Before Sundays card at Auteuil, I found it impossible to choose between Le Berry and Galleo Conti, but now I can. Having destroyed a quality field on Sunday at Auteuil, I think it is fair to say that Le Berry is the best 4-year-old National Hunt horse in Europe right now. This was a very strong renewal of the Prix Orcada, with the much talked about Galleo Conti in the line up, along with Le Berry’s stablemate General En Chef. On his previous start at Auteuil, Le Berry had posted a superb set of time figures in the Grade 3 Prix the Fellow on 16th September, so he came into this race with a favourites chance, but he has now taken his form to a different level altogether.
What impressed me most was his maturity. For a 4-year-old, on just his 7th start to produce an effort like this was phenomenal. To make most of the running on very deep ground is one thing, but to do it with such confidence is quite another. Having seen off the attentions of Le Lude on the run to 2 out he kicked 10 lengths clear. Then, between the final 2 fences as Galleo Conti moved into top gear to close the gap, he kicked again and powered away, producing the fastest sectional time of the day between the final fence and the line, in spite of running over the longest trip.
Galleo Conti produced an excellent performance and is a quality horse in his own right, but he isn’t in the same league as Le Berry. 5 wins from 5 starts over fences, he has won three Grade 3 races in a row, by a combined distance of 29 lengths, without yet being fully extended. He has won on Good, Soft and Heavy going to prove his versatility. It is almost impossible to find a chink in his armour.
On breeding he should be good, he is by Gemix, a quality sire of National hunt horses, who won multiple hurdle races himself before becoming a Sire, including the Grade 1 Grand Course de Haies d’Auteuil, “the French Champion Hurdle”. While his dam was a winner on the flat over 12 furlongs and has produced other good jumps horses, including Dream Berry (Jonjo O’Neill) rated 138 in the UK and Berryville, (Jacques Ortet) who won 5 times over obstacles including a Grade 3 at Pau.
David Cottin is the coming force in French jumps racing, with Easysland pushing him to the fore last season with his win in the Cheltenham Cross-Country, he has shown what he can do. In Le Berry, he has a superstar. As with anything that runs well in France, there is always talk as to whether the horse will run in the UK. I’m not going to guess whether that will happen or not, but if it does, Le Berry would be a horse of serious interest as he already looks to be capable of running to a mark of 160 or more.
French National Hunt Racing is showing signs of a renaissance, with Master Dino and L’Autonomie at the forefront, but Le Berry could surpass them all.