Grey Sensation came home sixth of 15 in his Cagnes-sur-Mer debut on Saturday in the 1600-meter (one-mile) handicap, the Prix du Val Carei on Fibresand. Towards the rear after breaking from an unfortunately wide number 12 draw, he made up some late ground to get within 2 1/4 lengths of the victorious Bucentaire, who covered the distance in a quick 1:38.18.
Sent off as the 2.40-1 favorite on the opening day Cagnes card, Grey Sensation was perhaps compromised by a fast early pace and the relatively sticky ground produced by the new Fibresand course at the Hippodrome de la Cote d’Azur. The sharp pace of the race was confirmed in the next event, a good conditions race which was run .26 of a seconds slower than Grey Sensation’s.
Trainer Gina Rarick said: “The way he ran today shows he’d be more comfortable at 2000 meters (1 1/4 miles), and Alexis Badel agreed. He may go next in a handicap at that distance on Jan. 25.” In his previous race last time race at that distance, Grey Sensation had finished a fast finishing third at Deauville. A return to what appears to be a distance he now finds preferble should result in an improved effort.
Bleu Astral showed marked improvement in his second outing for High Street Racing at Deauville on Monday as he finished well to finish ninth in the Prix de Balme, overcoming a number of obstacles in the process.
Cutting back to 1300 meters (6 1/2 furlongs) and breaking from post 14 in the 15-runner claiming event while carrying co-highweight of 61.5 kilos (135 lbs.), ‘Bleu’ broke much more alertly than he did last time, but was taken back by rider Alexis Badel, who angled him over to the rail in a ground-saving move. Still next-to-last approaching the straight, ‘Bleu’ was closing well as the line drew near. In the end he finished 6 1/2 lengths behind the pacesetting winner Super Nothing, who clocked a quick 1:16.80 for the 1300 meters.
“This was a much better effort,” said trainer Gina Rarick. “He was much better out of the gate and carried his head better. It was a promising performance and he should do well next time at Cagnes-sur-Mer going left-handed at a mile or even longer.”
Gina reported that Bleu Astral had come out of the race in good order and suggested that he may be even better when switched back to turf.
Considering his wide draw, the heavy impost which saw him spotting his 14 rivals up to 22 lbs., a 6 1/2-length defeat to a winner who was carrying 15 lbs. less than the High Street Racing inmate must be considered an encouraging performance. At a longer distance and carrying a more competitive weight, there is every chance that Bleu Astral will continue to improve.
Bleu Astral makes a quick return for High Street Racing on Monday when he goes in the Prix de Balme on the Deauville fibresand course. The 1300-meter (6 1/2-furlong) claimer is worth 20,000 euros (10,000 euros to the winner).
The race is three furlongs shorter than Bleu Astral’s High Street racing debut at the same track on December 11 when he finished tenth in a 1900-meter (9 1/2-furlong) conditions race, and is also a step or two down in class.
As trainer Gina Rarick explained: “I would have preferred a distance closer to a mile, but we don’t have another entry that is suitable at the moment, so we’ll have to takes this one. I have added sheepskin cheek pieces to help keep him straight and focused. We should look at this race as essentially a second training gallop counting toward his eventual handicap mark.”
“‘Bleu’ did a nice piece of work Thursday,” Gina continued, “and I expect to see a better showing than last time.”
Bleu Astral has been entered for a claiming price of 20,000 euros but Gina does not expect him to be claimed. Carrying highweight of 61.5 kilos (135 lbs.) as he continues to carry a French penalty due to his two victories last summer in Great Britain, he has drawn post 15 in a field of 16 three-year-olds. Post time is 12:15 pm (CET), 11:15 (GMT) and 6:15 am (EST). Alexis Badel retains the ride.
Bleu Astral’s first race for High Street Racing at Deauville on Friday resulted in a tenth-place finish, and while that may be disappointing on the face of it, there are a number of positives to be taken from the effort.
Slowly away in the 1900-meter (one-mile, 1 1/2 furlong) Prix de Villepelee on fibresand, Bleu Astral quickly moved up towards a bunched up group at the front, while drifting a bit left under rider Alexis Badel. Never far behind through the backstraight, he faded late as Badel rode him out to the finish. Sent off at 16-1, ‘Bleu’ came home 15 lengths behind the victorious One Foot in Heaven.
“This was a learning experience,” said High Street trainer Gina Rarick, “and we learned something. He needed this race as he hadn’t run since August 28, and he needs a stronger pace than he got today. He came out of the race fine. Before Cagnes-sur-Mer next month, we’ll look for another race at Deauville at 1500 meters (7 1/2 furlongs), which is closer to the one-mile races he won in Britain. We need to get three French races into him before he is given a handicap mark.”
Badel sounded an optimistic note. “He’ll be fine. He has ability,” he said. “I’d ride him again.” The rider also suggested that ‘Bleu’ would do better on a left-handed track like Cagnes-sur-Mer.
One other factor to take into account is that in carrying co-highweight of 59 kilos (130 lbs.), Bleu Astral was spotting his twelve rivals up to 12 lbs., thanks to the odd conditions of the race which dictate that he had to carry a penalty for his two victories last summer in Britain, races that were clearly of a lower value than the Villepelee. There were no earnings gleaned today, but there is promise for the future under different conditions.
High Street Racing will have its first runner at Deauville tomorrow (Friday) when Bleu Astral takes on twelve rivals in the Prix de Villepelee, a 1900-meter conditions race on fibresand worth 29,000 euros, 14,500 euros to the winner.
Purchased for 12,750 guineas at the Tattersalls October Horses-in-Training Sale, the 3-year-old son of French 2000 Guineas winner Astronomer Royal will be making his first start since August 28 when he completed a British double while landing a one-mile conditions race on heavy turf at Ffos Las.
On Friday he will be stretching out an additional 1 1/2 furlongs against a rather accomplished field. Bleu Astral has been working well of late on the Maisons-Laffitte gallops, and while trainer Gina Rarick expects a good effort, expectations of victory right off the bat may be premature. First time out we are looking at this race as a re-entry point to determine future races.
Post time is scheduled for 12:30pm (CET), 11:30am (GMT), 6:30am (EST) for American early birds. Bleu Astral will break from an ideal draw of four in the field of 13. Alexis Badel has the ride.
Pretty much the entire yard will get a chance to race over the next three days, which will give us a chance to see how what sort of team we’ll bring to Cagnes sur Mer this year. Most our horses are coming back after a break, and we are really looking forward to see how they’re doing because they’re flying at home.
November sucks, to put it in simple, non-literary terms. It’s dark as midnight at 6 p.m. It’s just as dark at 6 a.m., but colder. There’s no decent racing to be had – the flat season is over and winter racing hasn’t started yet. But there is a faint glimmer at the end of the tunnel, and that glimmer is Cagnes sur Mer.
Bleu Astral got to stretch his legs on the straight gallop this morning. Ray of Hope gave him a lead. Bleu worked a little tentatively, but that’s normal for his first look at this track. He’ll start to step up now, working faster twice a week.
I just got back in from changing the horses’ clothes for the fourth time today. I turned the heat on. Then swatted a mosquito. It’s mid-November.
When a friend of mine gave me an American Pharoah t-shirt on Arc weekend, I didn’t think I would get a chance to wear it before next summer. But this past week temperatures have topped a sunny 22 degrees (71 Fahrenheit). More than half the horses had already quite sensibly grown their winter coats. A couple have resisted. Turns out they had the last laugh.