The Jane Mangan column: Return of French racing leaves Irish frustrated

The Jane Mangan column: Return of French racing leaves Irish frustrated
Jockeys wearing protective face masks get ready before the start of Prix d'Escoville race as horse racing resumed behind closed doors at Longchamp in Paris.

SMASH, bang, wallop!

That’s the sound of Victor Ludorum’s unbeaten record going up in smoke.

Rip, tear, and throw, that’s a 4/7 betting slip for Sottsass being fired in into the bin! It was all happening this week in a capital city of over 2m people. Yes, French racing returned with some purpose in Paris — all the while, we sit on our hands.

Longchamp hosted Guineas trials, Compeigne some hurdles and chases, Saint Cloud and Chantilly ran quality juvenile races while Lion d’Angers did both. It’s safe to say that France Galop were ready for the starter when given the green light and with a few obvious protocols in place, everyone involved with Edouard de Rothschild and his team deserve credit.

Notebooks were needed when observing the demise of Guineas favourite Victor Ludorum. A slow pace combined with no cover meant last season’s Prix Jean Luc Lagardere winner never fully relaxed. When the pace eventually lifted, he was caught flat-footed and eventually finished a tired third.

Note: Excuses for this defeat. Don’t abandon ship.

Meanwhile, last season’s French Derby winner Sottsass found himself in a poor position from the gates, settling near last off another lacklustre pace. The taps turned quickly in the straight, but this guy could never make up the deficit. Shaman made the pace to suit himself and the others were caught surrendering to instructions. Ten points to Maxim Guyon. The rest wonder what might have been.

Note: Held up of pedestrian pace. Get good value odds next time.

Then there was the 1,000 Guineas trial. Andre Fabre’s horses were yet to fire on the afternoon; perhaps they needed the run? Oh wait, the filly doesn’t! Tropbeau put in an impressive performance in the Prix de la Grotte under Mikel Barzalona who was completing a hat-trick of wins in this race.

Tropbeau will now bid to emulate last year’s winner Castle Lady by winning the French 1,000 Guineas on June 1 with one significant advantage — she won’t have any opposition from Britain or Ireland.

Note: Tropbeau could be the best filly at a mile this season. Particularly if she doesn’t have to beat international rivals!

So what now? Well, Lyon-Parilly host a 10-race card on the flat today while there are 12 meetings in France this weekend — three tomorrow and nine on Sunday.

The scene around the parade ring for the return of racing in France on Monday. Picture: Healy Racing
The scene around the parade ring for the return of racing in France on Monday. Picture: Healy Racing

Never before has French racingreceived such international coverage. I won’t lie, I’m jealous of their position.

Irish racing continues in limbo. We wait, but who defines when patience become time-wasting? I suppose hindsight will take care of that.

Meanwhile, Australia continued to race throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, but neighbours New Zealand find themselves in a very precarious position indeed.

New Zealand’s racing industry was in a desperate state before the coronavirus outbreak, which halted racing on March 24. Racing is set to resume on July 3 with an equal level of prizemoney (NZ$15,000) for the 13 meetings to be held that month.

This is just an indicator of how different racing jurisdictions have to adapt to survive the economic impact of this pandemic. Right now, we are chomping at the bit to restart here. Not only for selfish reasons, but also to consolidate our status among the global giants of this industry.

Japan, Australia, and some US states managed to race consistently throughout the last few months. France and Germany are back up and running, and while it was unquestionably the right decision to cease Irish racing in March, we must now recognise that our rivals are poaching a lead.

It is important to remember that racing is not a leisure sport or recreational hobby. Thoroughbreds carry an industry on their shoulders. From the idea of conception right through to the winning post and every step in between, the thoroughbred racehorse has an army of soldiers working to meet their every need.

As per the Government’s plan, racing falls under Phase 3, thus June 29 is our indicated resumption date. If this remains the case, I suspect many horses in training here will move to France where they are free to run. That’s not a threat, but a harsh reality and who can blame them?

The past few months have served as a rude awakening for the thoroughbred industry in Ireland. If the ship were sinking, would anyone come to the rescue?

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