Tag Archive for: Hugo Merienne

Cheltenham ruled out for leading French juvenile St Donats

Top French juvenile St Donats has been scratched from the Triumph Hurdle with Hugo Merienne preferring to complete the four-year-old’s preparations for the Prix Alain du Breil closer to home.

That Grade One contest at Auteuil has always been his main target for the spring, but he was given a speculative entry into the Triumph Hurdle in case the race became a suitable tune-up option in the build up one of France’s premier four-year-old contests.

Second to Emmet Mullins’ McTigue in a Grade Two in October, he turned the tables on his conqueror in style when last seen – taking the Grade One Prix Cambaceres by an impressive 11 lengths under James Reveley, who has ridden him in all his races to date.

That ready victory saw him priced up around the 10-1 mark for a Cheltenham Festival bid, but the Chantilly-based handler has decided to bypass Gloucestershire’s showpiece as he builds up St Donats’ fitness for his spring objective in the French capital.

“The horse is not ready, we had to give him a bit of a quiet week so the Triumph is not an option any more,” said Merienne.

“With how his preparations are going we have decided to stay in France. He will go for the Prix d’Indy (March 19) or the Prix de Pepinvast (April 8). It will probably be the Pepinvast. His target is the Grade One Alain du Breil.

“We entered him (in the Triumph) in case the horse was flying and everything was going well and you never know, it may have been looking a poor Triumph. But he is the best horse in Auteuil and you don’t want to take chances anywhere if you have the best in Auteuil.”

St Donats is arguably the best juvenile in France and Merienne, who experienced Prestbury Park success while working for Willie Mullins during the halcyon days of Vautour and Faugheen, went on to explain some of the qualities the son of Saint Des Saints has.

He continued: “He has a good mentality and is a tough horse. He has been improving every time and has learned from race to race and I think we still haven’t seen his limits.

“We will see this spring if he can be as good as a four-year-old as he was as a three-year-old, but there is no reason why he can’t be as good.”

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