Jumps Season - At The Races

Tracker

French Jumpers

    Liz Price with a dozen to follow in France in the months ahead.
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The 2020 French National Hunt season has taken on a completely new dimension after the Grade 1 Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris could not be run in June, due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, instead of being cancelled, it will now take place in the autumn, on the 18th of October.

The 245 000 Euros race that is often referred to as the French Champion Hurdle, will be run on 17th October and it will be interesting to see if the likes of Willie Mullins or Paul Nicholls, who usually target this race when it is run in June, will be sending over some of their hurdling specialists.

The Grade 1 Prix La Haye Jousselin, which is the usual autumn challenge for France’s top jumpers, will now be run at a much later date on 29 November. It is going to be an interesting backend to a very much interrupted season. Here are my 12 to follow in France for the forthcoming campaign - you can watch them all live on Sky Sports Racing.

Horse profiles

Bipolaire

It is hard not to like the now nine-year-old Bipolaire who has won the last three editions of the Grade 1 Prix la Haye Jousselin, one of Auteuil’s most exciting long-distance chases, known as the Autumn Gold Cup. Bipolaire is without doubt one of the most generous and best chasers of his generation. The only feather still missing in his cap is the Grand Steeple Chase de Paris, which he again last year when finishing second to the Davy Russell-ridden and Isabelle Pacault-trained Carriacou. However, this very prolific jumper, who has not been out of the first three in his last thirteen starts, is going to give it another try this year, even though his trainer thought it might come a little too soon for him. He certainly made a good impression when he made his seasonal reappearance in a hurdle race the other day despite carrying top weight.

Video Form
18 Oct 2020:
16 Sep 2020:
11 May 2020:
7 Mar 2020:
3 Nov 2019:

Figuero

The François Nicolle-trained five-year-old has been going from strength to strength this season and only had one glitch in the Grade 2 Prix Murat where the fast ground mightn’t have suited him or maybe it was just a day off for him. In any case, he put that disappointment behind him after the summer break when he came back and lifted the Grade 3 Prix Ingre from Device and last year’s Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris victor Carriacou. Although he is still very young, he will now be preparing for the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris. His trainer believes the longer trip will suit him even better and even though he can make the odd mistake over some of the smaller jumps, he masters obstacles like the famous Rail-Ditch and Fence or the Judge, as it is known in France, without any problems. He certainly is an exciting young horse to follow and I would not be surprised to see him feature in the finish of France’s “Gold Cup”.

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22 Sep 2020:
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1 Mar 2020:
3 Nov 2019:

Fortunes Melody (GB)

It is difficult to ignore the rise of Fortunes Melody after her victory in the Listed Prix Pelat, a race that was won by L’Autonomie two years ago. The jury is still out if she can follow in her hoof steps, but the David Cottin-trained filly is making all the right noises. A winner of the Prix du Defile three weeks earlier, Fortunes Melody was not the favourite in the Prix Pelat, but ridden from the front, she always looked the winner, even if the eventual runner-up took the lead when jumping the final hurdle. Over the last, she battled back to win by three-quarter lengths. After that promising performance, her defeat on her last start is still very hard to digest. Especially, since she was beaten by Hotesse Du Chenet who she had beaten twice already. However, she caught her when she went through a flat spot in the final bend and Fortunes Melody eventually finished ten lengths behind her. I’m hoping it’s just a glitch and that she can come back to her best next time out.

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17 Oct 2020:
26 Sep 2020:
4 Sep 2020:
13 Jul 2020:
4 Jul 2020:

Gardons Le Sourire

A very promising three-year-old, Gardons le Sourire, who is trained by Gabriel Leenders, improved beyond expectations once he was switched to chasing in 2020. A winner on his very first start in the sought-after Prix Jean Stern, a Grade 2 chase over 2m6f, he then won the Grade 1 Prix Ferdinand Dufaure where he came from the back to produce a really good turn of foot on the flat. After a break over the summer, he made his mid-season reappearance in a listed hurdle race at Auteuil, where he finished a very pleasing second, but then could finish only fifth in the Grade 3 Prix de Maisons-Laffitte, which was won by the impressive Seduction. However, both of these last two races were over hurdles, which is definitely not his forte and I’m convinced once he goes chasing again, he will be back on the top of the podium. He is a very exciting four-year-old even though he is not quite as straight forward as his jockey would like, as he tends to be inattentive and needs to be left in peace during a race.

Video Form
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4 Sep 2020:
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17 May 2020:
22 Oct 2019:

Heros D'ainay

Trained by Gabriel Leenders, Héros d’Ainay won on his debut at Auteuil in September. An extremely good-looking specimen who has a lovely, big stride, he mastered the hurdles at Auteuil without making a single mistake. Already in front when coming out of the final bend, he went away under hands and heals to win by twelve lengths from much more experienced horses than him. It was an impressive performance and I would not be surprised to see him step up in class next time and become a major player in the Grade I events at the backend of the season.

Video Form
18 Oct 2020:
16 May 2020:

James Du Berlais

The Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned four-year-old gradually improved and currently seems in absolute peak form. From listed winner to Group 1 runner-up in the Prix Alain du Breil – Course de Haies de Printemps des 4 ans, which was run at Compiegne this year because of a rescheduling of the jumping programme, he should be able to improve further. Trained by Robert Collet, he certainly showed a lot of courage in that four-year-old spring championship hurdle and it was no surprise that he won the Grade 3 Prix Questarabad during the summer. After the summer break he ran in the Grade 3 hurdle Prix de Maisons-Laffitte, where he was a bit keen and where he eventually had to content with running second to Seduction. It will be interesting to see if he will now go for a Grade 1 or if his trainer prefers to give him another start in another prep race first.

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26 Sep 2020:
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Kapking

Trained by Guillaume Macaire, Kapking is a promising chaser in the making. A winner on his second start over hurdles at the Dieppe racecourse in June, he was then stepped up in class at Auteuil in a Grade 3, but only made a lasting impression when he was switched to chasing in the Prix Weather Permitting, a race that leads to the Grade 2 Prix Congress over 2m1 ½ f in November. Kapking finished second on that first attempt over the big obstacles and couldn’t really quicken on his second attempt, but I believe there is still more to come from the grey.

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22 Sep 2020:
1 Sep 2020:
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L'autonomie

If there is one horse to follow it has to be this amazing mare who at the age of fivr is in the prime of her career. Unbeaten over hurdles since June last year, she won the Prix Renaud du Vivier, the Grande Course de Haies des 4 ans, at Auteuil in November last year and showed she had lost nothing of her great talent and enthusiasm when she lifted the Prix de Compiegne on her reappearance after the summer break. She has won her last eight starts over hurdles and will now be aimed at the Grande Course de Haies, the French Champion Hurdle, which is run in mid-October and which she is targeting for the first time. According to her trainer François Nicolle, she won’t mind the extra distance in the French Champion Hurdle and won’t mind heavy ground. Frankly, considering how easily she won from top performers like Galop Marin last time out, she must be an absolute certainty.

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22 Sep 2020:
7 Jun 2020:
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Ladyville

Smartly bred three-year-old filly by Doctor Dino out of Ladytown who has oodles of talent. She made her debut at Compiegne in March, where she was the runner-up in a 2m hurdle race. Third on her next start over slightly shorter than 2 miles at Auteuil, she was much happier when she was back over the longer trip in the 2m1 ½ f Grade 3 Prix Sagan. She looks a very promising filly who will target the Prix Cambaceres, the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil des trois ans next.

Video Form
17 Oct 2020:
26 Sep 2020:
4 Jul 2020:
17 May 2020:
11 Mar 2020:

Le Berry

I had already picked Le Berry as one to follow last season, but after a promising start he didn’t deliver quite what I expected. However, he only needed to be gelded and to switch to chasing to bring out his real potential. Hence, since the beginning of the season, he is unbeaten in four starts and recently was a very easy winner of the 2m6f Grade 3 Prix Fellow at Auteuil. Trained by David Cottin, he will now be aimed at the Prix Ocrada before going for his main target, the Prix Maurice Gillois, which is a Grade 1 race over fences for four-year-olds.

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16 Sep 2020:
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Magneto

Following an unassuming start at Compiegne in early March, Magneto was a different animal when he came out again in May. Ridden more positively, he won very easily. Stepped up in class for his next start, once more at Compiegne, he lifted the Listed hurdle race Prix Stanley over 2m1f before being switched to Auteuil where he took the first Group race of the season for three-year-olds, the Grade 3 Prix Aguado over 2m1 ½ f. Following a break during the summer, he was the big favourite in the Prix Robert Lejeune at Autueil in September, even though he carried top weight. After being forced to go in front when the pace dropped away on the far side of the course, he was left with quite a lot to do and eventually finished fourth. It was a bit disappointing and he was beaten by his stable companion Hermes Baie, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished ahead of him when they meet again on equal weights and in a race with more pace. They could both run in the Prix Cambaceres – Grande Course de Haies des 3 ans.

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22 Sep 2020:
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Master Dino

Trained by Guillaume Macaire, Master Dino was billed the best horse to win a race at Plumpton when he came there in January 2019 on his road to the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. However, injury put an end to any further ambitions, and it was only in July 2020 that the winner of the Grande Course de Haies des 3 ans in November 2017 and the Grande Course de Haies des 4 ans in 2018, was back on a racecourse. To ease him into racing gently, he was first sent over the hurdles at Royan, which is where Macaire trains, before switching back to chasing at Dieppe where he is unbeaten in two starts. With the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris as his main target this season, unlike many others, he has probably enjoyed the perfect preparation. Dieppe is a relatively small racecourse, which had to stand in for Auteuil when Paris was in the red zone due to Covid-19, but it certainly delivered and his trainer has shown himself extremely happy with him. He was the best hurdler of his generation, is already in top form and is now aiming at becoming the best chaser when lining up in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris.

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8 Aug 2020:
6 Jan 2019:
30 Nov 2018:
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