The Pertemps Series, which climaxes in a thrilling final at The Festival in March, gains an exciting international twist this season with the addition for the first time of a qualifier staged in France, at the Parisian home of French Jump racing, Auteuil.
The ground-breaking French leg is the second contest of the expanded 10-race handicap hurdle series and takes place on Sunday, November 4, with a view to encouraging increased Gallic participation in one of Jump racing’s most thrilling challenges.
The Pertemps Series, sponsored for the seventh season by the UK’s leading independent recruitment company, is the premier race series for staying handicap hurdlers and now consists of nine qualifiers prior to the showpiece £80,000 final at Cheltenham on Thursday, March 13, 2008.
Chepstow raises the curtain on the 2007/2008 Pertemps Series when the Welsh track stages the first qualifier on Saturday, October 13.
The other qualifiers take place at Kempton Park (Tuesday, November 13), Newbury (Friday, November 30), Cheltenham (Friday, December 14), Wincanton (Wednesday, December 26), Warwick (Saturday, January 12), Leopardstown (Sunday, January 13) and Haydock Park (Saturday, February 16).
Francois Doumen has enjoyed more success this side of the English Channel than any other French-based jumping trainer, so it was no surprise to see his high-class hurdler Millenium Royal capture the Haydock Park qualifier in February prior to contesting the Pertemps Final itself, which has never been won by a French-trained contender.
It was Oscar Park who triumphed in the 2007 Pertemps Final from 23 rivals to give trainer David Arbuthnot an historic first winner at The Festival, having reached the decider by running second to Karanja in the Newbury qualifier.
The Tom Doyle-ridden Oscar Park held off by half a length the late challenge of the one-eyed mare Material World to secure victory in the three-mile contest. The Suzy Smith-trained Material World had previously won the exciting Pertemps qualifier at Cheltenham in December, defeating 2002 Pertemps Final winner Freetown by a neck.
Although no French raider has lifted the Pertemps Final since its inception in 1974, the race has been won five times by Irish-trained horses so there is a history of overseas success.
The Michael Purcell-trained My View became the first to prevail for the Emerald Isle in 1992 and was followed by Fissure Seal (1993). Generosa scored under Norman Williamson for trainer John Hassett in 1999, while the Dessie Hughes-trained Oulart (2005) and Kadoun (2006), handled by Michael O’Brien, are the most recent Irish winners.
Andy Clifton, Communications Manager at Cheltenham Racecourse, said: “The Pertemps Series is always a fascinating challenge for trainers, punters and handicappers alike.
“The new extended format, with a ground-breaking first venture to France, adds even more interest and I’m very hopeful we will see the benefits of this initiative with more continental participation in the Pertemps Final.”
Tim Watts, the Chairman of Pertemps, commented: “Pertemps are delighted to be involved with this new initiative of extending the successful Pertemps Series into France.
“It gives us an unique marketing opportunity in France and our connections with the country go back a long way as Francois Doumen has been a great supporter of races we have sponsored over the years.”