The first day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival delivered everything fans had hoped for: The Festival banker Constitution Hill delivered a flawless performance, Honeysuckle returned to the podium for her final start of her career, the sun came out to shine and as always the Guinness flowed freely ! French breeders, too, were more than happy after El Fabiolo, Jazzy Matty and Gaillard du Mesnil brought home the first three victories of the Festival. In fact, the jumping season in England and Ireland runs from May to April and this season 26 of the 36 Grade 1 races had already been won by French breds. Following that first day at Cheltenham, the figure now stands at 27 out of 40 Grade 1 races. Not bad is it ?
El Fabiolo produces sentimental victory for owners Munir and Souede
In the end, the wait for a French bred victory in 2023 lasted only race, as El Fabiolo, a son of Spanish Moon and Sainte Mante, produced a brilliant performance in the Grade 1 Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase, the second race on the card, which got the ball rolling for the French suffixes. Trained by Willie Mullins in Ireland and owned by Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, the six-year-old comfortably held fellow French bred Jonbon by five and half lengths. Following this first success at the Cheltenham Festival for El Fabiolo, his owner Isaac Souede said : “We are absolutely thrilled with El Fabiolo. It is a little sentimental for us, because we bought him on the recommendation of David Powell, our former French racing manager. So there is a sentimental element attached to the horse and we are very pleased he won today.” The famous green colours of Simon Munir & Isaac Souede have been carried by some truly exceptional horses and one runner Isaac Souede is looking forward to seeing at Cheltenham is Impaire et Passe, who runs in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday. “I am very much looking forward to Impaire et Passe tomorrow” he confirmed. “We are very excited.”
From Cirque du Soleil to Cheltenham
« I love talking about horses » says Pascale Papon who together with her husband Eric has bred Impaire et Passe, the favourite of the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Wednesday. The husband-and-wife team, who are currently based in the Landes region, not far from Mont-de-Marsan, live and breathe horses. And when I say that they are currently based in the Landes region, it is because they never sit still. In fact, it has only been ten years that they returned from their adventures in North America where Eric worked as a trainer in Woodbine, Canada, before joining the circus. Yes, you are reading correctly, the circus. And not just any circus, but the world famous “Cirque du Soleil”.“Yes,” laughs Pascaline. “We spent 12 years in America, first in Canada where Eric trained and we also had a small stable of hunter/chasers. And then we became involved in Cavalia, which was a show created by one of the co-founders of the Cirque du Soleil. We had 72 horses to look after, to prepare the shows, to make sure that they were eating well and were healthy and also to train them. We were also very much involved in the logistics of setting it all up. They were all different kinds of horses, quarter horses, Friesians, Lipizzaners, Spanish thoroughbreds, yes, there was a whole bunch of them.” Cavalia allowed them to discover Las Vegas, Boston but also Madrid, Valence, yet after 12 years it was time to return to France where they launched themselves into breeding racehorses under the banner of the Haras de Peyre. “We love horses with a big H !” she continues. “A horse is a horse. In terms of breeding, we have been breeding for the last eight years and currently we have five broodmares at our stud, including Brune Ecossaise, who is the dam of Impaire et Passe.” Impaire et Passe started his career with trainer Yannick Fouin but was quickly sold to join Willie Mullins in Ireland. Since then, he has won two races over hurdles, both times very convincingly and Pascale Papon concludes : “Impaire et Passe is our first group winner and I hope with all my heart that he does well at Cheltenham. I have never been, but will watch it on tv. And hopefully I can come there maybe next year. In any case, I’m glad that he went to Willie Mullins after Yannick did so well with him, as I have a lot of admiration for Willie, who is a real horseman. I will be nervous on Wednesday, that’s for sure ! “
The biggest cheer goes to Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle
When the Nicky Henderson trained favourite Constitution Hill won the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy, the main event on Tuesday, the crowd went wild. And rightly so. After all, by going off at 4/11, he actually has become the shortest-priced winner in the history of the Champion Hurdle. Putting a combined 86 lengths between him and his rivals in six starts, it is no wonder that he was already hailed a champion before the race. State Man, bred by M L Bloodstock Ltd, had to accept a first defeat since making his debut over jumps and all his jockey Paul Townend said was: “He ran a cracker but he was beaten by an awesome horse.”There is no doubt that Constitution is the new star on the horizon and trainer Henry de Bromhead was relieved that he ran dual Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle in the Close Brothers Mares Hurdle instead, which she won in great style after pushing back Love Envoi on the flat. “It’s the fairy tale ending that usually doesn’t happen, said her trainer Henry de Bromhead. “I’m so happy for all of us, for Rachael, for Kenny, for everyone. We obviously had a terrible year with Jack and I think just the support everyone has given us, most of it is for Honey, she has been so unbelievable. We are really grateful for that. I think this was the result everyone wanted. Thankfully we picked the right race when you see the other lad in the Champion Hurdle. There is a big team behind her, and we are just delighted. It’s an incredible way to go out.” Asked if this was really her last race, he laughed and added: “Funnily, I haven’t heard. There is the mare’s hurdle in Punchestown, so we will see. I presume she is. This was our plan, but you never know. I’ll get a few drinks into Kenny and he will be going Walk in the Park and I’ll be going Walk to Punchestown, so we shall see. But no, I presume so.”
Jazzy Matty and Gaillard du Mesnil make it 2 and 3 for the French suffixes on day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival
The four-year-old Jazzy Matty, bred by J Magnien, C. Magnien & B. Magnien, gave French breeders a second winner on day one at Cheltenham, when he lifted the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott and amateur jockey Michael O’Sullivan. It was a poignant victory for the 23-year-old amateur who had created a bit of a shock when he beat the favourite Facile Vega on Marine Nationale in the Grade 1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. To ride any winner at the Cheltenham Festival is an achievement, to ride two on the same day, including a Grade 1 is outstanding. As to Jazzy Matty, he is the seventh foal out of Robbe who has produced the likes of Delta Work, himself a Cheltenham Festival winner, as he lifted the Glenfarclas Chase last year from Grand National winner Tiger Roll. There are not many mares who have produced more than one Cheltenham Festival winners, so many congratulations to her breeders! As to Gaillard Du Mesnil, bread by S.C.E.A. Ecurie Cerdeval, he was the winner of a dramatic The Wellchild National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Steeple Chase. A son of Saint Des Saints and Athena Du Mesnil, he gave Willie Mullins his second winner of the day.
RacesMay 20th and 21st Racing 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 Sale From July 4th to 6th – Arqana Summer Sale
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