Al Boum Photo, Epatante and Politologue carried off three out of the four championship races for French breeders at Cheltenham 12 months ago and are all back to defend their crowns, while in addition Champion Chase favourite Chacun Pour Soi and dual festival winner Envoi Allen will be expected to deliver major performances. But what of those emerging talents who will be making their Prestbury Park debuts? We've selected five French breeding stories that could be about to have a glorious chapter added.
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Twice placed at Graded level in AQPS bumpers for Isabelle Gallorini, Gaillard Du Mesnil was bought to go to the Mullins academy by Pierre Boulard at the Arqana Autumn sale in 2019 for €250,000.
Now carrying the Al Boum Photo colours of Marie and Joe Donnelly, he has quickly built on a debut second over hurdles at Punchestown with an impressive maiden success at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting, a win he backed up stylishly back at the same venue in a 2m6f Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Gallorini has proved a fruitful source of talent for Mullins in recent seasons, with Benie Des Dieux and Klassical Dream both passing through her hands before being snapped up by Boulard.
Bred by Hubert Cerruti under the Ecurie Cerdeval banner and out of the Al Namix mare Athena Du Mesnil - herself closely related to Triumph Hurdle winner Soldatino - Gaillard Du Mesnil bids to add a third festival win to the CV of Haras d'Etreham leading man Saint Des Saints, following Salut Flo (2012 Plate) and Aux Ptits Soins (2015 Coral Cup).
7/10 Deserved market leader in a deep race which also features the exciting Bravemansgame and Bob Olinger.
Supreme Novices' Hurdle or County Hurdle
Haras de Cercy's Cokoriko should hopefully have plenty of Cheltenham success ahead of him, with his oldest runners having only turned six.
The sire's Fifty Ball won two of his five AQPS bumpers for trainer Pascal Journiac before being knocked down to Nicolas Bertran de Balanda for €60,000 at the 2019 Osarus NH sale.
Fifty Ball races for the same owner/trainer combination of Steve Packham and trainer Gary Moore as leading Champion Hurdle contender Goshen, himself raised in France by trotting breeder Christophe Toulorge.
Like another of Cokoriko's early trailblazers, Thyestes Chase winner Coko Beach, Fifty Ball was bred by Jean-Louis Berger, whose association with the festival goes back to the very first AQPS bred to taste Grade 1 succes at Cheltenham, 1991 Sun Alliance Chase winner Rolling Ball.
Voix Du Nord made a major impact at Cheltenham during his short stud career through the efforts of Espoir D'Allen, Defi Du Seuil and Vroum Vroum Mag, and the late stallion is represented here as damsire.
5/10 Should be suited by the fast pace of whichever race he runs in and open to further improvement.
James Du Berlais, sent by his owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede to join Willie Mullins at the conclusion of a fine four-year-old career with Robert Collet, has yet to jump a hurdle in public away from Auteuil or Clairefontaine.
After a normal season there would still be some collateral form to draw on from his runs in the two Grade 1 hurdles for four-year-olds, in which he was beaten a short neck and a short head, but with Anglo-Irish participation at a minimum during 2020 due to Covid-19, the level of those performances is difficult to judge.
What can be said is that he is bred for the job, being a half-brother to young stallion Goliath Du Berlais by late Haras du Mezeray resident Muhtathir, himself the sire of Envoi Allen.
King's Daughter, the dam of James Du Berlais, was a high-class performer over hurdles at Auteuil, having been ridden to success by Dean Gallagher in the Grade 3 Prix Bournosienne when carrying the colours of owner Jean-Marc Lucas - the breeder of James Du Berlais - while she is also a half sister to Lyreen Legend.
Cheltenham chances: 4/10 To win the Champion Hurdle on a first start outside France looks a tall order, but James Du Berlais is undoubtedly exciting for the future.
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
The Decize AQPS Show has become a regular source of Cheltenham success, most famously as the first public appearance of Sprinter Sacre and more recently thanks to Envoi D'Allen, who was crowned champion foal in 2014.
A year later Philippe Achard showed Fakiera at Decize and, although there were no prizes won that day, the son of Cokoriko was not left standing in a French field for long before making his way to Niall Bleahen's Liss House Stud, from where he was sold to Aidan 'Mouse' O'Ryan for €50,000 at the 2018 Derby Sale.
From Decize to NavanNovember 22, 2020
Fakiera's dam is the Network mare Stella D'Engilbert, a winner on the Flat in the provinces and from the family of 2002 Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris winner El Paso III.
Cheltenham chances: 6/10 Fakiera, second favourite in most lists for the Albert Bartlett and the winner of the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle before Christmas, has a turn of foot for a horse so stoutly bred.
National Hunt Novices' Chase, Brown Advisory Novices' Chase or Gold Cup
Arguably the most intriguing French tale waiting to be told at the festival revolves around Royale Pagaille, not least because this highly-rated novice could yet line up in the Gold Cup.
While that option is at least in part explained by owners Rich and Susannah Ricci also having Brown Advisory Novices' Chase favourite Monkfish on the books, the Gold Cup entry is also a reflection of two dominant displays in good handicaps at Kempton and Haydock.
Royal Pagaille, a son of Blue Bresil bred before the stallion was transferred from the Haras du Grand Chesnaie to Glenview Stud in Ireland, produced his best performance in France on the last of ten starts for Francois Nicolle and the Papot family when finishing runner-up in a Listed chase for four-year-olds at Auteuil, after which he was secured for the Riccis by Guy Petit for €70,000 at Arqana's 2018 Autumn sale.
While Philippe Mace - the former boss of bridal outfit supplier Pronuptia - has largely given up on his dream of breeding thoroughbreds, Royale Pagaille's dam, the Villez mare Royale Cazoumaille, has continued to produce for her new owners, Ecurie Sagara.
Cheltenham chances: 7/10 A major player in whichever race connections opt for
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Source : https://www.racingpost.com/bloodstock/five-potential-french-bred-stars-that-could-make-the-cheltenham-breakthrough/4770852113