Rapide Lebel back in group racing

11:04 AM 01 May 2014 NZST
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Rapide Lebel, harness racing Richard Westerinnk, harness racing Sebastien Guarato, harness racing
Rapide Lebel ready to return to group racing
Paris Turf Photo
Richard Westerinnk
Paris Turf Photo
Sebastien Guarato
Paris Turf Photo

Champion French gelding Rapide Lebel makes his return to group racing in the120,000 euro Prix Kerjacques, a UET Masters Series event and the first race on the card at Vincennes on Friday evening.

Sebastien Guarato's 9YO son of Ginger Somolli will make his first appearance since running third in the Prix Paul Buquet in December 2012. The gelding was sidelined and briefly retired with a hairline fracture which has since responded to treatment.

Since he was out for more than 12 months, he had to requalify at Grosbois, which he did in style in mid-March and then crossed the border into Belgium for a warm-up race, which he trotted in record time of 1.14.4kr for 2850m on the Hippodrome Wallonie, at Mons.

However Guarato's star did not train on to his liking and he decided to bypass last week's Olympiatravet final in favour of tomorrow's Prix Kerjacques.

It will be interesting to see if the third-ranked horse in France's stellar R-generation can recapture the form he showed in 2011 when he won four group ones in Belgium, Finland and Sweden and two group twos in France, and also finished runner-up in the Elitloppet and the North American Breeders Crown, which was that year held at Woodbine in Canada.

Rapide Lebel has won 29 races and 1,814,522 euros, thus far, putting him third on the money earnings of the crop of 2005.

Thierry Raffegeau's accomplished gelding Roi du Lupin was second to Quinoa du Gers in last week's Criterium de Vitesse de Basse Normandie, the second time he had been runner up in Argentan's biggest race.

The fifth-highest money earner of the R-generation is most accomplished under saddle, but like Rapide Lebel, being a gelding restricts him from all of the classique races, and to have earned 1.55 million euros speaks volumes for his ability.

In 2012, his best year, he won no less than four group two montes and also the rich group two Grand Prix de Sud Ouest, (180,000 euros). He was also runner up in three monte group twos and two under harness group two races.

Last year he only started twice, both times under saddle with a second placing in the Prix du Calvados, but he returned to the track this year in January, although so far he has raced solely in the bike, with two minor wins in Belgium before he gradually stepped up in class. French handicappers have liked what they have seen and he was the early favourite.

Richard Westerink's Timoko was a disappointment in the Prix d'Atlantique, with questions asked about the drive of Pierre Vercruysse afterwards after he finished fourth.

Top Swedish driver Bjorn Goop is aboard the talented stallion son of Imoko for the Prix Kerjacques, with Vercruysse aboard Austrian entrant Striking Actions who races out of the Dominique Locqueneux stable.

Love You stallion Ulysse has also been more prominent in monte racing of larte but Mike Lenders has stuck his under saddle star back in harness for a crack at the 120,000 euros, which in France of course pays down to seventh place, leaving only two to go home empty handed here.

Rapide du Digeon, Quoumba de Guez and Severino have attracted some support in early markets, although the vast majority of the money is on the three big names.

PRIX KERJACQUES Vincennes

02/05/14 FR Group 2 Int, UET Masters Series 2700m 6-10 120 000 euros

1 Tintin d'Ecouves (h Lucky d'Hilly - Oasis de la Basle) Dr: Mathieu Abrivard Tr: Vincent Jarry

2 Striking Actions (h Oaklea Bluejay - Dream Qui) Dr: Pierre Vercruysse Tr: Dominik Locqueneux

3 Ulysse (h Love You - Loctudy) Dr: Pierre Levesque Tr: Mike Lenders

4 Rapide du Digeon (v Urfist des Pres - Gerveine Barbes) Dr: Franck Nivard Tr: Thierry Raffegeau

5 Severino (h Gobernador - Katia de Tillard) Dr: Christian Bigeon Tr: Christian Bigeon

6 Quoumba de Guez (s Urfist des Pres - Vanina de Mareuil) Dr: Jean Michel Bazire Tr: Jean Michel Bazire

7 Roi du Lupin (v Fleuron Perrine - Helia de Saint Pol) Dr: Anthony Barrier Tr: Jean Paul Marmion

8 Rapide Lebel (v Ginger Somolli - Koranie des Noes) Dr: Eric Raffin Tr: Sebastien Guarato

9 Timoko (h Imoko - Kiss Me Coulonces) Dr: Björn Goop Tr: Richard Westerink

by David Sanders, for Harnesslink.com

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