Is the Group 1 season over?

Maisons Laffitte - will it see racing again?

Maisons Laffitte - will it see racing again?

The strike in French racing over the threatened closure of Maisons-Laffitte racecourse could mean that the European Group 1 calendar for this season is already over.

The Criterium de Saint-Cloud should take place on Saturday and bring the curtain down on Group 1 competition. Why should a problem at Maisons-Laffitte affect a race at Saint-Cloud? Simply, both are among the six courses run by France Galop, and there is support for the staff at Maisons-Laffitte across those other tracks.

Amongst those affected by the action is Mark Johnston’s Hartnell, who was supplemented for the race yesterday. Perhaps that’s a strange move, given the uncertainty about the Criterium actually taking place, but there we are. Even if it is resolved, it wasn’t certain that Hartnell would go.

Charlton said, “I suppose he could travel on Thursday evening, arrive Friday morning and run Saturday, it’s not impossible. That’s maybe a little later than usual, depending on the weather and if he goes by ferry or train. It doesn’t make it any easier, that’s for sure.” Surely you would arrange travel to give the horse the best chance of running his best? If you’ve spent the money to supplement, a little more to help bring home the bacon wouldn’t matter.

At least Charlton has the option of travelling or not. Ollie Pears had taken No Leaf Clover to France in readiness to run in the Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte, but has brought him back to base in Malton. He didn’t rule out a return if the race were to be rescheduled. He said, “If they were to put those races on – and guarantee they’ll be run – and if they pay the costs we’ve just incurred and I’m happy with the horse at home, we may go back. I’d prefer it to be the end of next week.” Sounds like he’ll be staying at home to me.

At the moment any quick resolution of the dispute seems unlikely, and the best that anyone can hope for is that the three remaining Group races will be re-programmed sometime in the next week or so. But even that seems more a case of hope rather than expectation.

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