Our Racing expert, Andy Holding, has one tip for today's racing at Vichy.
Ernesto De La Cruz not only has fitness on his side, but he also brings the best recent form to the party thanks to his smart effort behind Hurricane Ivor at Chantilly last week. In a race run at a sound gallop throughout, the son of Wootton Bassett was the only one able to keep tabs on the eventual winner from, but in the end, his persistent challenge during the first part of the race ended up counting against him in the final analysis and he ultimately faded into fourth. Good enough to finish third behind John Quinn’s Keep Busy in a listed contest at the same track last season, the three-year-old gelding has clearly trained on and he looks the one to beat.
Be Ahead finished one place ahead of Ernesto De La Cruz in a listed prize at Chantilly last season and although that could hardly be described as a sensational performance, it’s still a commendable one in context of today’s race. Prior to that down-the-field effort, the daughter of Dream Ahead had broken her maiden tag in a maiden at Wolverhampton and she appears one of the likelier ones if fitness isn’t an issue.
Mirage Hero was strongly-fancied to make a winning seasonal return at Fontainebleau back in March and although he ran perfectly respectably in finishing a decent second to Dutch Chop, clearly better things were expected. If the benefit of doubt is afforded to the son of Due Diligence on account of him needing the run after a 73-day break, then he must have some sort of squeak in a race of this nature.
Royaumont is similar to a few of these in the sense he arrives here off the back of a disappointing effort and that makes him quite a tricky one to get a proper handle on. That said, he didn’t get beat a huge amount in that listed race at Cagnes-Sur-Mer 103 days ago and he’s shown enough ability to play some sort of leading role.
Without doubt, one of the better races on the card that brings together several previous winners and one of those, Zarkallani, looks the obvious starting point. Although there are mixed messages about his latest victory on the all-weather at Deauville, the son of Invincible Spirit showed plenty of quality at the Normandy track and he looks the type to keep on improving.
Half Light has five lengths to find with Zarkallani on their clash at Deauville back in March, so unless there happens to be a huge difference in the fitness levels between the pair, it’s hard to see the daughter of Shamardal finding the necessary improvement to bridge the gap despite a turnaround in the weights.
GRACE SPIRIT (best price 15-2) has some fair form in pattern races since landing her maiden at Compiegne last summer and she has to come into the equation despite being off the track for 190 days. Indeed, her latest effort when runner-up to the Roger Varian-trained Invitational in a listed contest at Fontainebleau represents a useful level of form and, as today’s heat equates to a step down in class, she should go close if fit. She was also a decent third in a similar prize over a mile at Saint-Cloud previously and has a potentially favourable draw in stall one.
Others to mention are the improving Tantpispoureux, who came to hand early last season and the former Clive Cox-trained gelding House Of Kings who steps up in grade after being quite impressive at a lower level last time out.
Soft Light is clearly the one most punters are going to focus on having finished a creditable sixth in last season’s Arc De Triomphe at Longchamp and it could be just a case of whether he’s fit enough to do himself justice on his seasonal bow. We have seen, however, quite a few of these high profile favourites come up short first time out during the opening days of the campaign and whether you’d be wanting take odds-on about Jean-Claude Rouget’s colt when there are strong each-way alternatives is open to question.
Sublimis is the most interesting contender in this eight-strong field having just had the one run and he could turn out to be the biggest threat to the jolly despite his lack of experience. A late developing type, Andre Fabre’s gelding couldn’t have been any more impressive when scoring on debut at Deauville and although it’s difficult to evaluate the levels of his performance that day against a genuine Group horse in the shape of Soft Light, it would be a dangerous stance to underestimate the potential he harbours.
Chipiron doesn’t boast the same level of form as the favourite, but he is fairly solid at this level and his overall consistency lends weight to the theory that he should be involved in the finish if fully tuned. Although better known as an all-weather performer in recent times (runner-up to the Alan King-trained Rainbow Dreamer at Kempton in February), the four-year-old chestnut has got some useful form to his name on the turf, so despite having to give weight away all round, he commands the utmost respect.
Grand Art had the form of his staying-on third at Fontainebleau when last seen boosted by the winner, Think Of Me, yesterday and has to be considered from and each-way perspective, while Goya Senora has solid place form at pattern level next to his name – albeit over shorter trips than today’s.