Christophe Soumillon blasts officials and calls Longchamp track dangerous
Controversy and confusion as Pouliches is moved over jockey safety fears
The racing surface at Longchamp was once again the centre of heated debate on Sunday as officials were forced to switch the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches to the Grande Piste (outer track) after protests from a number of jockeys about the safety of the Moyenne Piste (middle track).
The problem arose after U S Navy Flag appeared to stumble during the colts' Classic and, after several jockeys demanded the switch on safety grounds, stewards discussed the matter with the trainers of the 14 Classic fillies before implementing the change.
Christophe Soumillon berated officials on racing channel Equidia after initial requests to change courses were rejected.
Soumillon said: "Ryan Moore’s horse slipped in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and he said the track is dangerous. With a ten-minute delay we could move the stalls to the Grande Piste.
"Maxime Guyon, Mickael Barzalona and Pierre-Charles Boudot asked for the same, and the stewards have told us to get on with it. What are we supposed to do?"
Soumillon was at the centre of concerns over wear and tear on the track a week ago, while the changeable recent weather was also blamed after racing at Lyon-Parilly was called off following four falls in the Quinte handicap on Thursday.
Soumillon added: "The track is dangerous. I have done everything, ridden over jumps at Auteuil, but nobody is listening to us. It’s scandalous."
The two French Classics were scheduled to be run over the Moyenne Piste in an attempt to mitigate the disadvantage of a wide draw on the Grande Piste, where the turn comes up less than a furlong after the start.
With Coeur De Beaute and Wind Chimes flying home late in the Pouliches to be second and third behind Teppal, having broken from the two highest stall numbers, passions continued to run high after the race.
Coeur De Beaute's trainer Mauricio Delcher Sanchez said: "You can't change things at the last minute like that. And it's not normal that one person changes it for everyone else.
"It shouldn't be for the convenience of one jockey and it's a shame. A high number on the Moyenne Piste is not the same at all as on the Grand Piste. Who knows what would have happened?"
Jean-Claude Rouget, whose Mission Impassible finished unplaced, summed up a difficult situation.
"It's difficult to say when you're not riding, but for me it looked like Ryan's horse was at fault when he slipped," he said.
"The necessary work on the track hasn't been kept up over the last two years but it's complicated. I served on the technical committee that agreed the change to the Moyenne Piste, alongside former jockey Yann Lerner, and the vote was 5-0 in favour."
Trainer Aidan O'Brien was unsure what had caused U S Navy Flag – who finished fifth – to slip.
He said: "He looked like he stumbled or tripped coming down the hill. It’s very hard to say. We didn’t say anything to the stewards, it was between the French trainers and jockeys. But the horse seems to be fine."
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