A new record !14 of the 28 winners at the Cheltenham Festival 2023 are French bred. French bred horses are 1 and 2 in Cheltenham Gold Cup ! For the second year in a row a French bred horse has won the Grade 1 The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase. In glorious sunshine and in front of an enthusiastic crowd, the Willie Mullins trained favourite Galopin des Champs beat fellow suffix FR Bravemansgame by seven lengths, followed by Irish bred Conflated. It was a great moment shared by his breeders Philippe and Christophe Bunel who had come over with their family to Cheltenham to witness a bit of history for their breeding operation. Yes, history was made because brothers Philippe and Christophe Bunel are specialised in breeding trotting racehorses and have currently one thoroughbred broodmare. “Yes, we only have Star Des Champs,” confirms Christophe Bunel. “She is a half-sister to Galopin des Champs and when she was born in 2006, we actually gave her away to be ridden just as a hack. But then she returned to us and she is currently in foal and is due to give birth as early as today. We might have to name the foal Cheltenham des Champs or Festival des Champs!” Whatever they will name the foal, one thing is for sure, after recording a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, they won’t let this one go for 6000 Euros !
First four home in the Cheltenham opener are French bred !JCB Triumph Hurdle victor Lossiemouth broke last year’s Festival record when she made it a 10th winner of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival for FR suffixes. Ridden by Paul Townend, who could barely hold onto her, she won the Grade 1 for four-year-olds from stable companions Gala Marceau, Zenta and Gust Of Wind who are all French bred and are all trained by Willie Mullins! Uncharacteristically the Irish trainer had been unable to get himself onto the podium on Thursday, but he was certainly back with a bang on the final day of the Festival. He said of Lossiemouth: “She took control of the race at the five marker and Paul instead of fighting her, he let her galop and just held onto her as much as he could for as long as he could. And he thought she was actually idling coming up the straight. There seems to be a little more in the tank and she looks a star mare.” Lossiemouth started her career with Yannick Fouin, who by the way also trained Impaire et Passe, the winner of the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices Hurdle on Wednesday, and is now owned by Rich Ricci who added when asked if he could see her running on the flat: “She is national hunt bred and won at Auteuil. I think she has enough boot to go on the flat, but at the moment my view is to go to Punchestown and put her away for the year. She is only four and maybe in two years’ time she will go to the Champion Hurdle, depending on Constitution Hill and others.”
Seduced by a flat pedigreeNicolas Madamet and his wife Cecile, as well as Ian Kellit are the people who bred Lossiemouth at the Elevage Des Vallons, while bloodstock agent Pierre Boulard bought her for Rich Ricci. Boulard is no stranger to success at Cheltenham and has sourced many winners over the years for Willie Mullins. Here he tells us what he liked about Lossiemouth when he first saw her at trainer Yannick Fouin’s yard: “I was at his yard two days before she made her debut at Auteuil. Yannick said he had a horse that was going to Auteuil that I should have a look at. And she comes out of her box and we just went Wow ! So we were at Auteuil two days later and she made a mistake at the last. I don’t know how she remained on her four feet but she goes on and wins by ten lengths. As we had been to the yard two days earlier, we were lucky that we could straight away seal the deal. But it’s not just the way she looked, it was also the pedigree that I liked. She is by Great Pretender and we have had a lot of success with that stallion, who is the sire of horses like Benie Des Dieux. And the dam Mariner’s Light is a half-sister to Lord Glitter, who was a very good flat horse. We had tried to buy him to go jumping, but he went to the underbidder. So it doesn’t surprise me that Willie is thinking about running her on the flat !
French bred on a roll !Following Lossiemouth’s success in the opener, Faivoir created a bit of a shock when he won the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle. The eight-year-old gelding is a son of Coastal Path out of Qape Noir who was bred by E A R L Trinquet & M & O Trinquet. He has two half-brothers Clic Work and Grand Voyage, who also successfully pursued their careers in England. Interestingly, Faivoir was partnered by Bridget Andrews, the only other female jockey to get her name on the board at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival. She said: “I kind of felt like he was enjoying it – he’s that kind of character; stay in, stay brave, although I wasn’t feeling that brave at the time. He jumped great and downhill I could just sit for a minute. He gave me his all today.” Faivoir made it twelve winners, Galopin des Champs a lucky thirteen and the final winner of the Festival went to Iroko, who allowed France to celebrate an astonishing 14th winner after he showed no mercy in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Iroko, who sports the famous silks of John P McManus, made his debut at Emmanuel Clayeux’ yard before joining Oliver Greenall. The five-year-old son of Cokoriko out of the Martaline mare Boscraie only had his fifth start over hurdles and this was his first run at Cheltenham. Bred by Jacques Cypres, this AQPS is certainly going places ! How did racing at Cheltenham originate ? It was in 1815 that horse racing came to Cheltenham. At the time, horses didn’t race at the racecourse we know now, but met on Nottingham Hill, above Bishops Cleeve. In those times, horse racing was pretty much a matter of friends and neighbours meeting up for a bit of competition and it was only three years later, on 25 August 1818 that the first official meeting took place. The first ever recorded winner at Cheltenham was a five-year-old bay mare by the name of Miss Tidmarsh. That meeting was a huge success and shortly after the first version of the Cheltenham Gold Cup was played out on Nottingham Hill. However, an overzealous preacher, who spoke against the evils of betting, caused riots that would result in the grandstand burning down in 1830. Luckily, local benefactor Lord Ellenborough came to the rescue and offered to move the races to Prestbury Park, to the north of the town that had become famous after King George III had transformed it into a fashionable Spa resort. The meeting that now dominates the Jump racing calendar was inaugurated in 1902 at the current site. In 1924, the first Gold Cup Steeplechase was won by Red Splash. Over the years it has turned into the most sought-after event of the Festival and Cheltenham Gold Cup winners like Golden Miller, who lifted the race in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1936, as well as Arkle who won it in 1964, 1965 and 1966 are regarded as the greatest chasers of all time.
Cheltenham attendanceFollowing a record attendance of 280,627 in 2022 across the four days and seeing that today it is all about customer experience, the Jockey Club, who organises racing at Prestbury Park, decided to reduce the number of tickets sold Thursday and Friday by 5000. However, despite the voluntary reduction in ticket sales, the racecourse was still heaving with happy punters who even the rain could not scare away. How about food at Cheltenham ? Around 12 000 people sat down for a three or four course lunch each day in the various restaurants and hospitality structures, while racegoers consumed an estimated: 45 000 – bred rolls 45 000 – afternoon teas 8 000 – gallons of tea and coffee 9 – tons of potatoes 5 – tons of smoked and fresh salmon 5 – tons of cheese