Macaire assembles formidable raiding party for big Christmas prizes

LEADING French jumps trainer Guillaume Macaire has assembled a formidable raiding party to challenge for big Christmas prizes at Kempton and Chepstow.

They are led by enigmatic six-year-old Douze Douze, bidding to justify glowing testimonials from his trainer in the Pertemps King George VI Chase, and exciting novice Jair du Cochet, who will be a tough nut to crack in the Pertemps Aviation Resources Feltham Chase.

The following day sees a two-pronged assault on the Worthington Classic Finale Junior Hurdle at Chepstow, a race Macaire has won for the last two years.

His challengers this time are Lilium de Cotte and Lougaroo who could both emerge as live JCB Triumph Hurdle contenders.

Macaire, 45, who trains a string of around 70 horses on the pine-dotted Atlantic coastline north of Bordeaux, is in no doubt as to the magnitude of the task facing comparative rookie Douze Douze against Best Mate and company in the King George.

He rates the giant gelding as potentially the best chaser he has handled but also one of the most difficult.

There were plenty of pundits ready to write off the horse's King George chance after he put in a sketchy round of jumping in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

But the trainer has not lost faith in his charge's ability and has been schooling him over British-style fences in preparation for the Kempton showpiece.

"I think he has improved from Huntingdon," he said. "It was only his second race in two years because he spent plenty of time in the field to recover from a leg injury.

"I have built some English fences at home to improve his jumping and he has been working very well with Jair du Cochet."

Macaire believes that Kempton will suit Douze Douze because it is right-handed and relatively flat, like many French courses.

He does not hide his concern though that inexperience may play a part and acknowledges that the horse needs to show he is an efficient, as well as an attractive, jumper of fences.

"All his life he has run only seven or eight times not a lot for chaser," he pointed out. "He needs to have some more experience, but it is not easy because he is a fragile horse in his head and fragile in his legs.

"He is full of class, but not easy to train and this is really my problem with him."

Former top juvenile hurdler Jair du Cochet has less to prove after a victory over Scots Grey in a Listed novices' chase at Cheltenham at the beginning of December that saw him installed as ante-post favourite for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

His trainer expects him to improve further for the step up to three miles at Kempton.

"Last time he ran exactly like a three-miler," he said. "He was quiet through the race and very much enjoyed that run.

"This is the logical way to go with him Kempton would be a good course for him.

"He is unbeaten in three runs over fences and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he will be able to continue the same way."

Jair du Cochet was Macaire's first British winner when he landed the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow two years ago.

After Tempo d'Or recorded a fluent success in the same event last year, the trainer declared: "This is my race now."

This time he will be represented by Lilium de Cotte who recently made Martin Pipe's Don Fernando pull out all the stops at Cheltenham and a darker horse in Lougaroo, 10-length winner of a £10,000 hurdle race at Auteuil earlier this month.

"Lilium de Cotte was very impressive on his last run at Cheltenham," said Macaire. "It was his first run in Britain and his first run over jumps in about four months.

"He came from the Flat where he won a big event for non-thoroughbred horses.

"In my opinion he was beaten with a lot of honour at Cheltenham because Pipe's horse is a very good horse.

"He is very fresh and ready to run."

Lougaroo was sent to Macaire after winning a two-mile hurdle on soft ground at Bordeaux.

He finished second in his next race at Lyon-Parilly (when his trainer thought he was sure to win) but stepped up on that effort with a runaway win on heavy ground last time.

"I was very impressed by Lougaroo's win at Auteuil," said Macaire. "The horse has a lot of ability and is very well."

Macaire, whose raiding party arrives in England on Monday to spend a couple of days acclimatising, hopes to get his ambitious challenge off to a solid start with the Kefir d'Angron in Kempton's opening novice hurdle.

The four-year-old was disappointing when taken on for the lead and tiring on his British debut at Newbury, but the trainer expects more patient tactics will produce a better show this time.

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