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#1 – The FRBC’s newsletter at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival

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#1 – Monday, March 13th

Course Joker

©PA Images / Icon Sport / Scoopdyga

It’s the second Tuesday in March and it’s St Patrick’s day on Friday, so that can only mean one thing: It’s the start of the legendary Cheltenham Festival !On Monday morning, as the racecourse was battered by blustery winds, many racing fans from Ireland, England, France and Germany were already standing at the gates of national hunt racing’s most famous racecourse, equipped with the best binoculars money can buy. Why ? You might ask. Doesn’t the meeting start on Tuesday ? Yes, it does, but on Monday morning the Irish raiders, including the likes of dual Champion hurdle winner Honeysuckle, as well as Cheltenham Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard, were stretching their legs on the track in preparation of their tasks this week. It is always a great spectacle when the massive string of the Willie Mullins trained horses come out and is much appreciated by the punters who like to get an early glimpse of the horses they are going to back during the week. Talking about the Antonia Devin bred A Plus Tard, who was ridden to perfection by racing’s golden girl Rachael Blackmore in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup last year, he was one of 9 French bred horses to win one of the 28 races at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022, which was a sharp increase from 2021, when “only” four French bred horses made it onto the podium. A Plus Tard will attempt to defend his crown this year and is one of many French bred horses in the spotlight at Cheltenham.Tomorrow’s main event though, the Unibet Champion Hurdle, is all about the Nicky Henderson trained Constitution Hill, who is British bred and who is being hailed as the next superstar. Nicky Henderson has trained 72 Festival winners, which makes him the most successful British trainer at the Festival. In fact, only Ireland’s Willie Mullins has trained more winners and he will be saddling French bred State Man in the Unibet Champion Hurdle. State Man, a son of Doctor Dino and Arret Station who was bred by M.L. Bloodstock Ltd, is like Constitution Hill already a Festival winner after lifting the Grade 3 McCoy Contractors Country Handicap Hurdle race last year. Unbeaten since falling on his first start in Ireland after leaving Daniela Mele to join Willie Mullins, he still has a steep hill to climb if he wants to beat Constitution Hill who has his trainer gushing when he says : “Constitution Hill’s racing game is brilliant. You could go three miles with him because you’d just switch him off and put him to sleep and then wait until you get the right moment and press the button. It really is as simple as that. He is an extraordinary animal!” So the race is on again between the English and the Irish, a friendly rivalry that has been going on as long as anyone can remember. However, this year, for the first time since 2020 when the David Cottin trained Easysland beat dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll by seventeen lengths in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, a couple of French trainers are crossing the Channel in the hope of showing British and Irish racing fans that they too are a force to be reckoned with. Indeed, both Gabriel Leenders and Hugo Merienne, with the help of sponsors Red Mills, have decided to supplement their horses for the Grade 1 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday. The Gabriel Leenders trained Gold Tweet has already been around the very demanding track at Cheltenham, where to the surprise of many, he lifted the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at the end of January. Encouraged by his friends’ success, Hugo Merienne decided there and then that he too would supplement Henri le Farceur in this fabulous marathon over hurdles, which was dominated in 2002 and 2003 by the brilliant French bred Baracouda. Trained by François Doumen, who paved the way for French trainers at Cheltenham, Baracouda, a son of Alesso and Peche Aubar, was without doubt one of the best stayers of the century. If Gold Tweet or Henri Le Farceur can follow in his hoof steps, remains to be seen, but as Nicolas de Lageneste, who bred Henri Le Farceur, says : “I think he has a great chance, especially if there is more rain and the ground softens.” And rained it has ! During the night from Sunday to Monday, the Cheltenham racecourse at Prestbury Park, which is nestled below the Cotswolds and Cleeve Hill in the region of Gloucestershire, received 4mm of rain, which changed the going from soft, good to soft in place, to soft. The rain has been welcomed by most trainers and certainly by clerk of the course Jon Pullin, who had only told the media ten days ago that Cheltenham had not received any significant rain since mid-January ! And there could be even more rain on the way, but it won’t deter the many racing fans who have been counting down the days to these four days of exceptional jump racing. Come rain or shine, the Cheltenham racecourse will be buzzing as usual.

Tuesday Frenchbred entries at the Festival (on ITV)

Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Gr1) 2m½f

Doctor Bravo, trained by Goron Elliott and bred by Gaeten GillesIl Était Temps, trained by Willie Mullins and bred by Emmanuel Clayeux & SC Ecurie CoudercTahmuras, trained by Paul Nicholls and bred by GAEC Stewart

Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Gr1) 2m

El Fabiolo, trained by W.P Mullins  and bred by Francis DunnHa D’Or, trained by W.P Mullins and bred by Nathalie Viel & Alain VandenhoveJonbon, trained by Nicky Henderson and bred by Lotfi KohliSaint Roi, trained by W.P. Mullins and bred by P E Guilloux, J Thomas & B Dasque

 Ultima Handicap Chase (Gr3) 3m1f

Fanion d’Estruval, trained by  Venetia Williams and bred by Marie-Francoise Le GentilFastorlow, trained by Martin Brassil and bred by Sydney VidalNassalam, trained by Gary Moore and bred by SARL Genetique ObstacleKarl Philippe, trained by Fergal O’Brien and bred by A de la Motte Saint-Pierre & N CottinIceo Madrik, trained by David Pipe and bred by Ecurie les Boulaies & Isabelle MousseigneLaskalin, trained by Venetia Williams and bred by Christine CheyrouFantastikas, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and bred by Robin & Edgar Van HaarenThe Wolf, trained by Olly Murphy and bred by Olivia Goupil

Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Gr1) 2m½f 

State Man , trained by W.P. Mullins and bred by ML Bloodstock LtdVauban, trained by W.P. Mullins and bred by P. Decouz & SCEA Du Bas Bugey

Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Gr1) 2m4f

Epatante, trained by Nicky Henderson and bred by Francois-Xavier & Anne Doulce LefeuvreEchoes In Rain, trained by W.P. Mullins and bred by Thierry Storme

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Gr3) 2m½f

Tekao, trained by W.P. Mullins and bred by SCEA des Prairies & B Jeffroy & T JeffroyRisk Belle, trained by W.P. Mullins and bred by EARL Patrick Joubert & SC Ecurie CoudercPunta Del Este, trained by Dan Skelton and bred by P. Cottin & N. BoudraaBad, trained by Ben Pauling and bred by Hugues RousseauJazzy Matty, trained by  Gordon Elliott and bred by J. Magnien & C. Magnien & B. MagnienFils De Roi, trained by Fergal O’Brien and bred by Yannick Fouin Afadil, trained by Paul Nicholls and bred by SA Agan KhanRomancero Le Dun, trained by Jane Williams and bred by Frederic Ouvry 

Wellchild National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase (Gr2) 3m6f

Fakiera, trained by Gordon Elliott and bred by Philippe AchardGaillard Du Mesnil, trained by W.P. Mullins and bred by SCEA Ecurie Cerdeval Mister Coffey, trained by Nicky Henderson and bred by SCEA Le Haras D’Haspel


Save The Date

RacesMay 20th and 21stRacing TV Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil (Gr.1)Prix Alain Du Breil (Gr.1)Prix Ferdinand Dufaure (Gr.1)Grande Steeple Chase de Paris (Gr.1)
SalesMay 20th – The Auteuil Arqana SaleFrom July 4th to 6th – Arqana Summer Sale



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