Guillaume Macaire sent out Bel La Vie to land the G2 Prix George Courtois
PICTURE: EDWARD WHITAKER
By SCOTT BURTON 5:45PM 27 NOV 2016
THE ten-year-olds Bel La Vie (Guillaume Macaire/Bertrand Lestrade) and Shannon Rock fought out a memorable finish to the last major prize of the season at Auteuil, putting a host of younger rivals – and a prominent TV critic – in their place.
With nine of the eleven runners aged seven or younger, the numerical odds were against the pair but class trumped youth as Bel La Vie, the 2013 Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris hero, ran out a two and a half length winner over Shannon Rock, himself a three time runner-up in France’s top chase.
Bel La Vie spent 18 months on the sidelines with a fractured pelvis in 2014 and 2015 and had recently returned from another prolonged absence when finishing fourth and then eighth over hurdles, leading at least one prominent voice on French television to call for his retirement.
“This obviously gives a great deal of pleasure but I must tell you that, after the words of Dominque Cordier – demanding his retirement, calling us greedy and assassins – the Papot family [Bel La Vie’s owners] have had a horrible weekend,” said Macaire.
“I know my horse, I see him every morning and I saw him every day when he was suspended from the stable roof in a sling. I don’t put my oar into other people’s business and they shouldn’t concern themselves with mine.”
Steven Colas rode a positive race on Shannon Rock – a horse who is traditionally delivered as late as possible – and was rewarded with a fine performance in second.
Jean-Paul Gallorini said: “He is always there. Circumstances dictated that he got to the front a bit sooner than ideal and we know he saves himself a bit when he gets ahead. But he has been beaten by a crack.”
The five-year-old Bipolaire looked set to play a hand in the finish until falling two out and it was another former Grand Steep’ winner, Storm Of Saintly, who filled out the places under Arnaud Duchene.