Mid Dancer: ran a respectable trial behind Net Lovely at AuteuilPICTURE: Martin Lynch
Net Lovely throws down Grand Steeple challenge
Report: France, Saturday
Auteuil: Prix Ingre (Group 3 chase)2m6f, 5yo+
MID DANCER was unable to repeat his success of 12 months ago in the final trial for next month's Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, as Net Lovely (Emmanuel Clayeux/David Berra) led home a one-two for his trainer.
Net Lovely was stepping up markedly in company, but that proved no bar to a seventh consecutive win for the mare, the first ofher sex to land the Ingre since 2005.
Stablemate Rhialco pushed her all the way to the line, with Mid Dancer running a fine trial over an inadequate distance back in third.
Trainer Christophe Aubert was far from downbeat after the 11-year-old Mid Dancer had tuned up for his title defence.
"It was perfect, absolutely perfect," he reported. "The ground was a little deep, he prefers a sounder surface, but I'm very happy."
Also on Saturday
Auteuil: Prix Leon Rambaud (Group 2 hurdle) 2m3½f, 5yo+
THE Willie Mullins armada will face a brand new challenge in defence of the Grande Course de Haies [French Champion Hurdle] in June, after Nikita Du Berlais(Robert Collet/Cyrille Gombeau) overturned the established order in some style.
A hugely promising three-year-old, Nikita Du Berlais spent almost exactly eighteen months on the sidelines, before regaining the winning thread in a couple of minor events here earlier this month.
Always close to the pace, Gombeau eased to the front at the end of the back straight, and the five-year-old mare was always holding Formosa Joana Has up the run in.
"She's a phenomenon, a real 'crack,'" was the verdict of her delighted jockey. "Robert and I had decided not to make it, but she wasn't jumping as well as she can because they weren't going a proper pace, so down the back I moved her up and she's come home really well."
Tarabel ran her best race at Auteuil to finish third, while La Segnora was allowed to come home in her own time after not picking up in the straight.
Auteuil: Prix Amadou (Group 2 hurdle) 2m3½f, 4yo
GOMBEAU had already visited the winners' enclosure after the first group race of the day when Usual Suspects (Guy Cherel) got the better of a thrilling duel with Wonderful Charm.
The runner-up looked set to cause a major shock approaching the last but rather bungeled the flight, handing the advantage to Usual Suspects, who held on for a two length victory with Esmondo a further length back in third.
"I think they're a decent bunch," said Cherel of the select six-runner field. "You always have a question mark with a horse on their next run back after a really good reappearance, but he looked well in his coat and I think he's a little out of the ordinary."
Auteuil: Prix Jean Stern (Group 2 chase) 2m5½f, 4yo
SAINT PALOIS (Jacques Ortet/David Cottin) maintained his 100 per cent record over fences for the Papot family and demonstrated he has toughness to go with his class after holding off the same owners' De Vous A Moi by half a length.
With the blue and green checked colours also carried to success by Usual Suspects in the Prix Amadou, his connections were understandably delighted with the day's events.
"Saint Palois continues to win, and I must thank [trainer] Philippe Peltier for making it a true-run race with De Vous A Moi," said Xavier Papot. "It's fantastic, with Usual Suspects winning as well, it's a day of my dreams. Saint Palois hasn't had it easy today, but he wins, and wins again !"