The race is the latest in a European 10 race competition for the Crystal Cup, which ends at Cheltenham in December. It is also the world’s longest cross country race, over some four miles four and a half furlongs, and featuring 49 obstacles, and the €100,000 prize has attracted some of the top horses in this niche entertainment.
The home team will be aiming to head off a strong British and Irish challenge led by Nick Williams trained Maljimar and Willie Mullins’ Uncle Junior.
Maljimar, trained by Nick Williams in Devon and ridden by James Reveley, won the Fontainebleau leg of the series, beating Quezac De La Roche (Francois Cottin) by a length and a half, with Quetzal Bay (Christian Le Galliard) and L’Aubergiste (Jean Luc Guillochon) third and fourth respectively. Reveley partners Maljimar again, and the other three also line up tonight.
Uncle Junior took the Irish leg, the La Touche Cup, in the appalling slop at the Punchestown Festival last month. Patrick Mullins rode him that day, but is replaced tonight by his cousin Emmet, also a Mullins. Saddler’s Storm, who finished third at Punchestown receiving a stone in weight, re-opposes again, but this time the two are at level weights.
Also travelling to France are the second and third horses home in this year’s Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at The Festival in March – A New Story, trained by Michael Hourigan and ridden by Adrian Heskin) and Wedger Pardy (Kim Bailey) with leading amateur Oliver Greenall taking the ride. Wedger Pardy will be Bailey's first ever runner in France.
Ireland’s only success in the race came in 2010 when Another Jewel, trained by Denis Murphy took the prize. He came home seventh last year, and Murphy hopes the booking of Davy Russell will help his 10 year old. He said, “If you can get the champion jockey you might as well do it.”