Handbags all the rage in Paris

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There was almost an up-market version of the stable lads' boxing championships here yesterday as Cash Asmussen and the French champion jockey, Olivier Peslier, disagreed over the riding tactics in the Prix Niel. They almost came to fisticuffs.

Love between the two has not so much been lost as disappeared altogether since Asmussen was jocked off last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, Helissio, in favour of Peslier. Ironically, the Frenchman will not ride Helissio in this year's race as he is contracted to Peintre Celebre, who was having his Arc prep race yesterday.

It became clear from the off that Peslier was not to have a relaxing run round as Asmussen glued Ithaki to Peintre Celebre's side. From then on, the clock was running as Peslier tried to extract himself. By the time the escapology had been effected there was no time for Peintre Celebre to overhaul Rajpoute.

Asmussen had a simple analysis of events. "What do you expect me to do?" he asked. "Move out and let him through?" But, as the normally unflappable American's answer to one question was to threaten to poke the questioner's eyes out, it appears, he has felt a prick (a term which he also applied to his interrogator) from his humiliation by the Helissio connections.

In the blue corner of the Daniel Wildenstein colours, Peslier too appeared to be spoiling for pugilism. "Cash didn't ride his horse to win. He rode his horse to make me lose," the rider said. "When I pulled back, he pulled back and when I went forward he went forward. He never had a chance and finished last, but he is happy because I didn't win.

"If it was me on a no-hoper I would have let him go, but I didn't want to get a suspension by pushing my way out. It was a Group Two and it didn't matter so much, but next time it is a Group One. I don't speak to Cash, but if he wants to fight with me that's okay. But, as you say in England, I am too much of a gentleman. It's not worth getting into a punch-up because I would get suspended."

The whips and handbags will be flying again in three weeks' time back at Longchamp for the big one. It is a measure of the acceleration that Peintre Celebre exhibited once released yesterday that he was cut in price for Paris next month with one firm.

On a card billed as a parade of Arc contenders there was little evidence and the British raiders were all beaten. The posturing, though, was unmissable.

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