Sol second as Gem sparkles

Gemix kept the French Champion Hurdle on home soil when taking the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil at the Paris track yesterday.

The five-year-old made just about all the running over to beat off a strong challenge from Britain and Ireland.

The Nicolas Bertran de Balanda-trained entire pulled out all the stops for jockey David Cottin and the 8-1 shot swept to victory from the Charles Byrnes-trained Solwhit, the 5-4 favourite.

Zaidpour (22-1), from the Willie Mullins stable, put in his best work at the finish to claim third place, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Celestial Halo not too far away.

Mullins’ Thousand Stars, winner of this race for the last two years, could never strike a blow, while the Nick Williams-trained Reve De Sivola faded tamely in the straight after showing up well for most of the Grade One contest.

Paddy Power gave Gemix a 12-1 quote for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Mullins' Diakali led home a one-two for the raiders in the Grade One Prix Alain du Breil

Ruby Walsh made nearly every yard of the running in the near two and a half mile hurdle aboard the Punchestown Champion Four year old winner.

In a race restricted to that age group, he was chased home by Paul Nicholls P'tit Zig who briefly looked a threat on the turn for home only to run out of steam in the long home straight in the Paris track.

There was a difference of opinion in the straight with the first two home taking a direct line but with Le Grand Luce and Blue Fashion - having his first start for Nicky Henderson - making a beeline for the stands' side rail.

That move failed to land the spoils for the French-trained favourite who was well held in third with Blue Fashion back in fourth.

Seabass struggled to land a telling blow as Philip Carberry and Pibrac won the Prix des Drags Direct Matin

The 10 year old was sent off as favourite for the Grade Two heat as he looked to bounce back from a disappointing run in the Grand National but could only trail home in sixth.

He travelled well for Ruby Walsh in a prominent position for much of the race but failed to go with the principals in the straight once the pace quickened.

The honours went to the Francois Couttin trained Pibrac who showed a smart turn of foot to confine Al Bucq and Princesse Kap to the minor places.

Meanwhile the emergence of Germany as a European racing power was again advertised at Haydock on Saturday when Amarillo just held off Pastoral Player in the Timeform Jury Stakes.

It was nearly a very profitable day for trainer Peter Schiergen and jockey Andrasch Starke as Nymphea was just touched of in the Pinnacle Stakes earlier on the card.

“I was not sure if we had won, but after just being beaten with Nymphea in the race before, I was hoping we had,” said Schiergen.

“We came here as there are no races in Germany for him, so we decided to come here.

“Anything from 1400 to 1600 metres (seven furlongs to a mile) is fine for him.

“He had never won a Group race before, but was unlucky in Germany last year and we know he is a Group horse.”

David Simcock’s Moment In Time continued her improvement to win the Pinnacle and now has lofty overseas targets.

Simcock said: “She likes this ground and we might go to America. The Grade Twos and Grade Ones over there are easier.

“She will carry a Group Three penalty in Group Threes, so we might look at America.”

The Northumberland Plate is on the agenda for Marco Botti’s De Rigueur (11-2) following a stylish display in the BetVictor Royal Ascot No Lose Hughes Stakes.

Jeremy Noseda’s Nocturn set himself up for a possible crack at the Wokingham after winning the Betfair Supporting The Animal Health Care Handicap at Newmarket. “We thought about the Wokingham at the start of the year and you’d only be worried about going there if the ground went really firm,” said Noseda.

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