A Grande Course de Haies steeped in quality
19 May 2023
Thelème carries the hope of the home team
Auteuil’s spring season culminates on Sunday with the Grand Steeple-chase de Paris, while Saturday’s spotlight focuses on older hurdlers in the valuable Grande Course de Haies. The last three editions have been won by the French, however this year, eight of the fifteen runners are trained abroad, four of them by Willie Mullins.
On the domestic side, Thelème is the star attraction although Arnaud Chaillé-Chaillé’s 6 year-old will need to find more than he did when beaten by 17/1 shot, Goa Lil, in the G.2 Prix Léon Rambaud prep. Unlikely to be repeated, the triple Grade 1 winner will be at his peak this weekend.
Title-holder Hermès Baie has failed to win a race this year but it would be unwise to discount him now that François Nicolle’s horses are no longer suffering from the virus which brought his yard to a near standstill.
Of the foreign contingent, the ex-French-trained Klassical Dream latterly won a Punchestown Grade 1 after having endured some health issues over the winter, and will attract significant attention. However, Willie Mullins has said that stablemate Asterion Forlonge is a better hurdler and the Irish maestro anticipates a big run from him. The Closutton handler also confirmed that Kilcruit is more at his ease over these longer distances and should appreciate the ground at Auteuil. Last of his offering, Haut En Couleurs, is undeniably talented but to get the best out of him, he will need to be relaxed.
Hewick, ridden by Irish star Rachael Blackmore, bought for only 800 Euros has notched up the 2022 Far Hills Grand National, Galway Plate and over €500,000 in earnings.
Flooring Porter, Feronily and Lucky One complete the solid line-up of foreign raiders.
French Royal Ascot hopefuls
Francis Graffard's The Fixer appears to be the main French hope for Royal Ascot