French Champion Hurdle Preview
A field of thirteen go to post for Sunday’s Grande Course De Haies D’Auteuil, better known as the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil. With plenty of British and Irish interest, here is Martin Pennington’s preview for Racing FM:
1. Zarkandar (Paul Nicholls) – A regular at the highest level in recent seasons the seven year old finished sixth behind Thousand Stars on his first outing at this venue last time out when partnered by Champion Jockey David Cottin. That race came over two miles six furlongs though and he has his stamina to prove over this trip having appeared not to get home at Aintree on his penultimate outing while there’s also a jockey change on the gelding with stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies taking over in the saddle.
2. Mandali (Jean-Paul Gallorini) – The runaway winner of this back in 2010 when building up a sizable lead under leading flat jockey Christophe Soumillon. The ten year old gelding has been lightly raced since that success with his sole victory from five outings (including two on the flat) coming last time out when returning from a near two year absence at nearby Enghien in April. That form wouldn’t be anywhere near good enough to take a race of this nature but he’s done well here in the past and could mount a bold bid for a repeat success despite his advancing years.
3. Bog Warrior (Tony Martin) – Successfully reverted to hurdling for the 2012/13 season following mixed results over fences the previous season where his victories included a facile Grade 1 success at Fairyhouse under Ruby Walsh. The gelding saw off the 2013 World Hurdle winner Solwhit over two and a half miles at Punchestown at the end of 2012 and followed that up with a Grade 2 success at Gowran Park. Sadly we failed to see the best of the ten year old in the 2013 World Hurdle as he suffered an injury during the race but he came back to form with a success at Grade 2 level over fences at Navan in March this year and he rates an interesting contender here under Barry Geraghty.
4. Thousand Stars (Willie Mullins) – The winner of this in 2011 and 2012 and winner of the major trial for this event the Prix La Barka held here last month. The Irish gelding has been a credit to his connections and appeared as good as ever in 2014 when winning by ten lengths in a Grade 2 event at Fairyhouse in April and though he disappointed in this particular event last season he has a good record here having won four times here in the past and he should put up a bold bid to regain his hurdling crown with Katie Walsh who won on him last month again in the saddle here.
5. Plumeur (Gilles Chaignon) – Was receiving a considerable amount of weight when victorious in a Grade 3 handicap a month ago. The form of that particular contest is solid enough with the fourth going on to success in a Quinte race later in the month while Plumeur had placed second in two such races prior to his success but ultimately he needs to step up on what he’s achieved thus far in his career and a record of three wins in seventeen starts doesn’t bode well for his chances upped in class here.
6. Zaidpour (Willie Mullins) – The second of Willie Mullins trio this son of Red Ransom finished a distant third in this particular event in 2013 having finished down the field in the Prix La Barka the previous month. His Barka outing in 2014 reads much better given he was beaten just two and a half lengths by stablemate Thousand Stars and he has a Grade 1 success to his name since that third last year having scored at the highest level when favourite for a three mile event at Leopardstown in December with Paul Townend in the saddle for the first time since the 2013 running of this.
7. Lord Prestige (Marcel Rolland) – Runner-up in the Autumn hurdling feature the Grand Prix d’Automne behind Reve de Sivola (had Gemix behind in third) back in November but has disappointed in the main since making a winning return to action in the Group 3 Prix Juigne in early March (again had Gemix in behind). Jonathan Plouganou’s mount is a talented individual but he’s suffered three heavy defeats since that particular event including in the Prix La Barka last time out and he’ll be looking to build on his fifth in this in 2013.
8. Gemix (Nicolas Bertran De Balanda) – Came into the 2013 renewal of this contest with a progressive profile having taken two trials for this the Prix Leon Rambaud and the Prix Hypothese in the preceding months but his career has gone astray somewhat since finishing last of four behind subsequent World Hurdle winner More Of That in November. The gelding has finished close-up behind Un De Sceaux when conceding four kilograms to the latter in March and he finished behind the same rival in the Prix Leon Rambaud subsequently. This return to three miles two furlong should suit though and he looks likely to prove very hard to beat in this.
9. Uddy (Alain Couetil) – This mare shaped with promise on her most recent outing when fourth behind Thousand Stars, Le Grand Luce and Diakali in the Prix La Barka here last month having taken out a listed race at Enghien on her previous outing in April. Uddy will be familiar to British and Irish readers having finished down the field in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham back in March but her overall record isn’t great and though it’s probable that she’s improved this season she will need to take another step forward again here to see of her rivals here.
10. Le Grand Luce (Jean-Paul Gallorini) – The second runner in the race for his trainer this son of Dream Well has yet to finished outside the first three since a fourth placed finish here in April 2013. The gelding was headed late on when finishing runner-up behind Thousand Stars in the Barka last time out but holds five of his rivals here and though the step up in trip is an unknown he looks to be a leading hope for the home team with Vincent Cheminaud booked to ride.
11. Chegei Has (Jean-Paul Gallorini) – Gallorini’s third runner in the contest this daughter of Kahyasi was a useful horse as a four year old in 2011 when she finished runner-up to Usual Suspects in the Group 1 Prix Alain du Breil here but she’s shown little at group level since with the sole bright spot being her third over fences at Enghien in October and she looks set to struggle in this contest.
12. Catmoves (Jean-Paul Gallorini) – The fourth and final contender from the Gallorini yard Catmoves scored in listed company over fences at Enghien in April but did have some fair form over hurdles last season. The daughter of Medicean took a Group 3 handicap at here two years ago but her form at this venue has been moderate since with her subsequent successes coming at Cagnes-Sur-Mer and Enghien and she looks up against it here.
13. Diakali (Willie Mullins) – Finished third behind Thousand Stars when sent off favourite for the Prix La Barka last time out and he appears to be on the upgrade as a five year old. Finished just half a length behind The New One in a Grade 1 event at Aintree at the start of April and despite his young age he’s already a winner at the highest level here having taken the 2013 Prix Alain Du Breil in June last year. The step up in trip is an unknown but he has solid course form and is the most interesting contender in this contest and he’s also the pick of Mullins’ stable jockey Ruby Walsh.
Gemix is taken to retain his crown in this particular contest with the step back up in trip likely to suit the gelding. He’s been freshened up since his last outing in April and can prove too good for the Willie Mullins pair of Diakali and Thousand Stars while of the remainder Le Grand Luce and at a bigger price Lord Prestige are also entitled to respect.
By Martin Pennington 7/6/14
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