Jumps Season - At The Races


News from France

    Jumpers To Follow author Paul Ferguson with the inside track on French imports.
  • Features

You will have already read about a number of exciting prospects who have arrived in Britain from France, but there are several more who have moved to England or Ireland more recently, having shown promise on home soil. Several are mentioned in this section of my Jumpers To Follow book, along with a select number who remain in training in France.

Leading Prospect PAROS looks to be an exciting addition to Nicky Henderson’s string and the horse who finished third behind him at Dieppe HACKER DES PLACES has since been purchased by Owners Group and is now in training with Paul Nicholls. A scopey looking son of Great Pretender, he ran out a taking winner at Dax on his second start for Francois Nicolle, despite veering to his left at times (quite markedly at the first flight in the home straight). He appeared to be full of running as he crossed the line, and should make his mark in the juvenile hurdle division.

Nicholls also purchased the first and second from a three-year-old hurdle at Auteuil in March. The race was won by MONMIRAL, who travelled with purpose, and took up the running at the end of the back straight. Ears pricked, he jumped well two out, and despite stepping at the last, ran out a taking winner (also trained by Francois Nicolle). A gelding by Saint des Saints, he is a half-brother to hurdle and chase winner Soulongy, and is in the ownership of John and Lisa Hales, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Ged Mason.

Monmiral had two-and-a-half lengths to spare over HELL RED, who is in the ownership of Sir Martin Broughton and Friends. A grey by Martaline, he is a full-brother to Hell Boy, a horse who has flour-ished since going chasing this year. He raced quite enthusiastically in the early part of the race and saw plenty of daylight out wide (probably not ideal). However, he still travelled up menacingly leaving the back straight and showed a good attitude to chase the winner all the way to the line. He covered a lot more ground than Monmiral, and they could be two nice recruits to Ditcheat.

Yet another three-year-old who won for trainer Francois Nicolle and has since changed yards is QUILIXIOS, who was purchased by Cheveley Park Stud and is now in training with Gordon Elliott. The son of Maxios was still a couple of lengths down jumping the last, but picked up well inside the final furlong, scoring by 12 lengths in the end. I’m Walkin’ (finished fourth from the same stable) went on to finish runner-up behind the exciting Heros d’Ainay in a Listed event at Auteuil (incidentally, the third horse from the Monmiral and Hell Red race finished back in sixth), and the ground was described as heavy when he made that successful debut at Compiegne back in March.

The McNeill Family have also purchased a three-year-old to go juvenile hurdling in Ireland, with YOUMDOR having moved to the yard of Willie Mullins. The Youmzain gelding showed a fine turn of foot when winning a handicap at Deauville in late-May (1m2f), where he came from off the pace under a confident Ludovic Boisseau. Ridden patiently, Youmdor travelled really well and picked up stylishly once seeing daylight in the home straight. It was a performance that suggests that he might be more about speed and it is also worth noting that he won over 7½f as a two-year-old. He could be one for a sharper track and better ground, but looks a bright prospect for hurdles.

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BUSSELTON is a Mastercraftsman three-year-old, who won on his hurdling debut for David Cottin, and has reportedly joined Joseph O’Brien. Sixth on his sole start as a two-year-old (at Angers in November 2019), he raced quite keenly in the early stages but settled better down the far side. He showed a good turn of foot to hit the front approaching two out, and having jumped the final two hurdles well (jumped well throughout, in fairness) he looked to score with a bit in hand. The runner-up State Man looks a sure-fire future winner, having come from off the pace, and is another three-year-old to monitor closely.

GLOIRE D’ATHON is another who will sport the Cheveley Park silks, having won on the Flat at Cholet over an extended 1m6f for Alain Couetil. A four-year-old by Doctor Dino, he has been with Henry de Bromhead since the end of last year and would probably have made his debut for his new connections in the spring, had the season not been brought to a premature end. The positive is that he remains a novice for the full season, and although that form isn’t the easiest to evaluate (certainly wouldn’t appear to be particularly strong), he picked up well and won with plenty in hand, despite showing signs of greenness in the closing stages. It will be interesting to see how he fares once sent hurdling this autumn.

Owner Mike Grech – who has bought expensive horses such as Gallyhill and Keskonrisk (both feature elsewhere in the book) – has acquired a well-bred un-raced four-year-old by the name of I AM MAXIMUS. He’s by Authorized and out of Polysheba (a Poliglote mare), making him a half-brother to Pointel, a winner over 1m6f for James Fanshawe. He also finished runner-up in a 2m handicap at Goodwood, suggesting there is plenty of stamina for jumping in his pedigree, and he is one to note in bumpers for Nicky Henderson.

I thought I would touch upon another couple of impressive winners who – at the time of writing – are set to remain in France, starting with the aforementioned Heros d’Ainay who won the Listed Prix Go Ahead on his racecourse debut for trainer Gabriel Leenders. A Sholokhov half-brother to Jonjo O’Neill’s Arrivederci, he raced enthusiastically throughout and had the race sewn up when jumping two out. He dived at the last, but drew right away to record a striking success, in a race which was won by Kauto Star back in 2003. He heads the betting for the Triumph Hurdle with several firms, but I would expect to see him campaigned domestically.

And, secondly, Happyday looked a nice prospect when winning an AQPS race (a French bumper) over 1m4f at Vichy. Tracking the pace throughout, the grey looked as though he might be trapped on the rail with a couple of furlongs to run, but his rider was patient and the gap soon came. Having been nudged upsides, he quickly asserted in the closing stages, showing a good turn of foot, and putting the race to bed in a matter of strides, winning a shade cosily in the end. By Coastal Path and out of a Dom Alco mare, he boasts a lovely jumping pedigree and is a half-brother to Farnice, a five-time winner (won two Grade 3 chases) for Francois Nicolle. He could be a smart long-term prospect.

Finally, an update from France wouldn’t be complete without touching upon Easysland who ran out a facile winner of the Cross Country Chase when last seen. Still only six, returning to Cheltenham to defend his crown next March will, no doubt, be the main aim for the season for him, and he might well follow a similar path back to the festival (via Pau, in February). The Grand National is another possibility in the spring, and although he will only be seven, he boasts considerably more experience than most horses of that age. Even at this stage, he is as short as 6-4 to win a second successive Glenfarclas Chase, making him the shortest priced horse (2-1 best) in any race at this season’s Cheltenham Festival.

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