Louisa Carberry eyeing more Grade 1 glory with Docteur De Ballon

Louisa Carberry lifts the lid on Docteur De Ballon who’s aiming to follow up his famous Grand Steeplechase De Paris win in the Prix La Haye Jousselin at Auteuil on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Racing.

  • Friday 27 November
  • Blog

By Liz Price

It is very hard, if not impossible, to find anything good to say about Covid-19, but in the case of DOCTEUR DE BALLON and his English trainer Louisa Carberry, the first lockdown and the subsequent changes to the French jump racing programme turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave the pair the time they needed to get ready for the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris.

Indeed, Docteur De Ballon, who had been so unlucky in last year’s event when he unseated his partner at the Rail Ditch and Fence, the most formidable obstacle in this 3m6f chase, has never been the soundest of horses and if the race had been run on the original date at the end of May, he would not have been ready to provide his young trainer with a memorable victory in France’s equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Watch the Prix La Haye Jousselin Chase at Auteuil on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Sunday 29th November.

“Yes, in May, when the race is usually run, he was still in the field,” laughs Louisa Carberry, a former three-day eventer who went to France ten years ago with the intention of staying just a few months and who is now firmly settled with former jockey and husband Philip Carberry, as well as their three-year-old daughter, in the training centre of Senonnes, in the north west of France.

“He had picked up a small injury after running second in the Prix des Drags in June last year and had actually not run for over a year before I managed to find him a hurdle race at Compiegne three weeks before the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris. So, you could say he didn’t have a consistent prep or the prep I would have liked.”

“Docteur De Ballon is a horse who doesn’t know how to run a bad race. Just like a lot of good horses he gives a huge amount of himself. He is very extravagant, very playful, he likes bucking and kicking and rearing,” she pursues enthusiastically.

“But he has had niggling injuries, which have unfortunately meant that he probably hasn’t run as often as he could have done. Luckily, every time he has had a problem, we have caught it in time, so you would never say, gosh that horse has been through the wars. At the same time, he has achieved a huge amount.”

There is no doubt that the son of Doctor Dino who is owned by Mrs Robert Gasche-Luc, who has supported the Carberry team for a number of years now, has enjoyed an extremely successful career over the big fences of Auteuil, fences he will face again this Sunday when he lines up at the start of the Grade 1 Prix La Haye Jousselin, which at 3m3 ½ f is only marginally shorter than the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, and is live on Sky Sports Racing.

It is the first time that he will compete in this race, which has been firmly in the hands of the François Nicolle-trained Bipolaire for the past three years. Unlike Docteur de Ballon, in four attempts, Bipolaire has never won the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris. He came close in 2019 when he was the runner-up to the Isabelle Pacault trained Carriacou, but fell in this year’s event.

Lisa Carberry, who learned the ropes at the Alain de Royer Dupré yard at Chantilly, knows only too well that horrible feeling when you see your horse fall in a race you have worked so hard for.  “Last year in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, Docteur de Ballon was just very unlucky, as he met traffic coming into the Rail Ditch and Fence,” says Louisa.

“He consequently met it wrong and unseated his rider. We had gone into the race thinking we had a real chance and he was probably one of the favourites that day and it just didn’t work out, which was a real shame. I think at the time I felt that was it, our chance had gone. It’s so hard to get a horse back the following year in the same condition and we were very lucky we got a second bite of the cherry.”

Since the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, which was run on the 18th of October, Docteur de Ballon has been ticking over nicely at the Carberry yard in Senonnes, where he gets turned out daily to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine on his back.

“Turning out our horses is a huge part of our training,” explains Carberry earnestly. “We came to Senonnes in 2013 when Philip was still riding and I took out my licence I think in January 2014 and while we had a great time at Chantilly, we wouldn’t have been able to turn out horses there. Here in Senonnnes, every horse gets turned out every day after exercise. We believe it is a massive value to their body and brain to be turned out every day.”

And she adds: “Auteuil is very impressive. The jumps are imposing and demand a huge amount of intelligence and athleticism from a horse rather than just going out jumping the same fence every time. They really have to think, is it bank, is it a wall, can they brush through it, do they have to jump it. It takes a lot of training and it takes a good horse to win round there.”

Docteur de Ballon has already proven he is a good horse when he won the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris. Now he will try to imitate Princesse d’Anjou who Philip Carberry guided around Auteuil in 2006 to score a famous Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris/La Haye Jousselin double.  

With a preparation that has gone far more smoothly than the one before the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, Docteur de Ballon is ready for his next task and Louisa Carberry is confident. “He is quite a light, athletic horse who has a huge turn of foot.," she says.

"We are lucky that he is not ground dependent. Despite the ground being really testing the day of the Grand Steeple, he still motored home. Apparently his last two furlongs were faster than those of horses running at Longchamp on Arc weekend.”

She laughs and continues: “That is what the geeks tell me. His last two furlongs were not normal, especially not after six kilometres of jumping big fences. He should be running in the Prix Cadran is what they said.”

He would not be the first horse to succeed at both Auteuil and ParisLongchamp, but the plans are to stick to jumping. “I’m relieved that we could show everyone what we can do. He’s come out of his last race well, he didn’t take it hard. The horse and the jockey are very confident. Now it’s just a question of me getting the horse to the day in the right sort of order,” says Carberry.

"Our job is now just to make him feel like he is the king. The horse is obviously fit. He is absolutely flying. He is kicking, bucking and is in really good form. Physically he is ready and now we just have a few more days to panic!”

Watch the Prix La Haye Jousselin Chase at Auteuil on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Sunday 29th October.

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