Year Olds Chase [2m 1.5f]

1: Buck's Bahkbook     2: Eclair Du Maffray     3: Marcyas

Winner owned: Henri Poulat, trained: Yannick Fouin, ridden: Baptiste Meme

Nothing so far in the evening had panned out in favour of front runners, but Buck's Bahkbook was a bit short of opponents that could do anything about it should he judge it correctly. He did get it spot on and proved to be a very comfy fifteen lengths winner. On hurdle form, Eclair Du Maffray was one that had a squeak of changing the ending of the book, but he had not really taken to chases and any chance to close on the winner was spoiled when he lacked fluency at the last two obstacles. Marcyas showed up well to a certain extent, but the better bits unravelled as he was tailed off when completing in the places.
Some sort of zoom would, in hindsight, have been a good idea here, but it at least shows Buck's Bahkbook dominating as he did throughout. Tribalion is the one doing weird stuff in second. Eclair Du Maffray is the one landing a bit steeply towards the rear.
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