France: Ptit Zig lands Champion Hurdle for Nicholls

Ptit Zig and Sam Twiston-Davies

Ptit Zig won the Grade Course de Haies d’Auteuil

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

 By keith melrose 4:51PM 12 JUN 2016 

Report: France, Sunday

Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil (Grade 1), 3m1f110y, 5yo+

PTIT ZIG wore down long-time leader Blue Dragon to land the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil on Sunday, taking the prize back to Britain for a second year following Un Temps Pour Tout’s success in 2015.

In the build-up, much of the focus had been on Champion Chase runner-up Un De Sceaux, who had won the Prix La Barka on his previous start.

However, he got drawn into a battle for the lead with Blue Dragon, which made his suspect stamina beforehand something of a moot point. He faded into a tired sixth.

Blue Dragon held a clear advantage turning in, a dozen lengths or so over the winner, but he too found his earlier exertions catching up with him late on. He was also passed by Alex De Larredya, who had been a place ahead of Ptit Zig in the La Barka but couldn’t stay on as strongly as Ptit Zig, who was wearing blinkers for the first time.

Nicholls praises Twiston-Davies’ plan

Winning trainer Nicholls said: “We thought they’d go a bit quick in front. He’s been a bit lazy in his races, hence the blinkers. We thought the trip would suit him better. Sam gave him an exceptional ride. He got it right tactically, as you need to stay around here.”

Unlike Un Temps Pour Tout, who embarked on a novice chase campaign after winning the race last year, Nicholls revealed that the plan is to keep Ptit Zig, already a Grade 2 winner over fences, to hurdles over the coming season.

The Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil is generally known as the French Champion Hurdle. Ptit Zig collects over £122,000 for his success, around half of what Annie Power collected for winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Irish success in Alain du Breil

Earlier, the Willie Mullins-Ruby Walsh partnership had recorded Grade 1 success in the Prix Alain du Breil, one of France’s biggest races for four-year-old hurdlers, with Triumph Hurdle third Footpad.

Footpad stayed on strongly to score by two-and-a-half lengths from King’s Socks. Afterwards Walsh said: “He was a bit keener today than in the trial race [Grade 3 Prix Questarabad] but he jumped better and showed good acceleration to get to the front and to win. It was a good performance.”

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