Another two French bred winners on day 3 of the Cheltenham FestivalFrench breeders had to wait until the Grade 1 Ryanair Steeple Chase on Thursday before they could celebrate, but what a celebration it was after Envoi Allen, who was bred by Bruno Vagne, became one if not the only horse to win a race on the flat, over hurdles and over fences at the Cheltenham Festival. It was in fact his fifth start at the Cheltenham Festival, where he lifted the Champion Bumper in 2019, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in 2020 and now the Ryanair Chase. A shock faller in the Marsh Novices’ Chase in 2021 and third behind Energumene in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last year, his longevity is testament to the French breeding industry. Although he beat the favourite Shishkin, his victory was very popular thanks to the Henry de Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore combination and his jockey said : « He is an incredible horse, he has a phenomenal engine. I always hoped that he could do this. Fair play to the team. He was a much happier horse today than last time.” Rachael Blackmore is also looking forward to the Cheltenham Gold Cup tomorrow where she is set to partner A Plus Tard. She said: “ I think A Plus Tard seems to suit any conditions. He hasn’t had the most ideal preparation, but he has been working really well, so we shall see what happens.”
Sire de Berlais gives a new meaning to stamina in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle
According to former jockey Thierry Doumen, who won the Stayers’ Hurdle twice aboard Baracouda, this year’s renewal of the main event of the day was “a proper race and very competitive.” It sure was, but the tough line-up didn’t impress the eleven-year-old Sire Du Berlais who won the race from Dashel Drasher and favourite Teahupoo, a result that was amended by the stewards who demoted Dashel Drasher to third and promoted Teahupoo to second. Bred by Jean-Marc Lucas, it was a first victory for the John P McManus owned Sire Du Berlais in the Stayer’s Hurdle, but it was his third success at the Festival. Sire du Berlais is out of the mare Royal Athenia who also produced Castle Du Berlais, who has won twice for Arnaud Chaille-Chaille, as well as Hermine Du Berlais who won a race for Robert Collet. John P McManus is a great supporter of French bred horses and he said: “I thought he had a little chance. I thought after the last he would run up the hill well but I didn’t know how the others would. I knew he would give it his lot.”While Sire Du Berlais took the tally of French bred horses of the day to two, there was nevertheless a little bit of disappointment regarding French raiders Gold Tweet and Henri Le Farceur who failed to get involved in the finish. Unlike last time, Gold Tweet made some unexpected mistakes, while Henri Le Farceur didn’t breathe properly during the race. However, both trainers are confident that they will be back to winning days upon their return to Auteuil.
Did you know that the Stayer’s Hurdle is the oldest Championship race at the festival ?Yes, the Stayer’s Hurdle was first run in 1912. And You wouldn’t believe that the Cheltenham Gold Cup was originally created as a support race for the County Hurdle in 1924. It was only the following year that it became a Championship race. (It was used for many years as a prep race for the Grand National) The Champion Hurdle was first run in 1927 and the Queen Mother Champion race is the youngest Champion race, as it was only inaugurated in 1959. Watching with a tear in one eye and a smile in the other It is never easy for trainers to see horses leave their yard to join another, regardless of how much money the sale (which they might have even initiated themselves) has made them in the process. After all, it is the first trainer who turns an inexperienced two-year-old into a horse that one day could become a champion at the Cheltenham Festival. Hence Yannick Fouin has mixed feelings about Lossiemouth, who is one of the favourites in the Gr1 JCB Triumph Hurdle on Friday. The four-year-old filly Lossiemouth is a daughter of Great Pretender and Mariner’s Light, bred under the banner of Sarl Elevage Des Vallons and Ian Kellit. She made her debut at Auteuil in the Prix Geographie, a race for unraced fillies, which she won by ten lengths. Unsurprisingly, that performance did not go unnoticed and her trainer Yannick Fouin, who also breeds horses at his Haras des Hautières, recalls: “I have worked for many years with the Madamet family. Last year they gave me four fillies, including Lossiemouth, who from the start was extremely promising. I was quite confident and I was wondering if I should run her on the flat or straight in the Wild Monarch. But then she was ready and so I ran her in the Prix Geographie, which is just before the Wild Monarch. She had worked so well, she was so mature for a filly. She was amazing and had a good head on her shoulders. I was so confident that I showed her to Pierre Boulard who bought her for Willie Mullins. The other day, without any traffic problems, she could have won. I hope that she wins this time round.
From the Prix d’Amerique to the Cheltenham Gold CupPhilippe Bunel is a fourth generation breeder of trotting horses but might enjoy the biggest success of his career on Friday if favourite Galopin Des Champs lifts the 99th edition of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Based in Putot-en-Bessin, a former commune in the Calvados department in the Normandy region that lies between Caen and Bayeux, the family stud that trades under the name of G A E C Des Champs, usually breeds trotting horses. I say usually, because there are twelve mares at the stud that produce trotting horses and one thoroughbred. “We are more in trotting than in flat or jump racing,” explains Philippe Bunel. “We always had trotters and then one day my father bought three thoroughbred mares, of which we kept one who is the dam of Galopin des Champs.” Manon Des Champs is the name of the dam of this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite. A winner on the flat and over hurdles, she went to stud at the end of 2004 and Philippe Bunel continues: “Today, Manon Des Champs is no longer with us, but she also produced Flute Des Champs who was a winner at Auteuil for Arnaud Chaille-Chaille.” While trotting is their passion, the Bunel family has followed Galopin des Champs’ career with interest and they are actually coming to Cheltenham on Friday. “We weren’t there when he fell last year,” concludes Philippe Bunel. “ We watched it on the internet and we were just so relieved that he didn’t injure himself. This year, we decided to actually go to Cheltenham for the first time. I’m coming with my family. After all, to have a Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite with just one thoroughbred mare is quite extraordinary.” It certainly is and should Galopin des Champs win on Friday, the family might have to rethink the direction they want to take when they go shopping for a broodmare.
Catching the Cheltenham Festival bug !Breeder Pierre-Jean Sabathier at the Haras de la Vega, which lies between Pau and Toulouse, has definitely caught the Cheltenham Festival bug. And it’s not the bad bug, which stopped him from coming to England in 2021, but the good one that brings a smile to his face when he talks about it. “I had sold already a few horses to England, but it was thanks to my friend Jean-Pierre Rivière and another English friend who doesn’t live too far from me and who said why don’t you come to Cheltenham that we first came here twelve years ago,” Pierre-Jean Sabathier tells his story. “We love racing here. Obviously, I caught the bug when horses I sold ran at Cheltenham, but even today without having any personal interest in a horse, I love coming here.” Nadiya De La Vega, was one of the horses he sold to England in the years following the turn of the century. She was trained by Nicky Henderson, but was unfortunately pulled up on her second attempt at Cheltenham when she ran in the Grade 3 Byrne Group Plate. “Pierre-Jean convinced me to get into breeding,” pursues his friend and racehorse owner Jean-Pierre Rivière. “And seeing that we are such fans of racing here, we named our first horse Atthetopofthehill! He won a race at Pompadour. But really, we just love it here. There is such a great atmosphere here, especially when the winner returns to the winner’s circle.”
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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