Klassical Dream could only finish second in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil as Francois Nicolle won the Grade One for the third time in five years with the exciting five-year-old Hermes Baie.
Willie Mullins saddled three runners in his bid for his sixth victory in the French Champion Hurdle, but Klassical Dream was the only one of his trio to be involved at the business end, with Tornado Flyer and Kemboy both well held.
Given a patient ride by Paul Townend, Klassical Dream crept closer to the leaders exiting the back side of the track and although staying on strongly into second in the home straight, was still well adrift of the ready winner at the finish.
Mullins was pleased with the runner-up’s effort and told Sky Sports Racing: “Klassical Dream, possibly with a hot day and the hood on him, it was too much and I think he didn’t want to race, he was too relaxed.
“I think the heat with the hood was too much and it took Paul a long time to wind him up and he stayed on well to be second behind a very good winner.”
The winner confirmed the form of his win in the Prix Leon Rambaud last month by finishing ahead of stablemate and defending champion L’Autonomie for the second successive race.
L’Autonomie was always up with the pace, but faded into third in the closing stages as the younger of the Nicolle pair took charge to score by seven lengths.
It was a performance that signalled a changing of the guard at the Nicolle yard, with the Frenchman suggesting the sky is the limit for the imposing son of Crillon.
“He can run on the right, or the left, he’s very strong, he’s a good horse,” Nicolle said.
Madame Moonie (6-1) reversed Prix des Charentes form with Hotesse Du Chenet to land the Listed Prix d’Arles.
The winner had to settle for a silver medal over track and trip last month and Hotesse Du Chenet looked the most likely winner when hitting the front two out.
However, the daughter of Martaline was no match for the winner once Pierre Dubourg took the lead jumping the last and the five-year-old galloped all the way to the line for a ready victory.
The Mullins raider Instit finished fourth after Townend held up the filly towards the rear of the field as she was a bit keen early on.
“She pulled too hard. Once she relaxes and goes over fences next year I think she will be a much better. She’s a big, strong mare who will appreciate going out in trip and fences,” was her handler’s assessment of the performance.