It is finally starting to rain and as a result, the quality of the National Hunt races has begun to improve and more importantly for this French racing fan, the French-bred horses are finally getting their ground. It will be November by this time next week and the likelihood is that the number of French Profiles that I am having to write will increase substantially. The aim with these pieces is to try and give an opinion as to the strength and nature of a horses form in France with the ultimate aim of deciding whether or not that form will translate to success in their new surroundings. French horses start their careers earlier and as a result, their development tends to follow a very different path to the more traditional Point-to-Point types. It can be very easy to assume that a horse who is 5-years-old is only at the start of their career and as a result is capable of further improvement. When in fact, many French horses are bred and trained to peak at 5. Sel Jem, the impressive winner of this year's Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, is a 5-year-old. If he were bred in the UK, he would probably have been given a campaign in bumpers at the time he was winning a Grade 1 chase at Auteuil.
Today's horse fits nicely into this introduction, partly because he has some solid form behind Sel Jem, but also because he was an impressive Juvenile hurdler, who should be reaching the peak of his powers as a 5-year-old.
MARGARET’S LEGACY (Tim Vaughan)
Formerly trained by Hugo Merienne, this will not be Margaret’s Legacy’s first visit to a British racecourse as he was sent over for th Adonis hurdle at Kempton in 2021, where he finished 6th behind Tritonic. At the time he was one of the leading French Juvenile hurdlers, arriving at Kempton on the back of 2 impressive wins at Cagnes-Sur-Mer. I was fortunate enough to interview his trainer at the time and I have put a link to that interview with Hugo Merienne at the bottom of this piece. Hugo is one of the rising stars of the French training ranks and as a former assistant to Willie Mullins, he knows what it takes to prepare a horse for racing in the UK and Ireland.
Sent chasing as a 4-year-old, Margarets Legacy has a much better record than the 0-4 on his form book page would suggest, including a 2-length 3rd placed finish behind subsequent French Gold Cup winner Sel Jem in September 2021. The form of that race and his final start at Auteuil in November last year has worked out nicely in the interim and an opening UK mark of 121 looks very lenient. However, before we go lumping in with a big bet on this well handicapped horse, it is important to remember that he was keen in his races and prone to making the odd mistake at his fences. He has a high cruising speed and plenty of ability, but he will need to settle better and show more respect to the park fences. Having had 11-months away, I’m interested to see how fit Tim Vaughan has him for his debut and so it will be a watching brief for his debut at Chepstow. That being said, I am certain he is better than a mark of 121 and provided his ability remains in tact, I see no reason at all why his new connections won’t be able to win several races with him this season.
He has a Flat pedigree and his Sire, Prince Gibraltar, has had relatively few runners over obstacles and so it is hard to be certain that he will take to Chasing over Park fences. A strong powerful horse, he has the frame and profile for it and will have been well schooled since his switch to Tim Vaughan. On paper, this looks to be a relatively strong race for the grade, with several horses rated 130 or above and so this should give us a good guide into how his French form translates.