Ruby Walsh: The weight structure really does suit Bapaume at Auteuil

Willie has five running in France and Ruby gives us the lowdown on how each of them will fare....

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15.55: French Champion Hurdle

Killultagh Vic, Coquin Mans, Yorkhill and Bapaume are all planned to run on Sunday. They’re all four very good horses in their own right.

We’ve struggled all season with Yorkhill. To me, 12 months ago he would’ve been the most exciting of all them. I wouldn’t even say he’s had an in-and-out season, it’s just been all out to be honest. His runs have been lacklustre and you’d wonder how many chances do you give a horse?

I’m still a huge fan of him though, and think there’s a big race to be run in him. Who knows, maybe the jumps in France and the pace of the race on the day might suit him.

Coquin Mans found the trip way too short at Punchestown when he dropped back to two miles. Going back up in trip here will really suit him and he’s had a run in France too before we bought him.

Bapaume was second in the grade 1 four-year-old Hurdle there last year, and the weight allowances really do suit five-year-olds in France. He’s in particularly good form at home, and the weight structure really does suit him here, so he has a great chance.

And then Killutagh Vic comes back from jumping fences. His jumping has let him down in the past and maybe these jumps here will suit him too. He’s a high-class horse. He was winning the Irish Gold Cup when he fell at the last, and was obviously very disappointing at Cheltenham, but ran well enough at Punchestown. They’re all in good form though.

On the rest of the field, De Don Coeur was going to beat Bapaume well last year when she fell in France and Bapaume ended up finishing second in the four-year-old Champion Hurdle. Alex De Larredya beat De Don Coeur before, so that would give you some idea of the standard where we’re going. L’ami Serge was a very good winner of the race last year and he was a good winner at Aintree too so he’s a big runner to watch here.

Bapaume each way would be my pick because I think he’ll run better than his price suggests.

15.15pm: Grand Steeple Chase de Paris

Djakadam is going to take his chances here. While you might think we have more obvious chances in the first two races, this is a race I always wanted to win and I’m disappointed to be missing out on it this weekend.

It has huge prize money and it’s a very prestigious race, but it’s a tough race too. It’s 3m 6f, in the heat, on watered ground, so you really have to stay to win it. I’ve ridden in this race a few times, and finished third in it once. The jumps are very varied, but I don’t they’ll bother Djakadam, he’s a really good jumper.

Three miles and six on slowish ground could be the biggest worry for him, but if David Mullins can get him to settle and get him into a rhythm where he’s lobbing along and just jumping out of his hands, he has a chance.

But I’ve ridden different horses in it and you’d think they’d be ideal for it but what you do need is a Gold Cup horse. I think Mandarin was the last English horse to go and win it and he was a real Gold Cup horse. That’s the calibre of horse you need.

These are very good horses in France, it’s a unique test and you need something with the ability of Djakadam. His run at Punchestown showed there’s still plenty in the tank, and he’s stayed on all the way to the line behind Bellshill. He needs a reproduction of his Gold Cup runs to win here.

There’s huge prize money at stake in this, with something like €100,000 just for coming third, so this is a very tough, very prestigious, high profile contest and I expect it to be run that way.

Best Bets:

I think Bapaume will out run his price at 8/1 and we’ll have to see how Djakadam takes the trip but he has the stamina for it.

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