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If you needed a warmup for the Arc weekend at Paris Longchamp, then Fridays 9 race card at Saint-Cloud should act as the perfect preparation. Racing gets underway at 12:40 and it includes a host of pattern races and a pair of Group 1 races for the Arabian breds. I will leave the Arabian races to the better judges of that discipline, although I would highlight the fact that Francois Rohaut and Thomas Fourcy have tended to dominate these races in recent years. Instead I will stick to the thoroughbreds and there were 2 races where the French form looked a little easier to read.

Last year’s renewal of this race is best remembered for Christophe Soumillon’s use of his right shoulder to ease Rossa Ryan out of the way and the subsequent disqualification and 2-month ban that followed. Thankfully Rossa Ryan emerged from that unscathed, but the incident hid the fact that the race was won by the subsequent St Leger winner and Arc hopeful Continuous. Aiden O’Brien doesn’t have a runner this time around, but Joseph does in the shape of Warnie. Taken literally, his form stacks up as he had last Saturday’s Beresford Stakes winner Deepone in behind him when he won a Listed race at Tipperary in August. Connections have gone to the trouble of booking Christophe Soumillon to ride, and he rates as the most likely challenger from the British and Irish runners. However, he did get the first run on Deepone at Tipperary, and he shaped and battled on like a horse who appreciated the softer conditions last time and with the current forecast this will be a very different test with much more emphasis on speed.

The stronger angle into this race looks to be with the runners from the French powerhouse yards of Andre Fabre and Jean-Claude Rouget. Fabre runs Alcantor, who has won 2 of his 3 starts and makes his first start in pattern company as he steps up to the mile. He won on debut here in June and his last win at Deauville came on quicker ground, so the current conditions should suit him, but this is a much deeper race than he has previously been contesting. Although he did well to come around runners to win last time and it should be noted that both the 2nd and 3rd have won since, that race did seem to fall into his lap as the unusually strong early pace allowed him to take advantage under a more patient ride. At the point he is asserting, the sectional analysis shows that the placed horses are slowing down and so he will need to find further improvement if he is going to win this.

Havana Cigar has more proven form in the book. Jean-Claude Rougets son of Havana Gold won on debut here in May and has already placed twice in Group races at Deauville and Paris Longchamp. His latest run, when 3rd to Beauvatier, can definitely be upgraded as he was caught in the wrong place behind the field and despite running the last 3-furlongs in 32.36s, he wasn’t able to fully extend until the final 100 yards and can be counted as an unlucky loser. The wider trip and a handy draw in stall 6 should mean that he gets a better run round this time and if he matches the level of form that he showed behind Beauvatier, that could be enough to win this.

Advised Selection – Havana Cigar (Win)

                                    Havana Cigar/Alcantor (Reverse Exacta)

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My second selection comes in the 3-year-old handicap at 3:00. As you might expect in a handicap over just shy of 2-miles, speed is in relatively short supply and so much will depend on the start of the race. Sheradan has the unexposed profile that many will look for and as a son of Roaring Lion, he can be expected to have at least some turn-of-foot to call upon, but there are holes in his form that can’t be ignored. His dam was a Group 2 winner over 10-furlongs, but her progeny have not reached the same heights and although Sheradan did win a maiden over 2,200 metres at Dieppe, he was all out to do so in the closing stages and the horses in behind do not suggest he is particularly well handicapped on a mark of 38.5-kilos.

Lalou and Germinal both take a step up in grade after wins last time, but it should be noted that both were ideally placed in their respective wins at Nancy and Salon Provence. Things are not likely to happen quickly in this contest, which could play into the hands of Ebauche who is the likely pace angle. He ran well here in a handicap in June before going on to win at Compiegne a few weeks later and if he gets a soft lead, he may prove hard to pass, but he got that exact setup last time at La Teste and wasn’t able to hold on which would suggest he isn’t the most reliable bet for win purposes.

The ”solid option” is the top weight Sharp Rise. He has already won over this trip when he landed a Clairefontaine handicap at the end of July and he can be forgiven his latest effort when only 6th at Compiegne as he was given far too much to do. Connections have dropped him in at the rear of the field in most of his races, including both career wins to date, but at Compiegne he gave the leaders the best part of 15-lengths and was never able to get on terms. He made good headway on the outside of the field and the sectional times show that only the winner was faster than him form the 3-furlong pole to the line. The winner of that race, Caliyza, was narrowly beaten in a Class 2 conditions event here last week and there is enough evidence in the overall form of the Compiegne race to suggest that Sharp Rise is worthy of his rating of 39-kilos. In a smaller field, he should be ridden closer to the pace this time and that should leave him ideally placed to come with a strong late run as he likes to do. He has shown some degree of speed in the closing stages of his races and that should at least be enough to hit the frame in this lineup.

Advised Selection: Sharp Rise (Win and Place)

About Saint-Cloud Racecourse

Saint-Cloud is a picturesque racecourse to the west of Paris which regularly hosts quality flat racing across the French season. With three Group 1 races including the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June, Saint-Cloud joins Longchamp, Chantilly and Deauville as one of only four Group 1 tracks in the country.

Saint-Cloud is also home to the Criterium International in November, won in the past by the likes of Dalakhani and Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow. With a range of Group 2 and Group 3 action to boot, the Paris venue is definitely a pillar of horse racing in France.

It is also a very popular place to visit, for racing fans, locals and families alike. Saint-Cloud has something for everyone, enjoys a fabulous setting and is definitely a course to have on your bucket list.

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