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2015 Grand Prix de France: race preview

05 February 2015

The Grand Prix de France is all about speed! The second leg of the coveted Triple Crown comes a fortnight after the Prix d’Amérique. First run in 1956 with a volt start, it was not until 1979 that the mobile gate or autostart was implemented in this event. The runners are randomly allocated their draw with a maximum of 18 runners spread across 2 tiers – with the 9 richest on the first tier. Gates 2 to 5 are considered the best, although that didn’t stop Swedish raider Nora’s Bean (photo) in berth 1 from winning last year’s edition!

This year Ulf Stenstromer's titleholder is n° 7 behind the gate and has been gearing up nicely since winning at Wolvega in Holland in November, but will not be driven by Björn Goop like last year, as Sweden’s top driver will be on 2014 Elitloppet winner Timoko. Trainer Richard Westerink has reported that following Timoko’s recent third place in the Prix d’Amérique, he’s recovered well and has worked lightly at home. He’s really happy with the n° 3 draw.

Fifth last year drawn 11 and boxed in the final stage, Uhlan du Val has a decent 6 this time. He will be seeking to endorse his recent Amérique 4th place. Texas Charm has berth 4 behind the gate and must not be overlooked either, though a bit disappointing in the Big Event when losing ground at the start.

Christian Bigeon will have 2 runners in the shape of Amérique 7th Tiego d’Etang and Sévérino (unplaced), while one of the three 6yos in the field, US champion mare Maven, will be driven for the first time in France by trainer Jimmy Takter’s elder brother, Johnny. Maven’s main winter target still remains the Grand Criterium de Vitesse de la Cote d'Azur on the French Riviera on March 8th

However, they will all have to contend with favourite Up And Quick (Jean-Michel Bazire up) whose connections have declared the Triple Crown is a key target. The outstanding 2015 Prix d’Amérique winner is reported to be in even better shape than 2 weeks ago. Franck Leblanc’s 7yo will be bidding to emulate the 15 trotters who have managed a Prix d’Amérique/Prix de France double, the most recent being Ready Cash in 2011. But only Jamin, Eléazar and Ourasi have won the event 3 times. The time to beat is 1’09”08, set by French-trained Kool du Caux in 2007.