The Pau season reached its climax yesterday with the Grand Prix de Pau Foie Gras Biraben, the course’s marquee steeplechase, won by In Love under the guidance of Nicholas Gauffenic for Hugo Merienne, which took place in front of a bumper crowd of over 14,000.

Whilst the top chasers have been gracing Pau during the 10 week winter season, the storyline of the route taken to Pau’s other marquee chase – the Grand Cross  – is also taking shape. In the past 10 days, Pau has staged 3 cross country contests which may have a bearing on the feature cross country over 6,300m, worth €85,000 on February 18th.

A week ago, 2023 victor Hip Hop Conti announced his well-being and intent in a 1 1/4l victory over Saint Godefroy in the Prix Jean Henry Wright. But over this past weekend, two shorter distance races have also shown the strength in depth in this segment of the sport.

On Friday, Riskman, an 8 year old gelding trained by Erwan Grall, made it two from two in 2024 with a hard-fought 1/2l victory over Solingen in the 4,600m (2m 7 1/2f) Prix Gerard Sereys.

On Sunday, the shorter distance 4,100m (2m 4f) Prix Jean et Rene Couteuil delivered a 10 runner field and a debutant winner in cross in J’Arrive de l’Est, a 5 year old trained by Daniela Melé and ridden by Valentin Morin. Held up in rear with favourite Falko des Flos, Morin made good ground at the Banquette de Bordeaux, 5 out, and J’Arrive de l’Est showed good speed from the last to win by 3l.

Unlike their foreign counterparts, French horses have a variety of distances to choose from in Cross Country, but the stye of racing is such that it is easier for horses to run over multiple distances. Don’t be surprised to see Riskman among entries for the Grand Cross, although the higher profile race would surely test a novice at these fences.

Pau stages two more races before February 18.