I try to be as diverse as possible when writing this series and I look to focus away from the top yards as much as I can. It is not an easy task, especially when one name is consistently coming up and with over 30% of this years recruits having the name WP Mullins next to them, there is an inevitability about the number of horses in Closutton who find their way into this series. When you listen to Ruby Walsh and others discuss the great trainer and his methods, it becomes clear that whilst there may not be specific targets for every horse at the start of the season, there is a general strategy. In recent seasons, much of that strategy has had a French theme. Whilst they aren't all superstars, the majority are above average and since I began to keep an up to date list of the recruits I have Willie Mullins training just under 80% of his French sourced horses to win a race.
Trying to second guess which horses will be seen early in the season, which will be given time, which will need better ground or softer ground, etc, is almost impossible. Last years series began with Mister Policeman who I felt sure would be seen in the autumn and he didn't appear until long after Cheltenham was over. However, todays horse is a Juvenile hurdler who has already won a Graded race and with the level of form that she has already shown, she will surely be seen as one of the leading 3-year-olds in the yard at this stage.
3-year-old Filly who has joined Willie Mullins for Kenny Alexander
Jeu St Eloi x Rive Gauche (Shaanmer)
4th Foal. Half-Sister to 3 winners, including 2 on debut. Dam Flat maiden winner over 2,300m, half-sister to 2 winners over obstacles. Closely related to Grand National 3rd Saint Are.
A winner on debut in March for Donation Sourdeau de Beauregard, her form ties in with several of the principles from that race, most of which she has upheld with ease. Her only defeat came when second to the now 71-rated Funny Berry in the Listed Prix Girofla, a race won by another Mullins recruit Gala Marceau in 2022. The ratings for all 3 of her runs at Auteuil can be seen below but given that her first 2 starts came on ground described as Collant (loosely translated as tacky) I would treat her early form with more caution than her latest effort. She produced a rating of 87.9 when she won the Grade 3 Prix Sagan in May and when we adjust her figures to allow for the Fillies allowance that she will receive in the UK and Ireland, that rating puts her in the top 5 Juvenile hurdlers seen in France so far this year.
The Prix Sagan is run over 3,500m and races over that distance do have a tendency to be steadily run as the race starts between the 2 hurdles in the straight and the close proximity of the first flight and the right-hand bend can often lead to a slow early tempo. This race fits that stereotype to a point but the overall time was just 1.6s outside the course standard and looked to be run at a fair gallop once the horses had passed the stands. Kargese was settled in mid-division before closing around the home turn and coming with a sustained effort to get the better of Terra Bella on the run-in, eventually winning by 2-lengths. She shapes like a horse who may well stay further in time, but it was her game attitude in the closing stages that made her stand out as she rallied well to close down a leader who had the stands rail to help.
She is far from the finished article, but she has improved with every start and if there is a yard to find further improvement in a promising filly, it is surely Closutton. This is an easy case to make. A Juvenile hurdler who has already won a Graded hurdle in France by showing a great attitude and has now joined Willie Mullins, with a Fillies allowance to throw into the mix. There are lots of reasons to be excited by Kargese.