Guillaume Macaire: “It was a matter of honour”
PICTURE: Sam Lawrie
Report: France, Saturday
Auteuil: Prix Ingre (Grade 3 Chase) 2m6f, 5yo+
AS D’ESTRUVAL looks likely to be the punter’s choice for the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris on May 22 – in which he will aim to give trainer Guillaume Macaire a third success in the last four runnings – after putting in an impressive display to hand a two-and-a-half-length beating to the defending champion, Milord Thomas.
As D’Estruval was given a fine ride by Arnaud Duchene but Macaire took the opportunity to vent his frustration at the ongoing row surrounding the fitness to ride of regular pilot Bertrand Lestrade, who is currently sidelined after doctors detected the beginnings of a stroke during examinations following a schooling accident.
“I have been pre-occupied over recent days by all this business with the France Galop doctor banning Bertrand Lestrade from riding in the Grand Steep’, even though he has been riding out with us without problem,” said Macaire. “I haven’t slept and today is completely spoiled by the affair.”
Macaire recalled the example of jockey Jean Daumas, who defied doctors and broke open his own plaster cast to land a record fifth Grand Steeple-Chase victory in 1966.
Macaire said: “It was a matter of honour. But certain people take too much pleasure in telling people what they can and can’t do.”
Duchene was also on board the yard’s Storm Of Saintly for his warm-up success in the Prix William Head and Macaire was quick to point out that, unlike the 2014 Grand Steep’ hero, As D’Estruval has yet to prove his stamina for France’s greatest prize, which is run over a gruelling 3m6f.
“He’s a great horse with a lot of scope and, while he jumped the Rail Ditch easily, for me, it was just as important that he cleared the last hurdle with the same leap,” said Macaire. “All of these horses are geared to running over 4,400 metres [2m6f], not 6,000 [3m6f] which is a completely different matter. As D’Estruval was a lot more impressive than Storm Of Saintly for sure. But if the pair of them are side by side jumping the last at the end of the Grand Steeple-Chase, Storm might win by a head, though only a head.”
Milord Thomas was conceding 7lb to the winner though trainer Dominic Bressou will not be taking the winner lightly for the rematch.
Bressou said: “He ran better than last time but I thought he was a bit careful at the Rail Ditch. He came back with some scratches after his last run and I wonder if he was remembering that. He was beaten by a good horse and we will see what difference running off level weights and over further makes.”
Also on Saturday
Auteuil: Prix Leon Rambaud (Grade 2 Hurdle) 2m3½f, 5yo+
BLUE DRAGON (Guy Cherel/David Cottin) provided another demonstration of powerful front-running, further distancing himself from the aberration of his comeback fall here in March.
“He seems a lot calmer now and is easier to manage in his races,” said Cherel, who also saddled the runner-up, Bosseur. “Winning by a wide margin wouldn’t have done anything today. He did the job and even if the margin was a bit reduced, I’m not worried. The earplugs seem to help so we will carry on with them.”
The Grade 2 Prix la Barka on May 21 is generally when British and Irish trainers begin to join in at Auteuil and Cherel is yet to commit Blue Dragon to the race, which serves as the final trial for the Grande Course de Haies in June.
Auteuil: Prix Amadou (Grade 2 Hurdle) 2m3½f,4yo
The visitors will have another free-wheeling front-runner to tackle should they venture over for the major four-year-old races in the next couple of months, after Device (Guillaume Macaire/James Reveley) once again demonstrated his superiority, despite making a serious error at the hurdle running away from the grandstand with a circuit to travel.
“I was pleased in a way and I think the mistake woke him up,” said Macaire. “He is a good horse and that is all there is to it. Everyone congratulates me but there is a lot more work involved in training an average horse. He needs a good pace and he has won under a hand ride.”
Auteuil: Prix Jean Stern (Grade 2 Chase) 2m5½f, 4yo
PAULOUGAS (Dominique Bressou/Jacques Ricou) overturned recent form when making virtually every yard to beat hot favourite Punch Nantais.
It was a first success for the son of Turgeon since last autumn but Bressou underlined that he had only managed to get a proper preparation into Paulougas after his sixth-placed effort here at the beginning of the month.
“The last time out was his real comeback run because he had run very badly previously,” said Bressou. “Up until now he has had a far-from-ideal preparation but I have always thought a lot of him and his jumping is really his strength.
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