by Thomas Hedlund
It was a dramatic story when a ticket for Prix d’Amérique was at stake in the $223,000 Criterium Continental on Dec. 22 at Vincennes in Paris.
The high quality 4-year-olds that gathered around the starting point at the track in Paris all chased a ticket for the big race to be held at the end of January and two giants were named as head opponents since the entries were official earlier during the week. French star Face Time Bourbon (Ready Cash), trained by Sébastien Guarato and driven by Björn Goop, was the heavy first choice while Swedish muscular athlete Campo Bahia (Muscle Hill), driven and trained by Conrad Lugauer, was trying to upset the popular home favorite.
The Criterium Continental starts with a car and is contested over 1.3 miles. From post one behind the gate, Campo Bahia easily kept the lead while Face Time Bourbon found his spot in third over. That fact made the prestigious race more spectacular than the French crowd expected. Lugauer could keep the pace down midway into the race and at that point, Face Time Bourbon had several lengths to pick up to leading Campo Bahia. When Campo Bahia got the order to accelerate just before the last turn, at the same time Björn Goop lifted Face Time Bourbon four wide. Still, it seemed like the victory was going to the Swedish 4-year-old. At the top of the stretch, Campo Bahia had a safe grip on the race, but Lugauer also sensed that his toughest opponent was closing from behind and in a second Campo Bahia lost his gait and went off stride.
That fact made Face Time Bourbon pretty lonely in the home stretch, but the big discussion after the race was about whether Face Time Bourbon would have caught up to the leader without the mishap of Campo Bahia in the beginning of the stretch.
“I had still the ear plugs in my horse and this was a pity, but at least I was satisfied with my horse. The Prix d’Amérique is uninteresting in my opinion. Campo Bahia is not ready for that task already now,” said Lugauer after the race.
And the question is if the German born trainer is right about that, what would have happened without that break in the last turn? Campo Bahia didn’t look tired at all at that point and Face Time Bourbon, who now won the race, came home in a mile rate of 1:53.3 and the Ready Cash son is named as one of the favorites in PdA 2020.
If Campo Bahia had collected the trophy in Criterium Continental last Sunday, it seems more or less unbelievable that Lugauer wouldn’t have accepted the ticket to Prix d’Amérique and Campo Bahia most likely could have been the horse that everybody would have talked about.
We will never get the answer if Lugauer doesn’t change his mind to try the $110,000 Prix de Belgique two weeks ahead of the Grand PdA.
Face Time Bourbon’s performance was, as usual, strong and racing four and three wide in quite high pace in the last turn would have taken the edge of any trotter, but Face Time Bourbon just stepped away from the chasing field in the stretch.
Goop wasn’t sure that Campo Bahia would have won without the break.
In a big upset, Fleche du Yucca (Prodigious) finished strongly as second ahead of Frisbee d’Am (The Best Madrik).
Two tickets for Prix d’Amérique were at stake in Paris on Sunday afternoon. In the $112,000 Prix Tenor de Baune for 5-year-olds, Laurent Claude Abrivard-trained Excellent (Real de Lou) impressed a lot when he, despite a heavy trip, left his opponents by several lengths in the Vincennes stretch.
Alexandre Abrivard drove Excellent and the duo didn’t have to thank luck when they crossed the wire in a mile rate of 1:55.1 over 1.6 miles. Excellent was pushed to the lead with a little more than a half mile to go and before that, the Prodigious son was three wide, so there’s no question that the best horse earned the ticket for PdA in this race.
Group 1-race winner Vitruvio (Adrian Chip) got a perfect trip behind Excellent during the last 900 meters of the race, but couldn’t threat the superior winner. Instead, first over racing Enino du Pommereux (Coktail Jet) held strongly for silver medal while Alcoy (Ready Cash) took third place.
The highest staked racing under saddle race for 3-year-olds, the $223,000 Prix de Washington, saw a winner in Gangster du Wallon (Let’s Go Along) and jockey Benjamin Rochard in mile rate 1:59.1 over 1.6 miles.
Paris or not for Propulsion?
American-bred Propulsion hasn’t been seen at the racetrack since his prestigious win in $421,000 European Trotting Masters Final in Paris in September, but on Saturday Dec. 28, the 8-year-old Muscle Hill son returns to the track and maybe he will be back in Paris in January.
Trainer Daniel Redén is satisfied with Propulsion’s condition at the farm for the moment, but if he aims for another shot in Prix d’Amérique or not is too early to tell.
“I want to see how he reacts on this race to begin with. Of course, I have Paris on my mind and I thoroughly follow the races from France to form an opinion about the eventual opponents’ statuses. But on Saturday I just want to see in what condition Propulsion is at this point and then we’ll see how we continue our journey towards the Elitloppet in May,” said Redén.