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Our flat season maybe be winding to a close but we have a fascinating day of racing in front of us today at Saint-Cloud. How fortunate have we been that racing has continued and limited crowds (which effectively means whoever wants to go most days) have been allowed on the racetrack for most of the year. For obvious reasons things have tightened up considerably recently on that front and will probably do so again looking at yesterday’s virus figures. The light in the sky however has been the betting turnover figures which have been positive and have, I believe, made up the ground lost when there was no racing at all earlier in the year.

Importance of a Tote

We are told that assuming there is not another total lockdown, the owners of horses who have won prize money since racing started back in May will be paid a ten percent bonus on money won. This has yet to be confirmed and understandably France Galop is ‘waiting to see’ but it will be great news for owners if it comes to be. The advantages of a PMU (Tote!) system have never been plainer to see.

Saint-Cloud on Saturday

Turning our eyes to Saint Cloud we have two Group 1 races for two-year-olds on the card. The Critérium International over a mile has seven runners and looks to be a strong field with the exception Ponntos who would appear to be in the wrong race. The likely favourite will be the impressive La Barrosa, a 750,000 guineas yearling he looks like he could be worth it. Two for two and coming off a smooth victory in a Group 3 at Newmarket a convincing win today would see him installed at the head of the market for the classics next year. Being by Lope de Vega out of a Montjeu mare one would expect him to like today’s forecasted heavy ground.

Van Gogh represents Aidan O’Brien and with six races under his belt he will be battle-hardened but his form would appear to be a couple of notches under Group 1 level having taken five races to break his maiden. Jadoomi from Simon Crisford’s stable was obviously laid out for the valuable sales race in Longchamp and got the job done well winning by 7 lengths but although there were fifteen runners that race was limited to those sold in Deauville at last year’s October sale (effectively book 2) so he will meet better opposition today.

Jean Claude Rouget runs Darkness but he only won a Lyon listed race narrowly last time out and frankly, on the paper, that form doesn’t look good enough. Best of the French would be Policy of Truth, a big strong son of Siyouni who won a Group 3 at Longchamp by 3 lengths last time out and Normandy Bridge a tall imposing son of red hot in form stallion Le Havre who won a Group 3 at Saint Cloud on the 2nd of October when he came over to the stands rail on his own, but he looked to win on merit. Having only had two runs he has inexperience to overcome however.

A leading French trainer has in the past described the Criterium de Saint-Cloud as the ‘french Grand national’ run, as it is, over a mile and a quarter on soft ground on a testing track. It can ‘cook’ some horses but it has also been won by others, notably Waldgeist and Dalakhani who have gone on to have illustrious careers; both winning the Arc. The fairy story runner here is the diminutive Tiger Tanaka. She has risen from the claiming ranks and won the Group 1 Marcel Boussac ridden by trainer, Charley Rossi’s wife Jessica Marcialis (sister of trainer Andrea) but I can’t see her beating the colts today. Likely favourite is the unbeaten Rouget trained, Aga Khan owned Makaloun. By Bated Breath the distance might be a question mark but he was very impressive over a mile and a furlong (albeit against weaker opposition) at Chantilly last time out when he won the Group 3 Prix de Condé by five lengths going away on heavy ground. A win for him would be a fairy story for the purchaser of his dam who snapped her up for 14,000 euros at last year’s Arqana breeding stock sale!

Bolshoi Ballet representing Ballydoyle might only have won a maiden but he fairly scooted up at Leopardstown on soft ground winning well by four lengths. Francis Graffard who is having a fantastic season has supplemented Sweet Lady. Yet to race in group race company she has won two of her three races and caught the eye at Compiegne last time out when she won a class 2 race impressively by four and a half lengths in heavy ground. German raider Best of Lips won their primary two-year-old contest the Preis des Winterfavoriten (the name tells the story) by three and a half lengths, quickening well, so you certainly can’t leave him out and it would be foolish not to mention the André Fabre trained Botanik. A son of Golden Horn he has only won a maiden but has three races under his belt and is clearly on an upward curve. From the family of In The Wings and Hunting Hawk he’s an improver trained by France’s leading trainer for the last two decades.

With three Group 3s, Prix Perth, Prix de Flore and Prix Belle de Nuit on the day’s menu to back up the two Group 1s this is a day for racing and breeding purists. For the punters, however, there is the staple ‘Quinté’ handicap, today it’s for three-year-olds over a mile and a quarter. With sixteen runners it is a typically open race that would require a dissertation length synopsis to work out the form but if you want help curiously high draws tend to be favoured and a predilection for soft ground is a must. At the risk of putting my head under the chopper, I will give you Kourking and Zealandia to have a crack at. Good luck to all!

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