From The Fellow to Easysland: Five of the best French-trained Cheltenham Festival heroes
A strong representation of French-bred winners is a regular occurrence at the Cheltenham Festival nowadays, but when Easysland lowered Tiger Roll’s colours in this year’s Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, he bridged a 15-year gap since the previous Festival winner trained in France.
With racing apparently poised to return in France on Monday, Mark Boylan highlighted five of the best French-trained Cheltenham Festival winners in recent memory;
1994 Cheltenham Gold Cup
France’s only winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup is an obvious standout, with his 1994 success a deserved reward for trainer Francois Doumen’s perseverance.
Having been denied Gold Cup glory when beaten a short head by Garrison Savannah in 1991 and Cool Ground in 1992, he was turned over when fourth to Jodami as 5-4 favourite a year later.
Fast forward 12 months and the then nine-year-old got his revenge on the previous year’s winner, providing jockey Adam Kondrat with an emotional success, having drawn criticism for his losing ride in 1993.
2002 and 2003 Stayers’ Hurdle
Regarded as one of the finest staying hurdlers of all time, Francois Doumen’s superstar won back-to-back runnings of the Stayers’ Hurdle before finishing second in the same race for the next two years.
In total, he recorded 18 career victories, ten of which came during a two-year unbeaten period from November 2000 to November 2002 for owner JP McManus.
2020 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
Taking the scalp of one of the greatest Cheltenham Festival performers of the modern era is no mean feat and the rising cross country star deserves his place on the list after his ultra-impressive success over Tiger Roll earlier this year.
The 17-length festival scorer is just a six-year-old so should have plenty more big days ahead of him at jump racing’s showcase event.
2000 Triumph Hurdle
Another Doumen delight. Having finished fourth as favourite for the Tolworth Hurdle behind Monsignor, Best Mate and Doctor Goddard, the pintsized filly annihilated her Adonis Hurdle rivals by nine lengths at Kempton before following up pretty readily in the Triumph.
“This was my first try in a race they always say is a killer for a horse,” said her trainer after the race. “But Snow Drop is very tough and hard and takes her racing terribly well.”
She would only have one further start, finishing fourth at Auteuil the following month, before enjoying a second career as a broodmare, producing Grade 1 Prix Alain du Breil Hurdle heroine Lina Drop.
2005 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
The first running of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle went the way of Moulin Riche, whose Festival success crowned a memorable week for the French following Kelami’s win in the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase (now known as the Ultima).
The five-year-old, who had 15 runs under his belt heading to his second Cheltenham Festival (seventh in the previous year’s Triumph Hurdle), spent the early part of his season over fences before reverting to hurdles and landing the staying prize in the hands of Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton.
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