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Roger Charlton - trainer

Roger Charlton: "It doesn't make it any easier, that's for sure"

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker ( 

Negotiations over French strike reach standstill

THE two sides in the dispute which threatens to bring significant parts of French racing to a standstill failed to reach agreement on Wednesday, leading to fears for the final Group 1 of the European flat season, Saturday's Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

Horses from the yards of Roger Charlton, Clive Cox and Aidan O'Brien were joined on the list of potential runners for Saturday's juvenile feature by the Mark Johnston-trained Hartnell at Wednesday's supplementary stage.

Charlton said he was in the hands of the International Racing Bureau as he waited for news on whether or not to travel Goodwood winner Laugharne, although French racing's rulers are unlikely to give any update on the prospects for racing later in the week at the tracks under its control until Thursday at the earliest.

“I suppose he could travel on Thursday evening, arrive Friday morning and run Saturday, it's not impossible,” reasoned Charlton. “That's maybe a little later than usual, depending on the weather and if he goes by ferry or train. It doesn't make it any easier, that's for sure.” 

After a morning of negotiations between France Galop chiefs and the representatives of striking staff at Maisons-Laffitte over the possible closure of the track as part of economy measures, the sport's organizing body issued a downbeat communique which put pay to any hopes of trying to stage Tuesday's card on Thursday, perhaps at Deauville.

The statement spoke of ongoing efforts to salvage the three Group races after a period of “not less than a week.”

But France Galop also refused to guarantee that Friday's meeting at Chantilly would go ahead.  That warning, coupled with the failure to reschedule the lost card at an alternative venue, suggests that racecourse staff across the organization's six tracks in the region are presenting a unified front.

Two of the four horses trained in Britain and Ireland that spent Tuesday night at Maisons-Laffitte are now on their way home.

Ollie Pears wouldn't rule out returning to France with stable star No Leaf Clover should the Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte be rearranged.

The Norton trainer said: “The horse will come home tonight. If they were to put those races on - and could guarantee they'll be on - and if they pay the costs for the trip we've just incurred and I'm happy with the horse at home, we may go back.

“I'd prefer it to be the end of next week rather than the beginning, by the time he gets home. He's got such a great temperament that, if any horse could do it, he could. We're going to keep all options open.”

Pears was adamant that owner Charles Wentworth would only entertain a return trip if France Galop agreed to refund the expenses incurred in the aborted raid on Maisons-Laffitte.

“Charles will want reimbursing for the first trip,” he added. “It's been a very disappointing experience and there's nothing left for him at home but, we've still got a nice horse for next year.”

France Galop have yet to make a decision on what if any compensation will be paid to connections after Tuesday's cancellation.

David Wachman's Hidden Oasis was also reported to be on the way back to County Tipperary while the Bolger inmates, Korba and Caesaria, are owned by French-based Sylvain Benillouche and will remain at Maisons-Laffitte in the hope of a rearranged fixture.

“The trouble is we don't know if the Group races will be on or not,” said Benillouche, who owns the Haras de Bernesq in Normandy. “They don't even know if there will be racing in Paris on Friday or Saturday. If they don't put those Group races on then the horses will go back to Ireland.”

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