All eyes were on Auteuil last weekend where a two day feast of jumps racing took place for the traditional “Weekend International de l’Obstacle”. Over 11,000 people present at the Parisian track provided great atmosphere around the ring over the whole weekend but most noticably on Sunday afternoon when there were three Group 1s on the programme.
In the Gr.1 Grand Prix d’Automne hurdle contest La Segnora put behind her the bad memories of her only other run in Group 1 company, when she fell here at Auteuil in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris back in May. She beat Saphir River by one length with the Yannick Fouin trained River Choice a further neck behind in third place. The sad note to this race was the fatal injury to Joel Boisnard’s stable star Kap Dream, the nine-time winner will be much missed by fans of French jump racing.
Twenty-one year old dual champion jockey David Cottin was the star of Sunday’s card when riding a treble on the afternoon, two of those victories coming in Group 1 races. In the Prix Maurice Gillois 4yo champion steeplechase, Cottin produced an extremely cool and confident display of riding on the Tom George trained Halley, the only foreign visitor on this international weekend of racing and a recent second in a Listed race just eight days ago here at Auteuil. At 17/1 (PMU prices) he was not fancied to take home this contest but he battled bravely despite several mistakes to hold on by a short head from the Guillaume Macaire trained Dumet. Halley could well be one to watch in the future as this race was won in recent years by both Gold Cup winner Long Run and Kauto Stone, a Group 2 winner at Down Royal on his first start for Paul Nicholls last weekend.
A jockey in form is always one to follow and Cottin wasted no time in continuing his winning streak with another Group 1 success in the next race on the card, the Prix la Haye Jousselin steeplechase, with Rubi Ball for the second year running. Many had chosen to write off Jacques Ortet’s star after his diappointing performance in a Group 3 trial here in October but Cottin has always been adamant that the horse had simply suffered an off day and would prove doubters wrong in the long run. Jockey and horse silenced all nay-sayers when beating Rhialco by an impressive three lengths. Rubi Ball now has the “Grand Steeple” as his aim for next year after finishing second to Mid Dancer in this year’s edition. The Cheltenham Gold Cup had previously been mentioned as a possibility but connections have said, although it hasn’t been discounted completely, it comes below the “Grand-Steeple” on their list of priorities.
The other Group 1 on the card, the Prix Cambaceres, a hurdle race for three-year-olds over 3600 metres, was won by Esmondo in the hands of Bertrand Lestrade for master trainer Guillaume Macaire. Despite looking to struggle in the soft ground coming into the straight, he managed to find another gear in order to run down front-runner Blingless just yards before the line. Three quarters of a length was the official winning distance.
Next weekend sees the last flat Group 1 of the year, the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, at Saint-Cloud on Saturday as well as the Prix Renaud du Vivier, a Gr 1 hurdle race for four-year-olds over 3900m, at Auteuil on Sunday.