Nick Williams: fields duo in attempt to consolidate his Crystal Cup leadPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Williams duo aim to cement Crystal claims
Preview: France, Friday
Compiegne: Grand Steeple-Chase Cross-Country de Compiegne (Cross Country Chase) 3m3f, 5yo+
WHILE British and Irish fans of cross country will be watching the first day of Cheltenham's Open meeting for their fix of action, they might turn half an eye towards Compiegne, where the Crystal Cup makes its penultimate stop of the year.
The series winners will be crowned at Prestbury Park next month after the final race but the leading two trainers are both putting plenty into this ninth round, which takes place near the historic royal town of Compiegne, north of Paris.
Nick Williams enjoys a handsome advantage over Patrice Quinton with two races to go and, while standard-bearer Maljimar misses the event, he will be hoping to add to his points haul via Shalimar Fromentro (James Reveley) and Sarika (Regis Schmidlin).
"Shalimar Fromentro is not a bad substitute for Maljimar, there wouldn't be a lot between them," said Williams, who has criss-crossed Europe with his trio in search of the bonus points awarded for finishing in the money on foreign soil.
Shalimar Fromentro's most recent effort was third place in the Italian round at Merano, having also finished fifth in the La Touche Cup at Punchestown.
"He's obviously not as experienced as Maljimar but hopefully he's an up and coming horse. Whatever happens at Compiegne, both he and Maljimar will run at Cheltenham. Sarika refused last time [at Merano] and so we've put blinkers on to give the horse more encouragement."
Normandy-based Quinton has 13½ points to make up on Williams without any double points on offer this time and told reporters this week that he believes he has too much ground to recover.
But he is also two-handed thanks to Sulon (David Cottin) and Sucess Des Dunes (Jessy Blandamour).
"Sulon needs to feel that he's dominating to fully engage in his races," Normandy-based Quinton told Paris-Turf. "It's a first try at this level for Sucess Des Dunes but she's talented and I think she could become a mare for these big cross country races."
Quick Baby (Jerome Follain/Anthony Thierry) finished third in this race 12 months ago and comes here fresh from a four length defeat of Hades Des Mottes (Eric Lecoiffier/Fabien Dehez) at Craon in September.