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Bird on course for Critérium de Vitesse victory

08 March 2018

Next Sunday, 11th March, sees Cagnes sur Mer racecourse  host the most important trotting race on its calendar, and the most prestigious speed event on the French programme. The Critérium de Vitesse de la Côte d’Azur covers a mile and is open to 4-10 year-olds, geldings excepted. Its €200,000 regularly draws the crème of European speedsters and this year’s edition is no exception.   
A baker’s dozen has been declared for the big event and recent Prix de Paris winner, Bird Parker, has not been blessed with the draw and will be forced to start wide outside on the first line. There is no aspect of the 7 year-old that his driver, Jean-Philippe Monclin, does not know and it will be interesting to see if he will go all-out to get to the front or take a more patient approach.
Bold Eagle has been gifted a more favourable number on the very inside, and as a result earns a much-needed advantage over Philippe Allaire’s charge who has beaten him on three occasions already this season. If Nivard misses the break, it will be ‘game over’, but the chances of that occurring remain slim. Bold Eagle has finished runner-up in his last six races and may have lost that sparkle, but is still one of the best trotters in the world and has every opportunity of getting back to winning ways here.
The other eleven may not be of the same class but in this kind of speed event, anything can happen. Anna Mix failed to shine in either of the 2016 and 2017 editions but she has a decent record over the shorter trips and, according to connections, has worked particularly well ahead of the big day. She has been handed the four-spot behind the car, what most regard as the ideal position, and appears to have a decent chance getting in on the action.
Another quality mare, Billie De Montfort, has enjoyed a good run for the most part since last autumn and although having been found wanting in the longer Prix d’Amérique and Prix de France, she posted her personal best of 1’09”2 when second to Timoko here last August. She has only once finished out of the first four at this distance and from the 5-spot looks a very attractive proposition.
Timone Ek, who trotted sixth here twelve months ago, is a speedster through and through, and should show a side to himself that we did not see in his last two at a similar level. Dijon and Dreammoko will start on the second line, and while not top-tier prospects, should still acquit themselves competitively, provided they are in a position to express themselves. 
All told, this is a contest between the front-row horses, the main hopes at either end of the line. Whether Bold Eagle can exact revenge on his nemesis will remain a mystery until Sunday afternoon.
Picture: Grand Prix de France winner Bird Parker