Seabass: among the raiders to descend on Auteuil on SundayPICTURE: Getty Images
Strong British and Irish contingent at Auteuil
Preview: France, Sunday (1.30pm BST)
Auteuil: Prix Alain du Breil (Group 1 Hurdle) 2m3f, 4yo
BRITISH and Irish trainers field four of the ten runners, itself perhaps a significant indicator that the French four-year-old division has lacked a leader to this point.
Four different prep races at Group level have furnished the betting public with as many different winners.
The most recent was the Group 3 Prix Questarabad (formerly the Prix de Longchamp), in which Blood Cotil (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend) took advantage of previous course experience and a pull in the weights to get the better of stablemate Diakali (Ruby Walsh).
Mullins has yet to win Auteuil's spring juvenile championship from 11 runners and said: "They're both well though it's a hard task for us to go over and back a second time. But I felt I wanted to go the first time rather than wait, so we'll have to take our chance on Sunday."
Le Grand Luce (Jean-Paul Gallorini/Nathalie Desoutter) chased home the Mullins pair three weeks ago and his vastly-experienced trainer feels the winner of the Prix Amadou will have a big say in the outcome.
"Le Grand Luce was beaten by two very good Irish horses the other day but he had top weight and was making his comeback," said Gallorini.
Ptit Zig (Paul Nicholls/Daryl Jacob) arrived in Somerset a maiden after three tries around Auteuil for Yannick Fouin but has posted wins at Ludlow and Sandown either side of finishing third at the Cheltenham Festival in the Fred Winter.
Blue Fashion (Nicky Henderson/David Cottin) returns to the scene of his final success in France with Francois Cottin and is reunited with the winning jockey.
"He's a horse for next year," said Henderson on arrival in Paris. "He's a great big scopey horse but, I've loved everything he's done. I don't know how much he's actually achieved in France but he's done everything very sweetly in the month or so I've had him."
The visitors are rounded out by Dalasiri (Sabrina Harty/Barry Geraghty), whose hard fought victory at Punchestown over Gassin Golf and Viconte Du Noyer reads better since the third placed horse ran well here in fifth behind Blood Cotil.
"That result gives us a bit of hope but the biggest thing is how he handles the travelling and the course," said Harty. "He's a nicely-bred horse who is probably not too exposed and it's great prize money so we'll give it a go."
Also on Sunday
Auteuil: Prix des Drags (Group 2 Chase) 2m6f, 5yo+ (2.08pm)
Ted Walsh aims the beaten Grand National favourite Seabass (Ruby Walsh) at a contest which as usual features several of the vanquished from France's biggest jumps race, the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris.
Having decided in his own words to "kick on" with the ten-year-old, Walsh senior is realistic about how Seabass might fare on his first try round Auteuil.
"He's 153 rated and I suppose that's as good as he is," reasoned Walsh, who will be joined on the trip to Paris by the enthusiastic members of the Gunners Syndicate. "If he runs to his very best and a few of the others don't he could easily be in the money."
Jean-Paul Gallorini is responsible for likely favourite Kotkieglote (Thierry Majorcryk) as well as another talented mare in Princesse Kap (Jonathan Nattiez) .
He said: "Kotkieglote has come out of her race well, her work was very good on Thursday morning and I'm confident for Sunday. I deliberately missed the Grand Steeple-chase with Princesse Kap to keep her fresh for the Drags, as she's only five and quite small."
Full Jack (Marcel Rolland/Alexis Acker) ended a long losing sequence when landing the Prix du President de la Republique, before running well for a long way in the Grand Steep' before giving Acker no chance of staying aboard five fences from the finish.
Monetaire (Jehan Bertran de Balanda/Jacques Ricou) ran like the best horse in the President du Republique but failed to last home.
A more conservative ride from Ricou and the shorter trip could bring about a reversal in the placings, although Full Jack is actually 3lb better off under Sunday's conditions.