Celestial Halo secures one of his biggest career wins at AuteuilPICTURE: Scoopdyga
Celestial plays starring role in Prix La Barka
Report: France, Sunday
Auteuil: Gras Savoye Corporate Life Prix La Barka (Group 1) 5yo+, 2m5½f
THE talented Willie Mullins-trained Thousand Stars failed to fire on a dreary day at Auteuil but Celestial Halo (Paul Nicholls/Daryl Jacob) ensured the Prix La Barka went to a raider for the second year running.
Jacob was always up with the pace on the hurdling stalwart, whose finest moment was winning the 2008 Triumph Hurdle, and approached the final flight with just one horse - Lord Prestige - in the vanguard.
Lord Prestige looked like he would hold the challenge of Celestial Halo in the long run-in but the British raider was not for lying down and summoned one final effort to overwhelm the leader just as the line loomed large.
"He got the trip well and the soft ground helped him. I had a good run on him when we were second in the World Hurdle so was always confident he'd stay the trip. He jumped well the whole way and I had a great position so I was always happy," said Jacob.
Celestial Halo may now go for the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil, described occasionally as the French Champion Hurdle, although run over 3m1½f unlike the British race.
"Paul and the owners need to discuss that [the Grande Course] but it's nice to win this race today," said Jacob.
"It was a trial but our horse was very, very fit so I don't think he'll improve a whole lot. He stayed very well at Cheltenham so we'd be hopeful he'd get the trip."
Thousand Stars, the 6-4 favourite and last year's winner, was never particularly competitive under Ruby Walsh and was clearly out of contention some distance from home, but ran on past beaten horses to finish fourth behind Tidara Angel.
Stablemates Zaidpour, last year's second, and So Young finished seventh and ninth respectively.
Mullins said: "Ruby said Thousand Stars was never travelling but he stayed on well so I think I'm going to come back with him in three weeks' time. Zaidpour stayed on as well. There aren't many opportunities for him so I'd be keen to bring him back. A longer trip should suit him. So Young didn't fire today so I doubt he'll be coming back."
Also on Sunday
Auteuil: Gras Savoye Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris (Group 1) 3m5f, turf, 5yo+
IT WAS a bold effort but Mid Dancer missed out on making history at Auteuil on Sunday as, bidding to become the first horse to win the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris four times, he could only finish third behind Bel La Vie (Guillaume Macaire/Bertrand Lestrade) and Shannon Rock.
The veteran chaser first won the race, France's most prestigious chase, in 2007 when a six-year-old. After twice placing in the race he then won the last two runnings.
An emotional Herve Barjot, racing manager for Mid Dancer's owner Michel Delazun, said: "What can you say ? To win a race like the Grand Steep' three times and be third three more, it's a miracle. Congratulations to the winner, it's not easy to get a horse to peak on this day. Mid Dancer has earnt a happy retirement."
Xavier Papot, whose family own the winner, said: "This is not some dream we had overnight, we've been hoping and working towards it for 15 years. He won the Prix Cambaceres at three, he was the best of his age over hurdles at four and now this, it's not easy to find a horse that is a champion all through."
Auteuil: Gras Savoye Patrimoine Prix Ferdinand Dufaure (Group 1) 2m5½f, turf, 4yo
STORM OF SAINTLY (Guillaume Macaire/Vincent Cheminaud) flew home to notch a quickfire Grade 1 double for his trainer following Bel La Vie's victory in the Grand Steep.
The winner's stablemate Vanilla Crush was sent off the overwhelming first choice on the pari-mutuel but a series of mistakes saw him backpeddling by the time a tightly packed field turned for home.
Rising star Cheminaud took his time getting to the front, before forging clear of Volca De Thaix on the run-in, while Victoire Des Borde and Philip Carberry stayed on for third.
An overjoyed Cheminaud said: “To win a first Group 1, the name of this horse will be engraved on my heart forever. The aim today was to let him take his time because he fell last time out. If he was going well, ride him to be placed. It worked out even better.”
Auteuil: Gras Savoye Pasteurdon Prix Questarabad (Prix de Longhcamp) (Group 3) 4yo, 2m3½f
WILLIE MULLINS scored a one-two as Blood Cotil (Paul Townend) defeated Diakali in the Prix Qeustarabad.
The four-year-old saw off the challenge of top weight Le Grand Luce before comfortably holding the Ruby Walsh-ridden Diakali on the run-in.
Mullins said: “I think they're two good horses. I was disappointed with Blood Cotil in Punchestown but I think he's coming right. His experience in Auteuil last year has paid off.
"Diakali hadn't had the experience round here the other two had. He'll be 2kg better off next time, he won't have a penalty so we'll look forward to bringing them both back."
Mullins third runner, Viconte Du Noyer, finished fifth.