Definitely the best hurdles race run in France, the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil, or the "French Champion hurdle" as it is unofficially known has a long list of top class winners. First run in 1874, the race has a long history at the peak of the sport and has been won in recent years by the likes of Thousand Stars, Remix, De Bon Couer and Benie des Dieux.
This years renewal revolves around L’autonomie. 14 starts, 11 wins, including her last 8 in a row and 10 victories at Auteuil. Her win last time was imperious, dominating the field to take the Grade 3 Prix De Compiegne at Auteuil on 22nd September. The next 4 home that day, Porto Pollo, Galop Marin, El Gringo and Byzance du Berlais all reoppose here. Whilst this race is over a longer trip, it is very hard to see any of that form being reversed here, if L’autonomie is to be beaten, it is more likely to come from a new challenger. She is the rising star of French jumps racing and is held in such high regard that she is as short as 8/1 for the Mares hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. That would seem very far fetched given her connections, but this will be her biggest test to date as she steps up to 3 miles for the first time and we will finally get to see if her ability can match her reputation.
There are 4 UK raiders in this field, Agrapart, Ramses de Teillee, Clondaw Cian and The Worlds End. Agrapart and Clondaw Cian are very likeable old warriors, but it is very hard not to argue that their best days are behind them and I can’t see either being able to find the improvement needed to win here.
Ramses de Teillee has a lot in his favour, he stays very well, handles deep ground and having won 2 Grade 2 hurdles as a Novice last season at Haydock and Doncaster, he definitely has the level of form required to win this type of race. He ended his Novice campaign by finishing 13th in the Albert Bartlett at the festival, not his best effort, but that was an extremely hot renewal of the race and there is nothing of that calibre in this line up.
The Worlds End is another to come across the Channel with a realistic chance. A lot of time has passed since he broke my heart by falling 2 out in the Albert Bartlett in 2017, when he was travelling like the best horse in the race. In that time, he has developed into a quality staying hurdler, with 2 Grade 1 wins to his name, including on Heavy going at Ascot last December. He has also won first time out in each of the last 2 campaigns, which bodes well and with a UK rating of 156, he definitely sets the bar.
This race is going to be a stamina sapping 3 miles, in ground that has got deeper with every passing week. As a result, I think this has to bring Corazones into the reckoning. He has been busy this season, with 6 starts already since the resumption of racing in May, but his last start, when he won a conditions hurdle at Auteuil on 16th September, was his best performance. The sectional times he produced that day would suggest that he is more than capable of keeping pace with L’autonomie and whilst he has a lot to find based on their meeting in June at Compiegne, he has definitely improved since then and there should be more to come with the step up in trip.
Paul’s Saga completes the line up for the in form David Cottin yard. It would be fair to say that he has been disappointing as a chaser this season and was well beaten on his last start, pulling up in a Grade 3 Chase at Compiegne 2 weeks ago. A return to hurdles is a good move, on back form he has the class to feature, having won 2 Grade 2 hurdles here last autumn. However, it is very difficult to assess if he is the same horse in 2020.
If there is a star in this field, then it is L’autonomie. At 5 years old, she has the hurdling world at her feet. However, at the likely cramped odds, with a first step up to a 3 mile trip, on heavy ground, she has to be taken on here. It is difficult to pick, but I would imagine with the presence of Ramses de Teillee this will be turned into a proper test and as such The Worlds End and Corazones look the most likely to benefit, or at leats, they represent the best value to do so.