Place your trust in Cirrus des Aigles to deliver for French
AN old fella I know down the local has an amusing betting 'system' whereby he'll back a horse if its name relates to an item he's seen recently on the news. So, if he saw a story about a marathon, for example, he'd go out and back Long Run.
The amount of crumpled dockets surrounding his barstool every Saturday evening is ample proof that his system is as useful as a chocolate teapot, although he insists it helped him pick the 1980 Grand National winner Ben Nevis at 40/1 following a piece he'd seen a few days before about Britain's highest mountains.
No doubt, he'll be backing French raider Very Nice Name in today's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (3.50 Ascot) following the royal baby name announcement across the water.
In fact, he'll probably double up his stakes since both the race and the baby are named after Queen Elizabeth's father George. However, I somehow doubt he'll be making his way to the payout counter in the bookies afterwards, considering another French raider, Cirrus des Aigles, is part of the eight-strong line-up.
Sadly, ante-post favourite St Nicholas Abbey had to be withdrawn due to a life-threatening injury, and the race is much poorer for his absence.
I thought we'd see Corine Barande-Barbe's seven-year-old Cirrus des Aigles shorten up to around even-money following that news, but punters don't seem to be biting and until yesterday at least, he was freely available at 6/4.
To me, that's a cracking price, given that he's rated the best horse in the world at the moment by Timeform. Despite this, I believe there are two reasons that punters haven't yet got stuck in.
Firstly, he's probably not quite as famous as he should be. He was gelded very young, which meant he wasn't allowed to enter some of Europe's biggest races, including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, so the opportunities to show just how good he actually is have been limited.
But don't forget he had the likes of So You Think, Snow Fairy, Midday and Nathanial behind him when he won the 2011 Champion Stakes – on a good day, he's unstoppable.
Secondly, his apparent inconsistency tends to put people off. He could manage only fifth to Italian Group One winner Novellist in the Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud last time, but he always needs a run to get the cobwebs off and his trainer had said as much beforehand.
Novellist has had things his own way lately and this assignment could prove much tougher. Cirrus des Aigles has been somewhat injury-prone and had to take time off due to a ligament strain following a memorable second to Frankel in October's Champion Stakes at Ascot, but if he's back on song today as expected, punters will be left kicking themselves for not getting involved.
If successful, he'll become the first ever seven-year-old winner of Britain's most prestigious open-age Flat race.
Irish Derby winner Trading Leather is also highly respected. He previously placed in both the Dante and Irish 2,000 Guineas and alongside Hillstar (which was supplemented at a cost of £75,000), he gets a nice weight allowance for being a three-year-old.
AS usual, this afternoon's Betfair International Stakes looks just as tricky as Paul Daniels' suitcase, but one horse that catches the eye at a decent price is Es Que Love (14/1), which was last seen when third in a decent handicap at Newmarket last week. He's been creeping up in the weights following some good efforts lately and the assessor has raised his mark to 105 – but as this was an early closing race, he gets in off his old rating of 99, which means he's effectively 6lb ahead of the handicapper today.
* Last week's each-way selection was placed at 11/1.
2.05 Ascot: Wind Fire
2.55 York: Mukhadram
3.15 Ascot: Es Que Love (e/w)
3.50 Ascot: Cirrus Des Aigles