Auteuil, 11/6/17

This was the third champion hurdle meeting that UK-Jumping has attended over the years, and they have been done in order of importance. First Norway, then Britain and now France. The previous two were won by grey horses, but the magic failed the only grey contender here – whose chances were only of medium strength, so were demanding unfair effort from the magic. It was a pretty hot afternoon and one of the horses being hosed down in a saddling box after race five looked as if he would have happily stayed there all day. It is a shame that he could not be identified, as it may motivate him to go faster next time, and beat the others to the showers.

Race 1: Prix Ginetta II; 4 year old AQPS Chase (2m 1.5f)

1: Dragon D’Estruval     2: Du Jamais Vu     3: Derby Plus

Winner owned: Simon Munir/Isaac Souede/Mme Le Gentil, trained: Guillaume Macaire, ridden: Bernard Lestrade

Tactically Dragon D’Estruval made this slightly unnecessarily awkward for himself, conceding seven or eight lengths to the leader on the far side of the course, and then needing a bit of work to make the gap. He quickened into a lead from being a couple of lengths down turning for home, and would have probably have impressed more by keeping tabs on the leaders throughout. After two second places here since winning at Fontainebleau, he had earned the success. Du Jamais Vu ran quite well considering he won a much inferior race at Angers, and had been only fifth on his first look at Auteuil. Derby Plus routinely hovers around the minor prize money, and, what a surprise, he did it again.

Race 2: Prix Aguado Grade 3; 3 year old Hurdle (2m 1.5f)

1: Tunis     2: Echiquier Royale     3: Master Dino

Winner owned: P Goral/AS&D Allard, trained: Guillaume Macaire, ridden: Kevin Nabet

Due to his breeding, there may be the casual racecard reader with geographically challenged awareness who now thinks that Tunis may be in Poland. So be it. It was also a handy race for form reference, as six of the seven runners had finished first to sixth in a course and distance race last time. The finished order 1-2-3-4-5-6 then became 1-3-4-2-5-7. That is quite a nice correlation as only the improvement of Echiquier Royale prevented a complete repeat. Tunis won this with a lot in hand of the battling progresser, and then there was daylight to the rest, so Tunis would appear to be a handy operator who should not be deserted in future. Despite all this, the one that caught the eye in the paddock was Hell Boy, who ended up fourth. One to note if moving over to Britain.

Race 3: Prix Le Prisien (Prix Hardatit); 5 year olds and up Handicap Hurdle (2m 2f)

1: Diamond Charm     2: Song And Whisper     3: Race To Glory     4: Curly Basc

Winner owned: Ecurie Victoria Dreams, trained: Tatiana Puitg, ridden: Thomas Beaurain

A mad dash, although of the type taken at a slightly steadier pace than the sixteen horse affairs that we would see at home. This meant that as the field approached the second last hurdle, there were about ten still in contention, to the degree that two horses who were right to the fore at that stage did not even make the top six. Due to the number of runners, this race was missing any research from your lazy correspondent, so all that can be reported is that Diamond Charm had been first, second and third in his last three runs and clearly does have a turn of foot. As the two of them went reasonably clear, Song And Whisper is no slouch in the speed department either. It may not be healthy to speculate who or what Curly Basc is named after.

Race 4: Grand Course De Haies D’Auteuil Grade 1, Hurdle (3m 1.5f)

1: L’Ami Serge     2: Alex De Larredya     3: Shaneshill

Winner owned: Simon Munir/Isaac Souede, trained: Nicky Henderson, ridden: Daryl Jacob

Last year Ptit Zig had a rather good year, but by peaking in winning this race, did not quite get the appreciation in Britain that he deserved. Even more obscure in Britain is Alex De Larredya, who won a E370,000 Grade 1 three miler here in the autumn and regularly gets involved in the mix for all the big staying prizes at Auteuil. Off of the home turn it really did seem as if he had another major trophy in his grasp, but he jumped out to his right at the second last and opened a window of opportunity for L’Ami Serge. Given that the challenger had never been asked to race beyond 2m 5.5f before, this may not have worried Alex De Larredya too much, but it should have, as L’Ami Serge seemed to relish the longer race surprisingly well, winning by a couple of lengths in a lower profile example of an “it’s only Ray Parlour” moment. Nicky Henderson looked chuffed but hot, and did well to prevent both cheeks exploding at the presentation. Shaneshill was no threat to them but outstayed Bosseur to take third close to the post. Ptit Zig dropped out very suddenly at the end of the back straight and Blue Dragon, who failed to stay in this last year, amazingly failed to stay again. Last year the defeat rather knocked him for six for a while, so beware that the same does not affect him. This happens when you name a horse after a range of Chinese cookery condiments.
L'Ami Serge, being very amicable as the post looms

Race 5: Prix Des Drags Grade 2; 5 year olds and up Chase (2m 6f)

1: Bon Augure     2: Saint Pistol     3: Shannon Rock

Winner owned: Mme L Maclennan, trained: A Lacombe, ridden: A Gasnier

A good three way tussle for this. Shannon Rock held a narrow lead crossing the final fence, but Bon Augure got away from it more sharply and was not going to be stopping from there. Despite lacking such an exceptional burst on landing, Saint Pistol also wore down Shannon Rock for second – by a whisker, with the pair about a length down on Bon Augure. The rest of the field were clearly defeated, making the efforts of the placed horses seem rather likeable. Bon Augure missed all of 2016 so it is a big thumbs up that he has returned by winging his way to glory in four out of five races, including today a higher grade than he had managed in the past. Via Dolorosa won a big prize here in April, but is inconsistent and was not an obvious pick to repeat. He fell about five out, when in a workable position, but whether he would have gone on and matched the work of the first three is not for predicting. For the first time in French trips, a horse was allowed to ignore the starting protocols. Having refused to race last time, La Sulfureuse did not take the warm-up obstacle and went to the start via the route that is normally only used for an exit, and stayed in the testing area until required to come under starter’s orders, whilst the others did their stuff. She jumped off OK, so in a sense it worked. La Sulfureuse then fell at the second, meaning that the experiment cannot be seen as a total success.
A panoramic view of Shannon View (white) being cruelly denied by Bon Augere (black & orange) and Saint Pistol (green & blue)

Race 6: Prix Alain Du Breil – Course De Haies D’Ete Des Quatre Ans Grade 1; 4 year olds hurdle (2m 3.5f)

1: Prince Ali     2: Bapaume     3: Dandy Mag

Winner owned: Simon Munir/Isaac Souede, trained: Guillaume Macaire, ridden: Kevin Nabet

This did not look like a strong race for Grade 1 level, with most of the contenders doing their winning (or best runs) over shorter and at lesser venues. The exception was De Bon Couer whose 3/3 record in 2017 had come exclusively at Auteuil. As a result he was hovering around 1/10 in the betting. And as they turned for home he was hovering around complete control of the race, although not miles clear. Two strides before the second last, it was clear from body language that James Reveley in the saddle was not 100% happy and the pair took a tumble. This left Prince Ali, who had at least also won here, but in more modest classes of race, to outbattle Bapaume, (success last time had been at Fontainebleau in much lesser company). Based on her name alone, we would hope that Titi De Montmartre has a future somewhere, but it is not Grade 1 races.
Let us play "spot the attention seeking buffoon." Not De Bon Coeur - buffoonery saved for later - and we cannot see Dandy Mag. So it must be D'Vina (finished fifth). Bapaume is unimpressed.

Race 7: Prix Du Nouveau Cercle De L’Union (Prix De Brissac); 5 year olds and up Chase (2m 6f)

1: Chef D’Equipe     2: Chao Chao     3: Coup Double

Winner owned: Haras De Saint-Voir, trained: N de Lageneste, ridden: Alain de Chitray

A race sponsored by the New World Order? It looks like it, but the lack of the tin foil hat brigade scurrying around looking for false omens suggests it is a mistranslation here. There was a conspiracy however, as Chef D’Equipe was coupled with Coup Double and the names alone suggest that something was amiss, although rationally, the right horse won and the co-couple failed to be second. And if we are pedantic, Coup Double only got third because front running Douar De Kerbarh tied up quite badly from the second to last fence. These four seemed to have the best recent results and finished 1-2-3-4. Still struggling to spot the plot.

Race 8: Prix Gacko, 5 year olds and up Handicap Hurdle (2m 2f)

1: Dakota De Beaufai     2: Bonfou D’Airy     3: Ria Menina

Winner owned: Mlle V Marie, trained: L Postic, ridden: J Charron

The crowd had dispersed a great deal by this time, and the course had saved the nearest that they had to a muppet race until last. Only one of thirteen horses won last time out, lots of jockeys and trainers were more likely to be encountered in the provinces and only E26,400 was put aside for the winner. Terrible. Mister Papy, sporting garish black and white checked colours led the way most of the time, being a nice, easy to see marker for the rest to follow. Everything all jumbled up entering the home straight and somehow Dakota De Beaufai came out on top. Second place last time, after an anonymous start to 2017, at least meant some people might have seen him coming into form. He stole the prize from Bonfou D’Airy very late in the race, but as the second had pulled up in three of his last four, it was a sound try.

So the meeting ended, and when typing up the notes, the conspiracy became clear – it was a numerological one. The placed horses, by race were:

1-4-2, 1-3-2, 8-3-10-9, 8-7-5, 2-3-1, 3-2-1, 2-1-3, 1-13-2

And do not forget, assorted oddballs, paranoiacs and worshippers of our reptile overlords, that in race six, number six was the long odds on shot who hit the deck. Did he dive? Was there a sniper on one of the many grassy knolls. Or is this all just cobblers?

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