If the twenty runners confirmed Sunday at Auteuil from the Zeturf Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris (Gr1) all go down to the start, it will be the first time in 45 years and the victory of Chic Type in 1974 that they are so many to do it. However, the chasing season has been challenging, with no horse able to lead the bunch permanently.
Three horses have been eliminated on Thursday morning since 23 horses were confirmed, whereas the maximum field allowed is of twenty (read further down).
This reflects great uncertainty, but not only, as they were already 19 in 2012 when Mid Dancer won his second consecutive Grand Steeple at 9/1.
Among the competitors are two winners of the Grand Steeple, So French (Poliglote), winner in 2016 and 2017, and Storm of Saintly (Saint of Saints), winner in 2014. Both are trained by Guillaume Macaire near Royan, winner of five of the last six renewals of the French classic. He also saddles Le Costaud (Forestier), winner of the Prix Clermont-Tonnerre Chase (Gr3) at the beginning of the season and second in the Prix Murat Chase (Gr2) behind Crystal Beach (Network).
The latter, trained in Chantilly by Marcel Rolland, will be one of the favourites of the race. He got beat in the last strides in the Prix Ingré Chase (Gr3) recently, by Docteur de Ballon(Doctor Dino). Trained by Louisa Carberry, “Docteur” would be the first winner of the Grand Steeple saddled by a woman. This also applies to Carriacou (Califet) and Spirit Sun (Zambezi Sun), respectively trained by Isabelle Pacault and her daughter Anne-Sophie!
François Nicolle, another ace from the Charentes, has not yet won the race but he is lining up four of his horses: the dual winner of the Grand Steeple’s autumn equivalent, the Prix La Haye Jousselin Chase (Gr1), that is Bipolaire (Fragrant Mix ) is trying his luck again – he fell early last year, his stablemate Dalia Grandchamp (Kapgarde), second to Docteur de Ballon in the “Ingré”, Roi Mage (Poliglote), who has won the important Prix Romati Chase (Gr3) lately at Compiegne, and the 5-year-old mare Eludy (Saddler Maker).
No female won this since Princess d’Anjou in 2008.
But the one who will be most represented at the start of the 141st edition of the Auteuil showpiece is the Irish trainer Willie Mullins. Five of his horses are gathered at the start, including the 11-year-old Rathvinden (Heron Island), third in the Grand National last time out. He had to carry 11 stone over 4m2 1/2 furlongs at Aintree, instead of “only” 10 Stone 11 Lbs over 3m6f. Stablemate Burrows Saint (Saint des Saints) is only 6 years old, however, and if he won three consecutive races lately including the Irish Grand National, it will be only his seventh chase. On the other hand, he chased twice at Auteuil when he was trained by Guillaume Macaire and notably finished second to Dalia Grandchamp at that time, three years ago. Third to Burrows Saint at Fairyhouse, Acapella Bourgeois (Network) is also traveling for Mullins along with outsiders Total Recall (Westerner) and Pleasant Company(Presenting).
The start of the race, Sunday at Auteuil, is scheduled at 3:15pm, French time.
How the eliminations process works
According to the conditions of the race, no more than 20 horses can run, and the general conditions of France Galop in terms of eliminations in Group races and Listed Races (excluding Handicap) stipulate that the lowest ratings in steeple-chase will be eliminated first. If two horses have the same rating, then prizemoney in victories and places since January 1st, 2018 in steeple-chases count.
The 3 horses concerned are: