Meandre foils Ballydoyle raid on Paris
MUCH to Aidan O'Brien's disappointment, national honour was upheld on Bastille Day when Andre Fabre won the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris for an 11th time last night.
The trainer of Pour Moi has now introduced another three-year-old to the equation for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, run over the same course and distance in October, after Meandre cut down the front-running Seville for a decisive success.
For much of the race, it looked as though O'Brien would be rewarded for turning this sunlit evening in the Bois de Boulogne into a quintessentially Irish occasion.
Seamie Heffernan set the sort of pace you seldom see at Longchamp, shadowed by Colm O'Donoghue on Treasure Beach, the colt which had been nailed in the final stride at Epsom by Pour Moi, and then wore down Seville in his home Derby.
The bold strategy certainly seemed to be paying off as Reliable Man, the unbeaten favourite which was stepping up in distance, came off the bridle and struggled to make ground in the straight.
But Meandre, which had led the chasing group under Maxime Guyon, seemed to relish the strong pace and closed impressively. A late developer, Meandre had scrambled home in his last two races in a lesser grade, but the very fact that the masterly Fabre supplemented him made this stunning leap forward less surprising.
Seville maintained the gallop with characteristic honesty, again looking a natural for the Doncaster St Leger, but Treasure Beach could keep on only at the one pace in fourth and is due a break after two very taxing races since the start of June.
O'Brien's disappointment was completed by the lacklustre performance of Marksmanship, which was never going.
Saeed bin Suroor, meanwhile, is looking forward to seeing Hunter's Light test his powers at Group level again in the near future after he secured Listed-race honours in the Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton.
The one-mile-three-furlong contest acted as a Derby trial when run at York for many years, with Commander In Chief doing the double in 1993.
The race has perhaps lost a little prestige since being moved to later in the calendar, but Hunter's Light looks well worth stepping up in grade following this success.
Trainer Bin Suroor won this race three times on the bounce following the turn of the century, but in recent years it has been dominated by proud Scotsman Mark Johnston, who has won the last four renewals. It turned out to be a battle between the two powerhouse stables, with Johnston's Malthouse leading into the straight, while Hunter's Light and Phillip Makin cruised up menacingly down the outside.
For a while it looked as though the latter would sweep aside his rival, but Malthouse was typically tenacious and made a real race of it. Both horses gave their all, but it was Hunter's Light which shaded the argument by a neck.
"He won well and I am very pleased," said Bin Suroor. "I was disappointed with him when he ran at Ascot, but the ground was just too soft for him there and he won very well the time before at Newmarket.
"He was better suited by the better ground today and he showed he is improving all the time. We will look for a better race for him now.
With Ruby Walsh ruled out until September, Paul Nicholls has confirmed he will be looking to another Irish rider, Daryl Jacob, in the absence of the injured stable jockey.
Walsh suffered a crushed vertebrae in a fall at Killarney on Tuesday, ruling him out of the upcoming Galway Festival. While the British champion trainer is hopeful Walsh will be back in the saddle by the time the British jumps campaign kicks into gear in the autumn, he is more than happy to use his recently appointed number two jockey. Jacob will now partner Classic Swain in Saturday's Summer Plate at Market Rasen.
"It's disappointing for Ruby. In England he isn't going to miss much, but he will miss all those festivals in Ireland," said Nicholls.
"They are saying he should be back in action in September. Our first big day of the season is at Chepstow in early October, so, hopefully, he'll be back for that.
"But with Daryl doing so well at the moment, it's not such a big problem." (© Independent News Service)