An eventful race for the Grand Cross de Fontainebleau on Good Friday saw Travel de Belair, trained by Hector de Lageneste and Guillaume Macaire, land the spoils after a gruelling 6,000m (3m 5f) in heavy ground, whilst the brave Czech challenge asserted the lead in the Crystal Cup leaderboard.

The 6 year old winner, with wins at Durtal and Craon to his name this Spring, hunted round the first two circuits, before taking closer order 5 out, and asserting down the centre of the track in the finishing straight.

Credit should go to long time leader Gasby des Planches under Quentin Defontaine, who led from flagfall at a raking gallop, rendering the rest of the field in Indian file from the start until half way, including some exuberant leaps, especially at the Talus Landais (7th). Harmonie Roque, third in Pau’s Grand Cross back in January, took up a position on the leader’s heels, with eventual runner-up Elcond ‘or Forlonge in third.

The sharp turns that define cross country racing at large, and Fontainebleau’s configuration in particular, nearly caught out the leader who nearly ran out right on the sharp left hand bend prior to the 14th. Gasby des Planches forfeited the lead then for a couple of fences before Defontaine pushed him back into the vanguard as the pace increased.

With the field bunching at the 19th as the business end of the race evolved, the Czech challenger Gap Pierji, and eventual winner took much closer order.  Elcond’or Forlonge led at the 20th, with Travel de Belair saving ground on the inner under Kilian Dubourg. Round the final bend, any one of five might have won it, and the € 26,220 first prize looked as if it could be bound for Prague. But Dubourg conjured his horse to lengthen nicely to win by 2l.

The 8 points for his third place propels owners Scuderia Aichner and trainer Josef Vana jnr to an unassailable lead in the Crystal Cup leaderboard.