A multiple part series looking at at French recruits moving across into UK and Irish National Hunt Racing.
Paul’s Saga (FR)
- Age: 7 (Foaled April 23rd, 2014)
- Sex: Bay Mare
- Sire: Martaline
- Dam: Humoriste (FR)
- Trainer: D Cottin
- Owner: Gerald Laroche
Paul’s Saga is a sister to the very good Siljan’s Saga (Sagamix), winner of the Grand Prix de Deauville, Prix Madame Jean Couturie, Prix Joubert and several times placed at the highest level, for a total of nearly €1.3m in earnings.
In the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival there is one entry from France, Paul’s Saga (David Cottin). The seven-year-old mare landed the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil (French Champion Hurdle) in October, and has been mentioned recently on a variety of Cheltenham related podcasts and YouTube based shows. Her trainer landed a Cheltenham Festival winner last season with Easysland, but what has Paul’s Saga achieved herself to date?
She started on the flat where she won 3 races, and has since mixed it between hurdles and fences. Her first graded victory was the GRANDE COURSE DE HAIES DE PRINTEMPS HANDICAP HURDLE (Group 3) in April 2019.
In November 2019 she won the PRIX LEON OLRY-ROEDERER HURDLE (Group 2). She is yet to win in 4 chase starts.
Paul’s Saga’s most notable win came in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil. This is a race previously won by such stars as Questerabad, Thousand Stars, Gemix, De Bon Coeur, and Benie Des Dieux, and she had a star herself to contend with in L’Autonomie, who had racked up a very impressive sequence of 8 Graded wins on the bounce, and seemed to be pretty unbeatable.
L’Autonomie strode on into the lead in her customary fashion, jumped notably right throughout, which became worse as the race went on and was very difficult for Jockey Angelo Zuilani to manage. She still managed to opened up a lead. Paul’s Saga went on the attack between the last two obstacles and took the upper hand at the last hedge, as she was able to take the support of the rail left to her by L’Autonomie, to win by 3/4 length. The partial timing system shows that the strides of L’Autonomie shortened early on the run in, while her rival has increased speed and stayed on continuously from the home straight, all the way to the line. This was no real surprise to myself, as L’Autonomie is a keen horse, who until recently, I would have had reservations about her at the intermediate trip, let alone the championship distance of 3m 1f 77y. You can’t knock the winner Paul’s Saga , for the bare result, as the figures show she stayed out the trip very well, however I do think that was clearly due to L’Autonomie being a non stayer, rather than Paul’s Saga being a superstar.
“I had planned to sit mid-pack but I could hear the English jockeys at the start all saying they weren’t going to go on,” said Nabet. “I really rode my mare for herself and thought we were running for a place rather than to beat L’Autonomie.”
“Last time, the problem wasn’t running in a steeplechase: she just wasn’t in the race. From the start, she didn’t keep up. Today, with the Australian blinkers, she was in on it from the beginning. I didn’t use this artifice in training, we put it on him for the race. We had worked hard in the morning, but it was not demonstrative. She had the terrain and the distance for her. We thought she’dgo to the stud if she ran badly. But now she should keep going! At first we thought we would go to Cheltenham and finish his career there, before entering the stud. So we could prepare the Stayers Hurdle (Gr1) of Cheltenham”
Paul’s Saga backed up her win shortly after in the PRIX CARMARTHEN HURDLE (Group 3) where she beat Beau Gosse who was a good juvenile, however until very recently had 2 years out through injury, and had won a couple of minor races at very short prices on his comeback trail. the 3rd Galop Marin, is a solid yet exposed regular performer in Graded races, However, he managed to turn the tables on Paul’s Saga next time out in the GRAND PRIX D’AUTOMNE HURDLE (Group 1) beating her by 1/2L
How would I evaluate her chances in the Stayers Hurdle?
I believe what she has achieved over hurdles this season is via consistency, and the lack of a staying star. In my opinion, it would be foolish to see her beating L’autonomie and thinking that makes her a top quality star in her own right. The horses she has beaten, if you rightly take the non stayer L’autonomie out of the equation, are Not of a Grade 1 Championship Race standard, would be 3 figure prices, and well held in the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The highest odds available of 25/1, for the race in question, in my opinion are about right, with the shorter odds, I believe, being less than generous.
She is not completely without a chance, however i believe she would be ultimately well held by the likes of Thyme Hill. Therefore Paul’s Saga would not be a bet that I am personally looking to place.
Even so, Paul’s Saga is still a very nice horse, and an interesting and welcome addition to these shores.