PARISIAN racing fans were expecting to get the chance to see Rachael Blackmore in action for just the second time at Auteuil last Sunday but things didn’t quite work out as planned.
Strike action caused the last-minute cancellation of the fixture, much too late to stop either Blackmore or her Willie Mullins-trained mount, Your Eyes Only, from arriving at the track.
The strike came about because trade union representatives of workers who staff both the racecourses and the training centres of the Parisian area had been unable to come to an agreement with the governing body of French racing, France Galop, during their annual pay rise negotiations which took place two days earlier.
France Galop was offering a 2% increase but the union was holding out for double that amount, pointing out that inflation in France has been running at almost 7% over the past six years and is forecast to be at 4.5% during 2022.
Hearing that a strike was then planned for Sunday’s important fixture, which included two graded contests, France Galop officials were confident that a more informal meeting with the union on Sunday morning would, at the very least, defer the matter until a second official gathering between the two parties 72 hours later.
But, this being France, where militant action seems to be part of the way of life, the union decided to flex its muscles and prevent Auteuil going ahead, thus costing the industry an estimated €10 million in lost betting turnover.
Thankfully, the prospect of further strikes and disruption to the hectic spring racing schedule both over jumps and on the flat now seems to have faded.
France Galop and the union did indeed meet again on Wednesday and, although an official report of the outcome of that gathering has yet to be published, it is understood that the racecourse and training centre workers have agreed to a new offer of around 2.5%.
The races lost have been rescheduled to take place at this Saturday’s existing Auteuil fixture, meaning it has become France’s longest ever, with 15 races starting at 12.15pm local time and running through until 8.35pm.
Mullins has decided to leave the unraced Your Eyes Only in France and she will take her place in today’s Prix Wild Monarch, a €60,000 listed hurdle race restricted to three-year-old fillies who have never jumped an obstacle in public before.
She will be partnered by local rider Alain de Chitray rather than Blackmore.