How French-bred horses could rediscover the form of 2020

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It’s exhausting to imagine how shortly Cheltenham has come again round. The Pageant welcomes spectators again for the primary time in two years, with the coronavirus pandemic actually overshadowing the previous few seasons of horse racing. Whereas some had been capable of modify to the eery silence of an empty race monitor, others discovered it virtually soulless and since mass crowds had been allowed again in attendance when modifications to restrictions had been made again in July of final yr, the motion has actually amped up a couple of notches, making this yr at Cheltenham all of the extra particular. 

Final yr’s showpiece occasion actually felt unusual. Seeing a champion rock up the presentation podium with out the boisterous adulation of spectators simply didn’t really feel the identical, and the entire interval of racing behind closed doorways gave that further fringe of unpredictability to the Cheltenham Offers. It was a yr by which French-bred horses didn’t capitalize on the affect that they had in 2020, the place the likes of Epatante, Al Boum Picture, and Politologue received three main races, however as the brand new yr rolls round, there’s at all times a chance to trigger an upset. 

You solely want to have a look at the festive interval to see how unpredictable the massive races might be. There’s at all times an out of doors likelihood of a shock winner — take Twister Flyer for instance. The Willie Mullins-trained 28/1 shot snatched King George VI Chase from beneath Clan de Obeaux in a race that set the tone for the brand new yr. Now, with Cheltenham on the horizon, it is going to be attention-grabbing to see what number of French-breeds can repeat an analogous feat. 

2021 was not utterly misplaced on them, with Allaho most notably profitable the Ryanair Chase however they might do properly to seek out their toes at this yr’s Pageant, and a plethora of horses have an excellent likelihood of going to distance in mid-March — let’s check out a couple of of Cheltenham’s races and see how the French-bred horses fare. 

Queen Mom Champion Chase – Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi

The battle between Energumene and Shiskin was a narrative that dominated the beginning of the yr, with many questioning if their rivalry would boil over to Cheltenham. The duo set the tempo for the yr within the Clarence Home Chase at Ascot, the place the French-bred was simply pipped to first place by Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old, establishing an entertaining conflict within the Queen Mom Champion Chase.

“The great factor is there may be going to be a rematch now,” Henderson said: “There’s nothing between them and if we are able to each get them there it’s going to be fascinating and loads of enjoyable. However that is an solely spherical one and spherical two is subsequent – and it’s for the championship.”

Then there may be Chacun Pour Soi, who after a 64-day break, began the yr in model with victory within the Dublin Chase for Mullins, beating fellow French-bred Dunvegan and Captain Guinness, who can even be within the Champion Chase. Regardless of his solely run at Cheltenham coming final yr, the place he completed fourth, the unpredictability of a giant race and the circumstances on the day imply you possibly can’t rule the 10-year-old out, particularly with Paul Townend aboard.

Cross Nation Chase – Easysland, Prengarde, and Ajas

The Cross Nation Chase is unquestionably an attention-grabbing proposition this yr. Whereas many view it as a remaining swansong for Cheltenham icon Tiger Roll, particularly since he pulled out of the Grand Nationwide this yr, there are nonetheless a plethora of contenders that every one have an opportunity of profitable on day two of the Pageant. Amongst them are three French-breeds all able to doing the enterprise — Easysland, Prengarde, and Ajas. 

It’s been tough to guage former Cross Nation champion Easyland forward of this yr’s Cheltenham after pulling out of the Handicap Hurdle at Sandown, and making the step again as much as Grade Two having predominately run in Grade Three. Guillaume Macaire-trained Prengarde has all of the makings of a future champion and having received his final two races with Kilian Dubourg, the six-year-old has each likelihood of inflicting an upset. Lastly is Ajas, who after pulling out of final yr’s Cross Nation Chase can be trying to discover his toes once more underneath David Cotton after virtually a yr’s absence. 

Gold Cup – Al Boum Picture and A Plus Tard

Ah sure, the Gold Cup — the head of Cheltenham success and such a poignant ending for 4 days of exhilarating racing motion. The Gold Cup serves as a shining instance of racing excellence, with Minella Indo profitable final yr for Henry de Bromhead because of some good work from jockey Jack Kennedy. As talked about earlier than, Mullins-trained Al Boum Picture was the final winner to run to glory in entrance of a packed-out Prestbury Park again in 2020. He made consecutive wins so as to add to his 2019 victory and can be eager to regain his title this time round. Nevertheless, it actually received’t be straightforward.  

There are many prime Grand One winners coming into this yr, together with the likes of Galvin and Conflated, so for Mullins to win the Gold Cup and add one other accolade to his prolonged record of Cheltenham winners all able to going to distance.

Then, after all, there’s serial winner A plus Tard. Compelled to accept a podium place final yr in second, the eight-year-old will need to take the following step, and to win he’ll should be at his greatest, with Galvin simply pipping him to the Savills Chase at Leopardstown. Nevertheless, Rachael Blackmore is ready to be aboard, and given the yr she simply had, there may be each likelihood A plus Tard can snatch victory in what proves to be a particularly aggressive race.



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