Updated: Aug 31
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.
If there is one category that fits the bill more than any other for French National Hunt horses, it's the juveniles. As last years Triumph hurdle showed, the approach taken by the French breeding industry to develop and school their younger horses with a direct view of winning over hurdles and fences pays huge dividends. This final part focuses on some of the younger horses who have been purchased over the summer to make their mark as 3 and 4-year-olds.
Porticello - Gary Moore - By Sholokhov, he won on debut at Auteuil for David Cottin in April (beating Magistrato who is now with Paul Nicholls) . That race, the Prix Grandak, does look to be one of the better 3-year-old races run during the spring season. The time was very good, in particular when compared to the older horses who raced later on the card and the first 3 home have all looked to be above average on the limited form we have on offer. Having tracked the pace, Porticello looked briefly outpaced as they came round the home bend, but stayed on very strongly after they jumped the 2nd last, going away on the run-in to win by 3-lengths.
Sold after this race, the broker said “The Prix Grandak consisted of a lot promising well bred types from powerful yards. Porticello had accelerated well in the closing stages to win nicely. The third, Impregnable, has won since. Porticello is a tall and athletic colt who has set an excellent time. He is also well bred and he descends from a Goral line that I know well”
Matterhorn - Paul Nicholls - A son of Martaline, he finished 3rd in the Prix Wild Monarch at Auteuil on his debut in April. The winner of that race, Paradiso, has advertised that form by winning twice since. From a very good family, his dam is sibling to 7 winners and he looks like a very strong National Hunt type who will surely improve with more experience. On breeding he may need slightly softer ground, but he travelled very powerfully on his debut and I think that there is a touch of class about him. If you were to watch the majority of the replay of the Auteuil race, you would expect Matterhorn to be the winner. Travelling extremely well, he hit the front 2 out and looked in control, but a shuddering error at the last took his chance away as he was essentially brought to a standstill. To his immense credit, he rallied again and passed horses to get back into the places. The attitude he displayed after that mistake, was fantastic and he looks to be a lovely prospect.
Sold after this performance, he will run in the Johnny de la Haye colours and the broker said “I liked the performance of Matterhorn. He went toe to toe with a horse who had experience [Paradiso]. He has the physique to become a real chaser in time. Matterhorn also has a very good pedigree. He ticked all the boxes. He will go to Paul Nicholls”
Gaelic Warrior - Willie Mullins - This son of Maxios may well prove to be a more long term project. Although he didn’t manage to get his head in front in his 3 starts in France, he ran with credit on all 3 occasions and has earned an official French rating of 63 (138). 6th in the Prix Wild Monarch, on debut, he was last seen finishing 3rd in the Prix Rockingchair at Auteuil in June. Although he was no match for the winner Sans Bruit, he kept on very strongly after the last and was definitely doing his best work at the finish. That piece of form would suggest he is worthy of the rating he has achieved and given the heavy, tacky nature of the ground on that day, it bodes well for his stamina at longer trips and he should be well suited by running on proper winter ground when the time comes. His stallion, Maxios, hit the headlines last season when Quilixios won the Triumph hurdle and Gaelic Warrior certainly looks above average, although he may need more time and possibly distance, before he reaches his peak.
Pierre Boulard, who brokered the sale told Jour de Galop “In the race, Gaelic Warrior showed quality by placing himself twice in a row at Auteuil, under the training of Hector de Lageneste and Guillaume Macaire. He will go to training at Willie Mullins' on behalf of Rich and Susannah Ricci. He will probably become a good chaser, he has the right physique for long distances.”
Vauban - Willie Mullins - A winner of 2 of his 4 starts in France, including a Listed win at Vichy in July, he was actually sold prior to the Listed win, but the previous connections obtained permission for him to run in that race before being moved on to Closutton. Officially rated 104 on the level, he has no doubt been bought with a hurdles career in mind and could be a really intriguing dual purpose horse for the yard.
His owner/breeder Phillippe Decouz said after the sale "To be fair, Vauban was sold before the race. We asked the buyer, in this case Willie Mullins, permission to run this Listed under our colours. We had fixed this condition. The goal was to bring black type to his mother's breeding line. Since his victory at Lyon-Parilly, we had been negotiating. On Monday, after his victory, we received even more offers! My accountant will be happy, because she often tells me that horses don't bring in much money. She will be reassured now, as I think she was beginning to wonder”
This is the final part of this series for 2021-22, there were so many other names that I could have mentioned, Sainte Baol and Iberique du Seuil (Gordon Elliott), Hardy du Seuil (Jamie Snowden), Magistrato (Paul Nicholls), Rocky Man (Dan Skelton), Holly (Jonjo O’Neill), Parmenion (Willie Mullins)….the list would be almost endless. However, I have chosen these 12 because they have run in races in France that I can put a good mark on to in terms of the form and hopefully I have found a few nice types to follow as we head into the jumps season. Links to Part 1 and 2 are below in case you missed them. Thank you for your support of Prixdelahorse.com
French Imports Part 1 - https://www.prixdelahorse.com/post/french-imports-part-1
French Imports Part 2 - https://www.prixdelahorse.com/post/french-imports-part-2