The Weekly Wrap

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The new-look grandstand at the inauguration of ParisLongchamp | Scoop Dyga

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The excitement of seeing the old Longchamp racecourse for the first time almost 20 years ago, on the morning of Sagamix’s Arc, is still imprinted clearly on my mind. Finally dropping down away from the lanes of traffic on the Peripherique and inching ever closer to the races along the leafy lanes of the Bois de Boulogne, a gap in the trees appeared approaching Longchamp’s famous windmill to reveal the almost bleached white cavernous stands, every bit as grand as the history of the course’s most famous race.

Many happy first Sundays of October have been spent there among bustling crowds since that day, and a fair few spring weekends among not much more than a handful of racing diehards attending the French Guineas meeting. Whatever the crowd numbers, I’ve never had a bad day at Longchamp so it was with some trepidation that I set forth early on Sunday morning for a first glimpse of the racecourse’s reincarnation as ParisLongchamp.

Less than five hours after leaving home in Newmarket, our small band of travellers swept past that clearing once more, the view at once familiar but so very different.

There’s been much debate about the colour of architect Dominique Perrault’s modern grandstand—perhaps now less grand than it once was but which in places, delightfully, has been built around ancient trees, their trunks rising up through its tiered structure. Murky green from a distance, once up close it is more muted gold, even without the benefit of the sun. And what it offers, with its timber steps and scaled down internal spaces, especially on a grey spring day, is a feeling of warmth that the old stand could lack on those quiet meetings outside the Arc weekend.

Amid constant attempts to attract a wider, younger audience, those charged with running racing in various jurisdictions have a struggle on their hands not to alienate the existing, often traditionalist, supporters while seeking ways to be innovative. The rebuilding of a racecourse isn’t innovative as such but in the case of this much-loved Parisian icon, the inclusion of party areas and rooftop terraces so close to the centre of the capital are a necessary sideshow to the main event, which in Longchamp’s case is the regular provision of the very best racing in France.

A similar set-up exists at Hipodromo de la Zarzuela in Madrid, albeit on a much smaller scale but one borne of much more difficult circumstances. In trying to recapture an audience after the racecourse was closed for a decade between 1996 and 2006, Gerardo Torres and his team pulled off a delicate balancing act between sporting and party venue with great success.

The same scenario is being attempted at ParisLongchamp, its new name an indication, it is hoped, that here now is a racecourse with a difference. Just as in Madrid, the Thursday night summer meetings will be accompanied by a DJ in the hope of encouraging the young Parisians to come racing before partying.

DJ The Avener was in attendance on Sunday, though we were already hurtling north towards the Channel Tunnel by the time the party started. For racing fans, however, there was more than enough excitement provided than by the triumphant reappearance of Anthony Oppenheimer’s Cracksman (GB). To have Europe’s top-rated racehorse in attendance for the official curtain-up was close to being a gift from God to France Galop, even if He didn’t also bless the occasion with good weather.

France Galop president Edouard de Rothschild lamented the poor forecast ahead of the ParisLongchamp inauguration but in hindsight the dank day perhaps offered a true reflection of what for many people was a first impression of this lavish new facility. It’s easy to enjoy oneself when the sun is shining but to feel the same way in bad weather takes a good setting and excellent entertainment. Thanks to the efforts of France Galop and Cracksman we had both on Sunday. I can’t wait to return.

Gosden Gears Up…
As the Flat season shifts into top gear, Cracksman may have been the highlight of the week gone by, but as he and Enable (GB) look set to reign over the older-horse ranks in Europe this season, plenty of their younger associates have reminded us of the strength in depth of horsepower at John Gosden’s Clarehaven Stables.

It’s been a busy spell for the trainer. While many of his big-name counterparts aren’t spotted at minor meetings, Gosden and his son Thady were at Yarmouth on Tuesday, where the second division of the John Kemp 4×4 Novice S. proved to be an uncommonly strong affair, with John and Tanya Gunther’s Without Parole (GB) (Frankel {GB}) streaking away from his rivals to win by six lengths. The Glennwood Farm homebred is one of 17 colts remaining in the reckoning for Saturday’s 2000 Guineas, giving the Gunthers a logistical dilemma of whether to stay in the U.S. to watch Glennwood graduates Justify (Scat Daddy) and Vino Rosso (Curlin) take each other on in the Kentucky Derby or fly to Newmarket to see their colours carried on the Rowley Mile.

A day later Juddmonte’s Crossed Baton (GB) (Dansili {GB}) put down a marker for a different Classic when winning the Investec Blue Riband Trial, the fourth year in a row that the Epsom contest has fallen to a Gosden runner, following Christophermarlowe (GB), So Mi Dar (GB) and Cracksman.

The Newmarket trainer wasn’t finished there, however. Come Friday, it was the turn of Gestut Ammerland homebred Sevenna Star (Ire) to shine when narrowly prevailing in the G3 Bet 365 Classic Trial at Sandown. The colt hails from the second and final European crop of Redoute’s Choice (Aus), sired during the Australian former champion’s short stint at Haras de Bonneval. He is also yet another stakes winner from a Galileo (Ire) mare, his dam Sevenna (Fr) having won the G3 Lillie Langtry S. in Dietrich von Boetticher’s colours when trained by Sir Henry Cecil.

She has made an eyecatching start to her broodmare career with all four of her runners being black-type winners. Sevenna is also the dam of G3 Prix de Royaumont winner Savanne (Ire) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}) and listed winners Sassella (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) and Samurai (Ire) (Shamardal).

Stallions On The Up…
Dietrich von Boetticher’s Gestut Ammerland in Bavaria is best known as the breeder of the Arc and King George hero Hurricane Run (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}), who in his Classic season was beaten by Shamardal in the Prix du Jockey Club before going on to win the Irish Derby. Hurricane Run died at Ammerland in December 2016, having returned home three years earlier following six years at Coolmore Stud.

His Jockey Club conqueror clearly made an impression on Boetticher as in Shamardal’s first season at Kildangan Stud, the breeder sent him his Group 3 winner Lady Vettori (GB) (Vettori {Ire}). From that mating she produced Lope De Vega (Ire), who emulated his father by becoming a dual French Classic winner and is one of five black-type performers for the mare.

Now well established at Ballylinch Stud, Lope De Vega has enjoyed a good start to 2018 and currently ranks sixth on the European sires’ list for worldwide earnings. He is represented later today in a small field for the G3 Prix Penelope by the Satoshi Kobayashi-trained Tosen Gift (Ire), winner earlier this year of the listed Prix Rose de Mai at Saint-Cloud.

An Alduino Botti-trained clean sweep in Sunday’s G3 Premio Parioli (Italian 2000 Guineas) saw Lope De Vega’s son Pettifogger (Ire) take third, finishing a length and a half behind Wait Forever (Ire), the second stakes winner of the day for Camelot (GB) after Naturally High (Fr) in the listed Prix de Suresnes. The Coolmore stallion is now out in front in the second-crop sires’ table with three black-type winners this year and four in total from his first crop.

Camelot’s G2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte winner of last season, Fighting Irish (Ire), lines up for the G3 Merriebelle Stable Pavilion S. tomorrow (Wednesday) at Ascot for Harry Dunlop, while the Aidan O’Brien-trained Hunting Horn (Ire), who was third to Sevenna Star in the G3 Bet365 Classic Trial, could be seen next in the G2 Dante S.

Crystal Clear…
John Gosden hasn’t had things completely his own way this week. His cricket-loving Newmarket neighbour Sir Michael Stoute bowled a few fast balls of his own on Friday, sending out two members of the same family to win important contests at Sandown. Crystal Ocean (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) is lightly raced but has hardly put a foot wrong throughout his seven-race career to date, and prior to Friday was last seen finishing half a length behind Capri (Ire) in a vintage renewal of the St Leger. His subsequent victory in the G3 Gordon Richards S. gave hope that Crystal Ocean could become the type of older top-class performer for which his stable is famed, following in the footsteps of half-siblings Crystal Capella (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}) and Hillstar (GB) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}), who is now standing in Ireland at Garryrichard Stud.

There was extra cheer for his owner-breeder Sir Evelyn de Rothschild of Southcourt Stud later on the card when another of Crystal Ocean’s half-siblings, Crystal Etoile (GB) (Dansili {GB}), supplied the winner of the fillies’ novice contest. Making just her second start and her seasonal debut, the 3-year-old Crystal Hope (GB) beat what had seemed a classy field on paper. Physically she looks still to be quite immature so her three-length victory over Oaks entrant and previous winner Give And Take (GB) (Cityscape {GB}) can be regarded as highly encouraging, and she is another exciting prospect for her sire Nathaniel (Ire), who was bred and raced by Lady Serena Rothschild, the wife of Sir Evelyn’s cousin.

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