21 May 2023
Sunday, May 21, 2023, Auteuil Racecourse (Paris). - 9/1 outsider Rosario Baron (Zambezi Sun) went off the beaten track before bravely dominating the favourite Gex (Khalkevi) over the 145th Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris (Gr1)'s 3m6f trip. Owned by Frédéric and Mauricette De Sousa, trained by Daniel Mèle and ridden with the defending winning jockey Johnny Charron, the 7yo gelding had indeed competed in the winter meeting at Pau without participating in the Grand Prix. He ended the season at Pont-Long with a victory in the Gaston Phœbus Chase after having run over hurdles. He then won the Troytown Chase (Gr3) at Auteuil, the second stage of the Grand Steeple Masters, contested in March. Between these two consecutive wins and that of the Grand Steeple, he had gone on to win over hurdles at Compiègne...
This time, he travelled in midfield, following Gex when the 9/5 favourite took the lead in the back straight, going for the rail-ditch-and-fence jump. The early leaders, Général en Chef (Martaline), then Poly Grandchamp (Polyglotte), yielded soon after but going into the final bend, Franco de Port (Coastal Path), Carriacou (Califet), Starlet du Mesnil (No Risk At All) and Suroit (Linda’s Lad) were still well in the race.
After the 2nd lats, however, Gex and Rosario Baron found themselves alone in contention, and after a struggle, the younger one prevailed by a neck, the duo leading by twelve lengths ahead of a very brave Starlet du Mesnil, herself two lengths ahead of the outsider Imperil (No Risk At All), next to Suroit and less than a length ahead of the 11-year-old Carriacou.
Daniel Mile's victory is the fifth for a female trainer in the Auteuil classic since 2019.
It's also worth noting that three of the top four finishers in the Grand Steeple Chase Masters Troytown Chase ended up in the 2023 Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris among the 5 bets horses.
Rosario Baron was bred in Mayenne by Jean-Yves Baron. He has won 8 of his 17 outings, 5 chases out of 11. This was his sixth trial at Auteuil.
The winner is out of Early La Hutte (Daliapour), a flat race winner in Saint-Malo who ended her career unplaced in a claimer at Deauville on the all-weather, a surface she had never run on before. At stud, she has given six foals, two of whom had won before Rosario, notably Saint Baron (Confuchias), twice a steeplechase winner in the provinces. After Rosario Baron, she also produced a 4-year-old son of König Turf, who is yet to race, and a 3-year-old by Gentlewave, also unraced but still declared in training last April.
What they said...
Daniela Mele (based at Gavray, Manche region) the trainer of Rosario Baron, 1st)
"I didn't want him to run at Auteuil before the race. So I ran him at Compiègne over hurdles to keep him in condition, and his class underpinned his victory. He is a horse for whom the mental aspect is very important, as I wanted him to be mentally attuned to the Grand-Steeple. Rosario Baron gave of himself very generously. I feel great happiness. It's great, a real team effort. The owners are great and really supportive. It's a dream come true for everyone. Happiness is shaping a young horse and made him progress from the beginning of his career. He formed part of my first intake of 3-year-olds when I started out as a trainer."
Jean-Yves Baron (Livre la Touche, Mayenne region), the breeder of Rosario Baron, 1st)
"It's not a coincidence... Even in the Troytown Chase, it wasn't so! It's true that Rosario Baron cut a Tom Thumb figure: but this Tom Thumb has become something else! I was tense during the race. Rosario Baron was really well placed. He had to dig deep all the way, and he did. The race gave rise to a tremendous battle after the last. But he has such a big heart. I only have his dam at my stud. I breed horses on my land. It's a small farm, but I have some land. My wife is passionate about racing, and one day we decided to buy a broodmare, Early La Hutte, and she's been giving us some great products!"
Emmanuel Clayeux (Vaumas (Allier), the trainer of Gex, 2nd)
"I'm obviously disappointed, but you can't always look at it from a glass-half-empty perspective. Gex is still a creditable second. He simply confirmed that he is one of the best [steeple-chasers]. Having said that, there were some developments during the race that upset us. I don't want to name names, but these are the kind of races that should not entertain the presence of inexperienced jockeys. Today we lost the race because of them. The orders were to make a beeline towards the front end of the race after negotiating the water jump, in front of the stands, for a second time. Usually, Gex is a horse that prefers to be led into the race. Otherwise, I have nothing to reproach my jockey, Bertrand Lestrade, who rode a flawless race. That's racing, and we will win it next year."
François Nicolle (trained based at Saint Augustin (Charente-Maritime) the trainer of Starlet du Mesnil, 3rd)
"Starlet du Mesnil ran a very good race. She’s a Grand-Steeple mare! It's the first time [that she tackled this race]. Beforehand, I harboured some doubts about the distance. But, in the end, it didn't cause her any problems. It was very spectacular and truly run race. Starlet du Mesnil always gives her best. One day she will win a big race."
Nick Littmoden (trainer based at Servilly (Allier), the trainer of Imperil, 4th)
"What a fantastic horse! I knew he would cope with the extreme distance. I was delighted with his last performance as the distance was too short for him. We'll be back next year! Maybe we'll mount a cross-Channel raid with him! This is great for a young French trainer like me (laughing)..."
Josef Bartos (Czech Republic, jockey Suroit, 5th)
"Before the race, we would have settled for a top-five finish! The horse ran strongly throughout the race. He tired a little bit towards the end before showing great courage after the last fence."