All-conquering Blackmore sets her sights on top French prize

Jockey to team with second-favourite Ajas in €820k Grande Steeple-Chase de Paris

 Rachael Blackmore celebrates  winning the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase on Minella Times at Aintree on April 10th. Photograph: David Davies/Jockey Club/PA Wire

Rachael Blackmore celebrates winning the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase on Minella Times at Aintree on April 10th. Photograph: David Davies/Jockey Club/PA Wire

 

Rachael Blackmore could add to her remarkable annus mirabilis by winning French jump racing’s most coveted prize on Sunday.

The record-breaking Irishwoman, who was top jockey at Cheltenham in March, and landed a momentous Aintree Grand National success last month, lines up for France’s equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Blackmore’s first ride around the famous Auteuil track will come in its most famous race, the €820,000 Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, when she teams up with the second-favourite, Ajas.

The race is due off at 3.30 Irish time and is live on Sky Sports Racing.

Ajas is second-favourite behind his stable companion Le Berry in the 10-runner field which sees Blackmore’s compatriot Danny Mullins team up with the English outsider Lord Du Mesnil.

Later on Sunday Blackmore will also be in Grade 1 action in the Prix Alain Du Breil, the French Triumph Hurdle, on Jeu De Paume for trainer David Cottin. It is due off at 4.45.

Irish hopes

Irish hopes for Saturday’s French Champion Hurdle rest on the Matthew Smith-trained Ronald Pump.

The bargain €1,000 purchase lines up against eight opponents for the €350,000 Grande Course De Haies D’Auteuil which is off at 4.00 Irish time.

Robbie Power’s mount has the odds-on local favourite L’Autonomie to beat.

On Sunday, and weather conditions permitting, Joseph O’Brien will aim to secure a perfect birthday present through his star filly Pretty Gorgeous in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas.

O’Brien is 28 on Sunday and will try to land the fillies’ classic for the first time as either a trainer or a jockey.

Victory might be even more significant for Pretty Gorgeous’s jockey Shane Crosse who was denied a first classic success last year when forced to miss out on the Leger winner Galileo Chrome due to a positive coronavirus test on the eve of the race.

Shortly afterwards Pretty Gorgeous supplied Crosse with Group 1 consolation in the Fillies’ Mile and, although forced to miss the Newmarket Guineas, is favourite to make a successful first start of the season.

Soft ground

With the Curragh facing a 7.30am inspection on Saturday morning, the fact Pretty Gorgeous also recorded a Debutante success on soft ground last year looks significant.

Add in that she beat the subsequent Moyglare winner Shale, with the English Guineas heroine Mother Earth in third, while the Musidora victor Snowfall was fifth, and it is form that looks to make her the one to beat.

It’s rare for an Epsom Derby winner to begin his older-horse career as a stable third string, but that looks to be Serpentine’s lot ahead of the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Instead it is Broome, fourth in the 2019 Derby, who is due to be partnered by Ryan Moore on the back of three victories already this term.

Also lining up for Ballydoyle is Tiger Moth, runner-up in the Irish Derby last June, and who filled the same slot in the Melbourne Cup in November.

Erzindjan has form on testing conditions and should figure prominently in the Gallinule Stakes.

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