Nice in Nice: your punting guide to the action at Cagnes-sur-Mer
Nestling next to the sprawl of Nice, Cagnes-sur-Mer provides picture-perfect winter backdrops of the Mediterranean and a six-week meeting that features plenty of noteworthy names among the jockey and trainer ranks.
The left-handed oval course plays host to a mixed economy of Polytrack and turf racing, with the all-weather layout sited outside of the grass.
Both boast broad fair turns and long straights – runners over seven and a half furlongs on turf and a mile on the all-weather need navigate only one turn – so this is not a course where too many hard-luck stories can be recounted.
With the major Grand Prix de la Riviera meeting taking place on Sunday, all races bar the Prix de Vichy (12.45) on Saturday are on the Polytrack.
Trainers on track
Fewer of the major Chantilly trainers take a team down to Cagnes than was the case in the past, and in terms of the sport's biggest names, Jean-Claude Rouget and his Pau neighbour Francois Rohaut are the ones that will stand out to British and Irish punters.
Rouget has an annual intake of well over 100 yearlings and will often take some of the more backward types that fail to make the course at two to Cagnes for their early three-year-old maidens and conditions races.
Punters rarely let them go unbacked first up – especially if Christophe Soumillon is riding – but there can often be some value in taking a view on such horses when they step out of maiden company.
The well-bred Etoile, who cost €160,000 as a yearling and created a really good impression when winning here on debut last month, faces some talented rivals in the Prix de Vichy, with Good Complicity and Kanuka both having earned black-type at two.
It will be fascinating to see how the market judges Etoile, but it would not be a big surprise to see her progress well beyond this level in the future.
Frederick Rossi is the local most feared by visiting trainers and he and nephew Charley have adapted well to the loss of Jean-Claude Seroul's horses to Jerome Reynier and Jean-Pierre Gauvin – two more names to note.
Guyon's fast start
Most of the leading riders bar Soumillon will be present over the weekend and it is Maxime Guyon who has made the fastest start, leading the jockeys’ standings.
Guyon's successes at Cagnes have come in bundles and, after registering a double at three meetings since the middle of January, the 29-year-old knocked in another three winners on Wednesday, the treble paying 316-1.
Guyon is jocked-up in seven races, while Pierre-Charles Boudot rides four and Cristian Demuro – who has also got off to a good start after a fruitful spell in Japan before Christmas – has three chances to advance his score for the season.
This time last year Mickaelle Michel was making hay with her double allowance, and the leading woman at the meeting this season so far has been Coralie Pacaut, who has four rides on the card.
No country for old men
The Prix du Vieux Bourg (1.17) brings together a number of horses who have competed at a much higher level.
They include Silverwave, who won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Prix Foy in 2016 and has contested two Arcs.
Purchased by Martin Schwarz, he failed to make an impact in three starts Stateside for Chad Brown and is perhaps best watched on his first start back in France for Fabrice Vermeulen.
Fellow seven-year-old Zafiro has a Group 3 victory in the back catalogue but it might be that the veteran of the entire field, the Rohaut-trained Best Fouad, still has the legs on all of them at the age of eight.
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