Updated: Aug 20, 2021
French jump racing is on the rise, of that there is no doubt. Ever since 2019, when there were 14 French bred winners at the Cheltenham Festival, the stock has soared and in spite of the difficulties following Brexit, they continue to be popular with National hunt owners and trainers.
With that in mind, I have put together this list of French imports to the UK and Ireland who could make their mark in the upcoming Jumps season. I have focussed on the horses who have already made it to the track, as although there are several high profile unraced purchases, it would be guesswork for me to suggest they were horses to follow. I have tried instead to focus on races that I know were run truly, in a decent time, where I have a good handle on what the form is worth.
Sonigino - Paul Nicholls - Won 2 of his 3 starts over hurdles in France at Moulins and Auteuil, making all both times. Bought out of David Cottins yard on behalf of a partnership between Sir Alex Ferguson, John Hales and the Masons, the French handicapper already rates him at the equivalent to 140. He has shown that he can handle cut in the ground and looks to be a very promising type. After riding him to win at Auteuil, his jockey Kevin Nabet said “I really set it up for him. At first I didn't want to go in front, but he pulled hard out of my hands at the start of the course. So I let him go on. He jumps perfectly, he has amplitude and he breathes well. Winning by starting at Auteuil from start to finish is good. He is a horse that sets his own rhythm, without making any effort. He is nice. I think he has further improvement to come as he is not yet fully matured.”
Crucially he didn’t win a race until the 23rd May this year so will be able to retain his novice status and with a 4-year-old allowance until the turn of the year, he could well pick up some early season prize money.
Laskalin - Venetia Williams - Won 5 of his 13 starts in France, including at Listed level. Last seen when finishing 3rd in a Listed Chase at Pau in February, he currently has a rating of 143, which looks fair based on what he has achieved in France. Almost all of his best form has come on Pau in Heavy ground doing the winter season, so he has perhaps been ideally placed with Venetia Williams as he certainly fits the stables MO. He was entered in the Plate at the Cheltenham Festival in march, but was withdrawn on account fo the ground. I am sure there will be a Handicap chase at Haydock or possibly even over the National fences at Aintree that could be ideal for him. His brothers Laskaline and Kinglaska were both graded winners over fences in France and there is every chance that there is more improvement in him at the age of 6.
At the sales in February, the winning broker Guy Petit said “He's going to Venetia Williams. The idea is to run the big handicaps with him. He is no longer a novice. In the immediate future, he will go to rest because he took part in the Pau meeting and should be seen again at the end of the year".
Haddex des Obeaux - Gary Moore - Won a bumper at Chateaubriant as a 3-year-old in 2020. He went over hurdles as a 4-year-old and won a small race at Auteuil on his last start in April. The form isn’t spectacular in hindsight, but the front 2 came 30-lengths clear of the rest in a decent time figure when compared to the other races on the card. Officially the going was heavy on that day, but the times would suggest it was closer to soft/good-to-soft and I think it is worth noting that he was well beaten at Pau in January when the ground was truly desperate, so he may prefer some slightly better going, especially as a 4-year-old.
Having won a race in April, he will not retain his Novice status for the whole season, so we may well see him soon rather than later as his connections look to take advantage of his 4-year-old allowance. Following his sale, the broker completing it said “ Haddex des Obeaux went to Gary Moore. He is a very beautiful horse that will go steeplechasing in the future. I had seen him at Nicolas Devilders before he returned to Pau. Physically, he is magnificent. His race at Auteuil was superb, he did something brilliant. In addition, he comes from a good background, where they take their time with the horses.”
Georges Saint - Venetia Williams - Relatively lightly raced for a French recruit, he has won 2 of his 8 starts, both over fences at Compiegne and Pau on Heavy ground. The form of both of those races is fair, if not spectacular and his official French rating of 59.5-kilos (the equivalent of 131) would look to be very fair and should leave some scope once he enters handicaps in the UK.
Sold by Guy Petit he said after the purchase “At this price, it is a great buy. He leaves for England with Venetia Williams. It's good that the sellers have cooperated. The price represents really good value. This is my first Auctav purchase and really, the opportunity was a steal. It is a great tool, a complementary alternative to the traditional sales. "