French Holly all set for Gold Cup; HORSE RACING.
The giant eight-year-old excelled with his jumping over the French hurdles before powering three lengths clear of Kimbi on the long run-in under Andrew Thornton.
It was a magnificent performance by the gelding who is now bang on course for a return to Auteuil for the French Champion Hurdle, the Grande Course de Haies, next month. But while this signals the fact that French Holly is the one they all have to beat next month, Murphy and Thornton have their eyes focussed on the 2000 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
An ecstatic Murphy said: ''The whole purpose of bringing him here and running him over the bigger obstacles was to give him the experience he needs for a chasing campaign next season and we want to win the Millennium Gold Cup.
''The horse has never looked better and I think a downpour this morning helped him.''
The French Gold Cup, the Grande Steeplechase de Paris, saw an upset as the odds-on favourite and 1997 winner Al Capone II was overturned by Mandarino.
Mandarino is trained by Marcel Rolland, who handled top staying hurdler Le Coudray in his career in France, but amazingly Rolland missed seeing one of the greatest moments of his training life as he was stuck in a faulty lift for the whole contest!