After a rather quiet past week for the French imports - except for Lamarckise who scored for Willie Mullins at Limerick on Thursday - there might be a bit more to look forward to in the coming days, especially a nice juvenile who is now trained by Paul Nicholls and also a half-brother to Champion Bumper winner Envoi Allen who is also with Gordon Elliott.
CALAJANI (Andrew Hollinshead)
It is rather surprising to see this seven-year-old son of Azamour entered in a hurdle contest at Ludlow this Wednesday as he is trained by English-born Andrew Hollinshead, who is based in France. He has not been declared for that engagement, but would be an interesting runner if he does appear over here in the near future. He has run fifty-three times on the flat so far and registered three victories in handicaps from 10.5f to 15.5f. He has done nothing noteworthy since August last year and hopefully the switch to the obstacles will have brought some positive change into his mind. There is no indication on his pedigree that he can succeed over jumps, but it is always interesting to see an Aga Khan-bred horse making his debut over the obstacles.
No current entries
CH’TI DIAMOND (François Nicolle >>> Dan Skelton)
By Diamond Boy and out of an unraced mare by Kahyasi. Her grand-dam Dedale was Listed-placed over hurdles at Auteuil and has produced a pair of useful performers over the obstacles in France. Ch’ti Diamond opened her account over hurdles at Les Sables d’Olonne on her second start in July 2018. She was then sent chasing and finished second to Fumicino at Dieppe. She subsequently finished fourth of eight in a competitive condition chase at Auteuil won by the mighty Goliath Du Berlais. Her last run in France in October 2018 is best to be forgotten as she certainly paid the price for having had several tough races throughout a long season. Nonetheless she was exported to UK in March last year and has been given plenty of time off which will have done her a world of good. Any progress on what she has shown in France would allow her to win some decent races in UK. I look forward to her debut on this side of the Channel and l would definitely keep her in your tracker.
Entered 2.40 Warwick, Saturday, 3.07 Uttoxeter, Saturday
FANION D'ESTRUVAL(Guillaume Macaire >>> Venetia Williams)
This horse made his debut before we started the French Connections column. He was an easy winner of his first start in UK at Newbury on 29 November, he never looked happy going around Kempton in his next outing at the end of December. He was a very impressive winner of four of his five starts in France and displayed an impressive turn of foot when scoring at Auteuil before he was exported to England. I expect him to leave behind his last below-par effort.
Entered 2.05 Warwick, Saturday (Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase). Also in the Arkle Trophy and Marsh Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
FIGHTER ALLEN (Gabriel Leenders >>>Gordon Elliott)
A half-brother to top-class performer Envoi Allen by Vision D'Etat, he jumped off an odds-on favorite when he scored by five lengths first time out on the flat last May at Le Lion D'Angers over 1m4f. He is a big individual and although he went clear in the final stages of the race, I must admit that he was not super impressive. He is a backward type and will have enjoyed a good break last summer. Without a doubt he will be back a much stronger horse now. It is interesting to note that he went through the sales ring at the Arqana Grand Steeple Sales last spring but was bought back at €310,000. Nonetheless he was exported the following month to join Gordon Elliott's powerful string in Ireland. As a half-brother to Champion Bumper winner Envoi Allen, he will be at the center of the attention on his debut over hurdles. Judged on the way he ran on the flat in France, I would just be a little concerned about the 2m trip that may be a touch too short, but that kind of worry may be put aside after Sunday's race.
Entered 2.15 Punchestown, Sunday
GILKA (Christophe Lotoux >>> Dan Skelton)
This AQPS filly is by Alianthus and out of a modest mare that has produced two winners from three to run. A clear second on debut on the flat at Saint-Brieuc last October, she missed the break in her next outing at Le Mans before finishing a good fourth. She finally opened her account at Cholet in very heavy ground on her third attempt. She only raced on the flat in France and against fillies of her age. Like most AQPS horses she should have no problem coping with the obstacles and could be an interesting newcomer in this branch of the game. She not easy to assess but has shown some potential in France so is best to keep on the radar.
Entered 3.45 Ludlow, Wednesday
GOUET DES BRUYERES (Donatien Sourdeau de Beauregard >>> Oliver Greenall)
A four-year-olds AQPS by Policy Maker out of an AQPS dam who was a smart performer in cross-country chases in France. He failed to fetch the reserve price at the 2019 Arqana Autumn sales and was then sold privately - at the sales though - for €40,000. Unplaced in both his starts on the flat, he was third to Wutzelino beaten ten lengths on his hurdle debut in heavy ground at Nantes mid-October. He made the running that day but was unable to find an extra gear in the final stages of the race. He is an AQPS and will obviously be a late developer who will benefit from plenty of time off next spring. Chasing will certainly be his best game in the future, but it will be interesting to see how he fares if he is to run this week over hurdles.
Entered 4.20 Bangor-On-Dee, Friday and 1.58 Uttoxeter, Saturday
STRATAGEM (Daniela Mele >>> Paul Nicholls)
A four-year-old gelding by Sunday Break out of a Linamix dam who has produced five individual winners over jumps including Ziga Boy, a smart chaser in the UK under Alan King, Stratagem was sold at the Arqana Autumn sales for €260,000. He made all when winning his only start in France at Auteuil last October, 3 lengths ahead of Solo who went on to score by 15 lengths in his next run at Auteuil. Judged on that sole performance in France, Stratagem seems to be an extremely exciting prospect. He is a horse with a lot of scope and should turn into a very nice chaser in the future. The way he won at Auteuil was an eye-catching performance and I’m convinced he should make a huge impact on his first start in UK, wherever it is.
Entered 4.20 Bangor-On-Dee, Friday. Also in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.