Pistolet fires as Rubi Ball takes heavy fall
Report: France, Friday
Auteuil: Prix Murat (Group 2 chase) 2m6f, 5yo+
PISTOLET ROUGE (Guy Cherel/Cyrille Gombeau) backed up his win in the Prix Troytown in an incident-packed running of the Prix Murat, in which horse of the year Rubi Ball was a faller.
The presumptive favourite for next month's Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris was travelling well, but took a heavy fall after failing to get high enough at the fence after the big open ditch in the back straight.
Jockey David Cottin reported the horse was okay, but following his bad mistake in the Troytown three weeks ago, Rubi Ball has plenty to prove ahead of French racing's showpiece chase.
"The horse seems fine," said Cottin, who sat out his remaining ride on the card. "But I'm not completely shocked after the mistake he made last time," he reflected.
Pistolet Rouge set out to make all, and was still travelling well at the head of affairs when Rubi Ball threw in a trademark leap at the open ditch to take closer order.
The pair had a slight break on their pursuers when Rubi Ball then dived at the next, bringing down Pibrac and the ill-fated DeusEx Machina.
Pistolet Rouge survived a blunder of his own at the last to score by four lengths from Parigny, landing his biggest prize to date in the process.
"He's a serious horse, he loves being in front and he jumped really well apart from the last," said a delighted Gombeau.
Also on Friday
Auteuil: Prix Arthur Veil-Picard (Conditions Hurdle) 2m2f
The horse that denied Rubi Ball the ultimate prize last May was Mid Dancer, and the 11-year-old fared much better when making a low key return to action on his first start since that memorable day.
Although no match for runaway winner Tom De Touzaine, Mid Dancer enjoyed almost the perfect comeback when leading home the pursuers.
"That was a good start on the road to our main objective," said Herve Barjot of owners Pegasus Farms. "The horse jumped well and finished his race off well over a trip which is much too short."
Mid Dancer first won the Grand Steeple-Chase in 2007, before recapturing the prize last season.
Auteuil : Prix Pepinvast (Group 3 hurdle) 4yo, 2m2f
The four-year-old hurdling division looks a much more open affair afterBlingless (Jehan Bertran de Balanda/Christophe Pieux) got the better of a blanket finish to deny Usual Suspects and the hot favourite Esmondo by a nose and a neck.
Pieux rode a positive race from flagfall, but Blingless was under pressure from all sides entering the straight, and was only third jumping the final flight.
Esmondo looked set to confirm the superiority he had shown over his rivals in the Prix d'Indy three weeks ago, but itwas Blingless and the indefatigable Pieux who fought back to claim the spoils.