'Without her I would have stopped' - Cirrus Des Aigles trainer grateful to Valse

On a Sunday when fast ground at Longchamp saw records fall like ninepins, the most rapid horse on display was Air De Valse, the all-the-way winner of the Prix du Petit Couvert over five furlongs. 

The four-year-old's success this season has put her popular trainer Corine Barande-Barbe back in the limelight, four years after the retirement of the indomitable Cirrus Des Aigles.

A three-quarter-length defeat of Wooded set Air De Valse up for a crack at Battaash in the Prix de l'Abbaye back at Longchamp in three weeks but Barande-Barbe revealed that, were it not for the filly's continued success this summer, she would have been forced to join Cirrus as an ex-racing professional.

"This year has been very tough and without her I would have been forced to stop," said Barande-Barbe. "I haven't recalculated after winning today but because of the fall in prize-money, I have lost €40,000 up until now. I have 12 horses.

"She has done it all and I trained her dam and her sire, who is the nephew of Cirrus, while her maternal great-grandsire is Deep Roots, who was my first yearling. 

"She is the only member of the family to have never been entered in a sale, and it’s a good thing I kept her!"

The power of the pari-mutuel has meant that French racing's post-lockdown cuts to prize-money have been less savage than in many other European jurisdictions, with 40 per cent coming off at Group 1 level and 30 per cent for other Group and Listed races. 

Further down the racing pyramid the reductions have been smaller still and France Galop has promised it will try and rebate some lost prize-money at the end of the season if the PMU continues to outperform forecasts.

But Barande-Barbe had been among those to demand swift restoration of pre-Covid levels, often taking to Twitter to challenge racing's rulers on the subject.

As for the trajectory of her latest fairytale project, Air De Valse broke her maiden in a handicap at Le Lion-D'Angers last August, the start of a three-race winning spree.

On the day racing resumed after lockdown she was third in a Longchamp Listed race over seven furlongs before adding wins over the minimum trip at Vichy and Deauville, as well as a brave runner-up effort behind the Stuart Williams-trained Breathtaking Look in the Group 3 Prix de Meautry. 

"Little by little I've begun to dream about her," said Barande-Barbe. "You know me, I dream big. She kept doing well so I said to myself we'll try the Prix du Petit Couvert.

"I thought she would win last time but she came across a very tough mare who is five. It was extremely heavy ground over 1,200 metres and the winner stays 1,400 metres. Today everything was perfect for her. You're never sure beforehand though.

"She's a filly you can't fight with and over 1,000 metres she can just stride on and she will last home. So she will run in the Prix de l’Abbaye. Perhaps she could then go to Asia – it's a long time since I’ve been – as long as we get the go-ahead to travel there."