Toutancarmont could be bound for the Punchestown festivalPICTURE: Caroline Norris (racingpost.com/photos)
Toutancarmont sets up La Touche challenge
Report: France, Wednesday
Fontainebleau: Grand Steeple-Chase de Cross de Fontainebleau 3m6f, 6yo+
TOUTANCARMONT (Isabelle Pacault/Jonathan Plouganou) announced himself as the new kid on the cross-country block, leaving connections dreaming of the Punchestown festival and a tilt at the season-long Crystral Cup, of which the Fontainebleau race forms the second leg.
The six-year-old built his reputation over the winter at Pau and took the step up in level easily enough with an authoritative success over outsider Sir Rowan by three and a half lengths.
Sacree Tiepy showed no ill effects after her bold showing in the Glenfarclas Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, building on that sixth place effort when just losing second in the final strides.
Plouganou bided his time in behind the leaders early on but, by half way Toutancarmont was intent on going half a stride faster and going out onto the final circuit the pair had overhauled Quick Baby to assume a lead they would never relinquish.
"It's just too much!" protested Pacault. "I want to thank the owner for letting me train him for cross-country, he was spectacular today."
Toutancarmont carries the blue and green checks of champion owner Madame Patrick Papot, and her son Xavier pinpointed a trip to Punchestown for the La Touche Cup as the next possible stop for the family's rising star.
"He seems to have taken his racing well and if all goes well, we'll aim at the next round in the Crystal Cup in Ireland at the end of April, which would be a great challenge." said Papot. "Isabelle also has Le Lion d'Angers [at the beginning of June] in mind which suits us as well but for now we can dream about going abroad. Of course the trainer will decide what is ultimately best for the horse."
Nick Williams proved what was possible with an aggressive campaign away from home in this competition last season and, the Devon-based trainer was on hand to see Shalimar Fromentro finish a worthy sixth.
"He just got a bit outpaced but he's run well," confirmed Williams.
Also on Wednesday
Williams landed the Grand Cross last season with Maljimar but this year was made to wait half an hour longer before visiting the winners circle.
However the delay will surely have been worth it as Fox Norton made a winning debut in the juvenile hurdle, cruising home 16 lengths clear of his rivals, much to the delight of owner Brian Dunn.
"I've had this race in mind for a while as long as it wasn't too soft," said Williams. "He's been pleasing us at home. I'd imagine we'll come back to France for something a bit better class, since there's nothing at home for him until the autumn and he's quite precocious."