Two Cheltenham Festival absentees are set to clash in Paris on Saturday afternoon in the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil.
Ronald Pump, who finished second in the 2020 Champion Hurdle at Prestbury Park, was ruled out of running in the National Hunt showpiece meeting this season after getting a splint in his front leg.
Trainer Matthew Smith was ‘gutted’ that he missed the Festival and went on to say that he was ‘in the form of his life.’
Smith’s confidence in him is now very clear, as the gelding will take his chance abroad to land a maiden Grade 1 success.
The eight-year-old made a promising return from injury at Punchestown last month, finishing third in the Champion Stayers Hurdle.
Ronald Pump could well bounce back to form here, but he faces a talented French hurdler in the form of Paul’s Saga.
David Cottin was tempted to make a tilt at the Champion Hurdle and sent his mare to Warwick in preparation, but the eight-year-old failed to justify favouritism as she suffered defeat in the Listed Mares’ Hurdle.
A second-place finish in the Grade 3 Prix Juigne ended all hope of a trip to Prestbury Park, with her trainer opting to remain in France.
Paul’s Saga returns to Auteuil in hope of landing back-to-back successes in the contest, after she overturned odds-on favourite L’Autonomie to claim victory in last season’s French Champion Hurdle by three-quarters of a length.
Both runners look capable of winning here and it could well be a top-level jumps clash to look forward to this weekend.