BILL ESDAILE VISITED CORINE BARANDE-BARBE’S STABLE IN CHANTILLY YESTERDAY TO CHECK ON CIRRUS DES AIGLES
CIRRUS DES AIGLES will head to Ascot on Saturday week without a win in the prep race he has dominated for three of the last four seasons after his controversial disqualification in Saturday’s Prix Dollar at Longchamp.
Corine Barande-Barbe’s eight-year-old was first past the post having battled hard to repel Godolphin’s Fractional by a head in a messy finish on his first start since pulling up lame following his Coronation Cup victory at Epsom back in June.
But the Longchamp stewards deemed he’d not only bumped his rival in the process, but also hampered Planetaire and demoted him to fifth place.
Speaking to City AM at her Chantilly-base yesterday, Barande-Barbe was still upset over what seemed a draconian interpretation of the rules.
“France Galop [French racing authorities] doesn’t please me a lot. It is the lack of consistency that is the most frustrating thing,” she said.
“I think it is right that the rules are strict, as they ultimately protect the horse, but they need to be the same across France.
“How we can be placed fifth, I just don’t understand? We had a horse a few weeks ago, in the same colours as Cirrus, who was bumped, finished fourth and the stewards did nothing”.
Despite feeling aggrieved, Barande-Barbe ruled out the chance of any appeal, adding: “There is just no point. I cannot remember any time before when France Galop has overturned a decision like that. I have spoken to the owner and we will just move on.”
Paris-born Barande-Barbe, the daughter of two psychoanalysts, started out in racing as an owner, enjoying notable early success with champion juvenile Deep Roots, who won the Prix Morny and Prix de la Salamandre in 1982.
She saddled her first winner as a trainer in April 1991 and took out her full licence the following month. Four years later she sent out Carling to win the Prix de Diane and the Prix Vermeille, but her undoubted current stable star is Cirrus Des Aigles, whom she has described as her “best friend”.
After the weekend’s frustrations, Cirrus will head back to Ascot for a fourth straight season in an attempt to land his seventh career Group One win. “He was the best horse on Saturday and I was very happy with the run”, re-iterated Barande-Barbe. “Christophe [Soumillon, jockey] says that he felt better than ever and we know he always comes on a lot for his comeback run. The plan is and always has been to go to Ascot.”
Barande-Barbe is keen the horse wins back the QIPCO Champion Stakes crown he won in 2011, when the gelding defeated stars like So You Think, Snow Fairy and Nathaniel in the process. But she admits there was a moment back at Epsom in June, a few strides after the Coronation Cup winning line, when such a tilt looked highly unlikely.
“Christophe jumped off straight away so as not to hurt him when he felt him take some lame steps”, she recalls. “It was not as bad as Hong Kong a few years ago, but we were worried nevertheless. We brought him home and we just gave him time – nobody sat on him for six weeks. He was very careful on his feet and then after a few weeks he was bouncing again, so we knew that he was back”.
Ascot has been a happy hunting ground for the globe-trotting hero. After his victory in 2011, he made Frankel pull out all the stops the following season, while last year he found only Farhh a quarter of a length too good. “All the English took a deep breath when we came to challenge Frankel up the straight two years ago. Strangely, a part of me was glad to see a star like Frankel remain unbeaten”, recalls Barande-Barbe, sportingly.
Cirrus Des Aigles is currently just behind Gloria De Campeao in the list of European racing’s all-time money earners, having won a staggering £5,867,090 to date. He will top that chart should he hit the frame at Ascot.
That’s an impressive stat considering he hails from a yard with only 23 other stablemates. In fact, if the stewards hadn’t taken such drastic action on Saturday, he’d now be in the lead.
“He has been around so long now that all generations are compared through him”, reminisces his proud handler. “He will meet good horses once again at Ascot like Australia, who was just born when he won his first Group One.”
Long range forecasts suggest that there may well be some cut in the ground at the Berkshire course, which will be music to the ears of connections. “If it rains, that would be great as he knows how to swim! He does not need that ground, he just seems to handle it better than a lot of other horses”.
Barande-Barbe’s affection for her inmate is clear to see and after years together there is the strongest of bonds in place between the pair. “We have had him so long now that you really do get to know and love him”, she explains. “He tells us when things are right and wrong and when he is ready to race”.
Asked whether she gets nervous when she watches him race, Barande-Barbe simply shakes her head. “No. I am confident when I watch him at the races. If I am happy with him when we arrive on course then there is no need to worry”.
Together, the pair make up one of the most charismatic duos in racing and it’s likely his QIPCO Champion Stakes opposition will be the ones with cause to worry come race day.
For tickets to QIPCO British Champions Day on 18th October go to www.britishchampionsseries.com