Snowdrop Stakes preview: Hunaina to keep French ball rolling on all-weather

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained mare Smart Call is a clear favourite for Saturday’s one-mile listed contest at Kempton and it’s not hard to see why.

Snowdrop Stakes preview: Hunaina to keep French ball rolling on all-weather

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained mare Smart Call is a clear favourite for Saturday’s one-mile listed contest at Kempton and it’s not hard to see why.

Smart Call
Smart Call Picture:HKJC

This represents a marked drop in class from the Group company she kept in her first season with Stoute last year. Formerly trained in South Africa, she beat that country’s dual Horse of the Year Legal Eagle Horseform when landing one of the top South African races, the J&B Met, early in 2016. Smart Call ran some good races in defeat last year when the pick of her efforts came over a mile and a quarter, including when fourth in the Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville.

Smart Call Horseform’s final run in 2017 came in the Hong Kong Vase when up against the likes of Highland Reel Horseform and Talismanic. That was a stiff task in any case, but she shaped as though the mile and a half trip stretched her stamina when weakening into seventh. On the other hand, this mile might be on the sharp side for her, particularly around somewhere like Kempton, though she wasn’t beaten far when fourth on her only start at the trip last year in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot. Smart Call might have the best form, but at the prices she looks worth opposing given she lacks a recent run, it’s her all-weather debut, and that she’s probably ideally suited by further.

La Figlia Horseform’s profile could hardly be more different. A twice-raced maiden would normally be easy to oppose in this sort of race but Jeremy Noseda’s filly has already shown a useful level of form and she has the most scope for improvement in the field. Both her runs came last September, when she finished second in a six-furlong maiden on this track before stepping up in trip to be beaten just over a length into fourth in a mile listed race for fillies at Newmarket. She’d need to improve again, and given both her parents are Guineas winners (by Frankel out of Finsceal Beo), she’s obviously bred to be out of the ordinary, though on what she’s actually achieved so far she doesn’t represent much value either.

Inshiraah is another filly open to improvement, though the worry with her is that her season ended rather abruptly last summer when she was improving in leaps and bounds for George Peckham. Her last two runs yielded wins in handicaps on Newmarket’s July course, impressive in the latter one, and while she has done all her racing at around seven furlongs, she’s a sister to a winner at around ten furlongs so this step up in trip shouldn’t be a worry. Her maiden win came on the tapeta at Wolverhampton, so she has all-weather experience too. If returning from her quite lengthy, and presumably enforced, absence in the same sort of heart, she’d be interesting here.

This will also be a step up from handicaps for Roger Varian’s Shenanigans, though she too progressed into a useful performer last season, winning at Goodwood and Newmarket over this trip. Wilamina won a listed race at Nottingham first time out last season but her form went the wrong way afterwards (she was well behind Smart Call at Deauville), and like Smart Call, she risks finding this trip on the sharp side.

Much more recent form is represented by several of these who met in the Fillies’ And Mares’ race at the All-Weather Championships Finals meeting at Lingfield last Friday. Carolinae fared best of them in chasing home the progressive winner Diagnostic that day, but fourth-placed Zest looks the most interesting from that race as she was unsuited by the way the race developed and will be suited by the return to a mile from seven furlongs, having had Carolinae behind her over the longer trip at Lingfield the time before.

The big lesson to learn from events at Lingfield last week was not to underestimate all-weather form from across the Channel as shown by French-trained winners at 7/2, 8/1 and 40/1. With only Smart Call above her on Timeform ratings, that certainly makes French-trained filly Hunaina worth considering at 7/1 for this race. She was actually trained in Ireland prior to this year by Mick Halford (responsible for one of Saturday’s entries, Surrounding), where two of her three wins came on the polytrack at Dundalk.

However, bought to join Henri-Francois Devin for €140,000 last November, Hunaina has shown improved form in two starts for her new stable. In the first of them, she met trouble and was unlucky not to have gone closer still when dead-heating for third in a blanket finish to a fillies’ listed race at Deauville, while more recently she progressed again to beat a couple of smart male rivals in Trais Fluors and Robin of Navan in a minor event at Chantilly, quickening best in a slowly-run race. Suited by a mile, race-fit and proven on polytrack, Hunaina looks a live threat to Smart Call, particularly if she can take another step forward.


Back Hunaina at 7/1 for the Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes at Kempton.

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