Theleme and Hermes Baie unsurprisingly head the betting for this afternoon’s feature at Auteuil, the Grade Three Prix Juigné, a traditional return to action for prospective French Champion Hurdlers.
In the absence of L’Autonomie, this looks a shootout between the two five-year-old geldings. Theleme at 15/8 is perhaps now considered more reliable, winner of three of his five duels against Hermes Baie, though the latter is rated 1lb superior and had the upper hand when they last met off a break in September.
This is a good betting race to find a spoiler in. Dead eight runners, two favourites who won’t be at concert pitch and a third favourite, Galop Marin, who will be given an easy time of it. The headgear is off the son of Black Sam Bellamy, he needs it softer and performs better over at least three miles.
14-1 Berjou has the advantage of having run this calendar year but has been well beaten twice in this contest and has plenty to find on the market leaders. Gex is a future French Gold Cup horse and this will probably be the last time we see him over hurdles this spring. He is a potential winner at 15/2 but you can be sure that James Reveley will be looking after him in the saddle.
One hurdler on an upward trajectory, and described as ready for today, is 16-1 outsider Colbert Du Berlais. Runner-up to Theleme in the Prix Renaud du Vivier when we last saw him, he understandably didn’t get the credit he deserved for that as most commentators were caught up in either the Hermes Baie unseat drama or Theleme’s late jumping error.
Colbert Du Berlais was fitted with first time blinkers for that Grade One which helped him to both jump and travel far more enthusiastically than usual. He would often hit flat spots down the back of Auteuil in his handicap days – now he’s potentially transformed, provided the blinkers have a similar effect today. As a Grade One placer he comes out very well at the weights today, with no penalties to carry, having not even won a Grade Three. He came through Listed Handicaps which are exempt and although they are less sexy, they did throw up James Du Berlais in 2020 and mean that he has plenty of experience for a five-year-old.
Five-year-olds have won six of the last seven renewals of the Prix Juigné and it’s probably in part down to the fact that they are not yet conditioned to race over the extended 3 mile French Champion Hurdle trip. The selection is reported to be in good form at home and looks fantastic each-way value this afternoon now getting 4kg from both favourites.
4.35pm Auteuil – 1pt each-way Colbert Du Berlais @ 16-1 (various)
In the 4.00pm maiden hurdle for unraced four-year-olds, Kapani looks worth a passing interest at 11/2 as a son of Soldier Hollow who is in form from the flat and is trained by Mathieu Pitart, who can get them ready. He looks a better one to side with than favourite Like You, a first French jumps runner for Juddmonte’s Kingman.