Catching Pigeons: High Jinx in Paris
Our gossip column is back with news of several fancied weekend runners and Sir Mark Prescott's Cesarewitch team.
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The days when British-trained horses went off at silly prices on the pari-mutuel are long gone - not least because nine-tenths of the crowd at Longchamp hail from this side of the Channel.
But away from the big race, there could still be some value in a number of raiders in the supporting contests and chief among them is High Jinx in the Prix du Cadran.
Coming as it does two hours after the Arc, you could be forgiven for forgetting all about the two and a half mile contest, but with the exception of the disappointing Vadamar and old favourite Kasbah Bliss (fourth, second, third and then first in four previous attempts at the race), the home team looks distinctly beatable.
It's High Jinx who you should be taking a close look at, despite the fact that he is yet to win a pattern race of any sort.
He's been kept in high regard at James Fanshawe's yard right since the start of the season and has thrived since moving up in trip in recent starts. This marathon trip will be right up his street and the excellent Graham Lee won't take any chances by burying him in the rear if the field goes its usual crawl in the early stages.
High Jinx looked on good terms with himself in a workout earlier this week, but the same couldn't really be said of Agent Allison, who lacked some sparkle on the Limekilns on Tuesday. That's a shame because this filly had looked to be going well up to that point and a tilt at the Prix Marcel Boussac has been on the cards for a while.
Soft ground correctly saw The Fugue pulled out of the Prix de l'Opera on Friday morning, but it won't bother stablemate Izzi Top, who continues to look well at a stage of the season when plenty of fillies are starting to go in their coats.
Also worth risking to deny the French resistance (boom boom) is Penitent, who was well fancied by his stable when scoring at Newmarket last weekend and for whom any cut in the ground is a real bonus. He's taken a while to come right, but is flying at home.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Shantaram could well have the British team on the board from an early stage in Saturday's Prix Chaudenay. He booked his place in the line-up with a particularly impressive spin on the Limekilns and is clearly fully recovered from the bug that forced him out of the St Leger line-up at a late stage.
Ascot and Newmarket host the pick of the weekend's domestic action and in-form Marcus Tregoning is hoping for another good day. Having been all but anonymous for most of the year, the stable's purple patch of form has got the trainer shouting from the rafters again and he has made no secret of the fact that he fancies 2013 to be a good year given the strength of his two-year-old team.
The lightly-raced Hawaafez is likely to step up to two miles before the end of the season, but a good run is nevertheless expected from her in Ascot's Cumberland Lodge Stakes, even if she isn't quite at concert pitch yet.
But juveniles Flashheart and Valais Girl both carry more confidence at Newmarket, Tregoning rating the former, a Derby entry, particularly highly. Both should be backable prices.
The second of the Tattersalls sales races is far stronger and Havana Gold will take some beating if the vibes from Richard Hannon's yard are to be believed. He is being asked to make a relatively quick reappearance after winning over course and distance last week, but seems to have taken everything in his stride.
Our Manton mole tells us not to overlook Number One London in the second division of the one-mile maiden at the same track. Like all of Brian Meehan's juveniles, he was barely wound up for his debut, but has come on considerably for that outing.
Up at Redcar, First Mohican (mentioned here seven days ago) returns from two years off for Sir Henry Cecil in the mile and a quarter handicap.
Gauging the wellbeing of this kind of horse isn't easy. For obvious reasons, he isn't going to be 100 per cent fit, but this is a big day for his patient owners and jockey Tom Queally - hardly the most regular visitor the North-East - was on board when the horse had a gentle stretch of his legs on Friday morning.
Also spotted on the gallops was Sir Mark Prescott's Cesarewitch hopeful Motivado, with a stablemate who looked very much like Kepler's Law - unseen for more than a year, but still entered in the same race. You have been warned.