Road to Grande Course de Haies gets under way

2 March 2024

July Flower and Kevin Nabet at Auteuil

After the first recognised prep race for the Grande Steeple de Paris was run last weekend, so it is the turn on Sunday of older hurdlers to plot a course, via the G.3 Prix Juigné, towards the seasonal pinnacle which is the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil. Winner of the 2023 edition is none other than Il Est Français, victorious in the G.1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Others to have won in recent years include the excellent Thélème and L’Autonomie.

The former will be absent, as will Hermès Baie, however this leaves the race wide open. Runner-up in the 2023 G.1 Prix Renaud du Vivier, and top-rated horse in the field, July Flower makes her first appearance since being pulled-up in an Aintree Grade 1, also on Boxing Day. She is back at her track-of-choice though and looks the one to beat.

Japon has run just four times since his successful September 2022 debut but showed his potential when 3rd to July Flower in the big race here last November, albeit 9 lengths behind her. He has reportedly wintered particularly well and should have a lot to offer.

Trained by Lucie PontoirTrue Tiger caused quite the upset when landing the G.2 Prix Leon Olry Roederer last time out and will get the heavy ground he appreciates. 

G.1-placed in 2022, Spirit Of The Moon, is one of two Robert Collet-trained runners, the other being Kapteen who has form at this level. Despite some health problems, Imperial Mag is still a quality individual and tends to run well when fresh. Winner on his first start of 2023, Libeccio can play a minor role, although Garrick Harmony may be out of his depth this time.

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