Serge powers to Auteuil glory
L'Ami Serge came from last to first to snatch Grade One honours in the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil (French Champion Hurdle) at the Paris track.
Daryl Jacob bided his time on the Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old, on what was L'Ami Serge's first attempt at the three-mile-one-and-a-half-furlong trip.
French favourite Blue Dragon set out to make all the running but a mistake three out put paid to his chances.
After that, Alex De Larredya tried to steal a march on his rivals and made a beeline for the stands rail.
Meanwhile, L'Ami Serge (9-2) was produced on the opposite side of the course and galloped on resolutely after the final flight to hit the front on the run-in and land the spoils for owners Simor Munir and Isaac Souede from the Francois Nicolle-trained Alex De Larredya, wearing winning connections' French colours.
The Willie Mullins-trained Shaneshill was third, with Bosseur fourth. Last year's winner, the Paul Nicholls-trained Ptit Zig, was well beaten this time, as was Warren Greatrex's One Track Mind.
L'Ami Serge was given a quote of 14-1 for the Stayers' Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival with BetVictor.Henderson said of his length-and-a-half winner: "The horse was great and that was one of the best rides you'll ever see, because we had no idea he'd stay. It was experimental."We put a hood on him and a different bit on him and Daryl had to drop him out, but I didn't know by that much. It was a brilliant ride and well done to the team."He went on: "This horse is very relaxed at the moment. When you think he was beaten a neck in the County Hurdle under a big weight over two miles, to then go and do that is quite extraordinary."We've got all summer to think about what we are going to do and don't forget he's a good jumper of fences. I think he loves these French obstacles."He ran very well in the Prix La Barka when Shaneshill beat him and we were two kilos better off today, so if he stayed he had to have a good chance."We'll have to see. The ground here today wasn't anything like as soft as Auteuil normally gets. I don't think he'd be a horse for Auteuil in the middle of winter when it's pretty heavy."The money here is unbelievable, but I think we'll stay in England."The victory capped a tremendous few months for Henderson, who won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March with Buveur D'Air and saw stable stalwart My Tent Or Yours go close in the Punchestown equivalent.He said: "It's pretty nice to win the English Champion Hurdle and the French one. We were second at Punchestown, otherwise we might have won all three. That would have been good – and rare."Munir and Souede bagged a Grade One double when Prince Ali took the Prix Alain du Breil.Guillaume Macaire's charge just held Ruby Walsh on the Mullins-trained Bapaume with Paul Townend third on Dandy Mag, also for Mullins.Odds-on favourite De Bon Coeur had made the running and was still going well in front when he gave James Reveley a tumble at the second-last jump.
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