Prix de l'Abbaye 2013 Preview / Tips
It's the most subscribed race of the whole weekend in Paris, both from a number of runners perspective, and a number of British- and Irish-trained runners perspective too.
And within that is the problem: it's very, very hard to find the winner, as odds of 6/1 the field imply. From a pure ratings perspective, it's a two horse race: Jwala and Sole Power are the only two 'proper' Group 1 horses in the field. From a draw and ratings perspective, it's a one horse race: Jwala has the rating and the draw, Sole Power is wide again in this event, having finished a really creditable fifth from stall 15 last year on heavy. He's fared slightly better in 13 this time, and the ground will be slightly quicker than the heavy encountered in 2012, but still he has a bit to find with Jwala.
So, should I end the preview there? Well, I probably should, because digging deeper into the merits and de-merits (if it's a word) of the remainder is like trying to justify the possibility of a horse that shouldn't be able to win the race winning the race... if you see what I mean.
Last year, Wizz Kid, a local with a Group 2 win during the season, prevailed. In 2011, Tangerine Trees, with a Group 3 and a Listed win earlier in the season, won. In 2010, a Group 3 winner earlier in the year won. The same in 2009, a Listed winner earlier in the year; and in 2008, an actual previous Group 1 winner triumped - Marchant d'Or.
In essence, any horse that has won a Listed race, or preferably at least a Group 3, this year can win the weakish Group 1 that is the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp.
I'm also looking for a five furlong specialist, and a horse which acts on the soft side of good (won in Listed class or better under those conditions). And I want a low drawn horse. Incredibly, six of the twelve 1-2-3 positions in the last four years were achieved by horses drawn 1, 2, or 3!
Jwala has stall 4, and she has the early speed to take advantage of it. Although Hamza, in 2, is also very quick from the gate, Jwala has a much better overall profile, including that last time out Group 1 win (when I backed her at 80/1 on Betfair using the RAR reports, which were in private trial at time!).
She has a superb profile for the race, and must run well assuming she breaks on terms, a comment which applies to every runner in this licketty-split dash.
Of those at a price, Hamza could run into the frame from a beneficial draw, and I'd definitely want to back him with a bookie paying four places (bet365, though their offer of 16/1 is a bit on the skinny side).
Spirit Quartz has been overlooked a little for this, in my view. He ran poorly last time, for sure, but prior to that was beaten less than three lengths in a Group 2 on good. Here's the thing with SQ though: he wants soft ground. It's possible he didn't let himself down properly (i.e. he was afraid of jarring himself) on the quicker ground in recent starts.
If I'm right about that, he's a huge price at 25/1 with William Hill. He won a Group 2 at Chantilly earlier this season, over five good to soft furlongs, beating a horse called Catcall. She's half his price, and that's not right, especially given Spirit Quartz' trap three berthing.
Rae Guest's Mirza also likes soft - very much - and won over course and distance last time out in a Group 3 (dead heating in fact with re-opposing Dibajj). The one to back of that pair, though, is Dibajj, as she's likely to be very popular with the French: she's trained by top trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupre; she has a form string of 32131; she goes on soft and is versatile with regards trip, proving last time that she can live with the pace at the minimum.
The one issue with her is that she's a hold up horse, drawn eight, and she might have trouble in running. But then so might plenty of others. I'm pretty sure she won't be 14/1 on the day given her profile, so she's a value bet on that basis alone.
Maarek loves genuine soft ground, and he's a Group 2 performer under such conditions. He's got an acceptable stall in seven, and is another with a squeak. Reckless Abandon, for all his toe, has a better record at six furlongs, though he is capable of winning a race like this, albeit perhaps not from box 16.
Catcall has run close to a good few of these, but ultimately been beaten by them, and she'd have to reverse several formlines to go in, and she's not a price to be betting that.
Justineo has been hardlucked by the draw (15), and may well try to make all on the far side, most likely in vain; while Ladies Are Forever is a six furlong mare in my view.
And the rest probably aren't good enough.
Most like Prix de l'Abbaye winner: Jwala 6/1 bet365 (1/4 odds 1-2-3-4)
Two value Prix de l'Abbaye alternatives: Spirit Quartz 25/1 Hills (1/4 1-2-3), Dibajj 14/1 (1/4 odds 1-2-3-4)