Espoir d’Allen, Klassical Dream and Duc des Genievres French heroes of the Festival opener

12 March 2019

Photos Hippodrome Édition & Communication

A 5-year-old AQPS bred in the Allier by Bruno Vagne won the first major championship of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Gr1), on Tuesday in Britain. Espoir d’Allen (Voix du Nord) is trained in Ireland by Gavin Cromwell for owner of "JP" McManus, also the owner of the favourite of the race, Buveur d’Air (Crillon), who unseated his rider trying to win this race for the third year in a row...

Very comfortable with the heavy track condition, Espoir d’Allen left his best opponent Melon (Medicean), formerly trained in France, 15 lengths behind.

The winner would still be undefeated had he not got beaten in February 2018 at Leopardstown, when he finished fourth before falling sick. He didn’t make the trip to Cheltenham for the Triumph Hurdle (Gr1) after that but caught up in emphatic fashion a year later. For his first season against more seasoned horses, he had already won three times before this.

Champion weanling of the 2014 Decize conformation show, Espoir d’Allen just never does anything badly. His dam, the unraced Quadanse, is by Maille Pistol, whose stud fee had been awarded to Bruno Vagne in a draw organized by the AQPS breeders’ Association. The breeder, whose family is well known in the Center-East of France in the AQPS World, had elected to mate the mare Etoile d'Or II (Lute Antique) to Maille Pistol because both were front-runners. After Espoir, Quadanse gave Freedom du Fenoir (Saddler Maker) and then Irish du Fenoir (Petillo).

The first day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival had already started very well for the French division as they had won the first two Group1s on the card. Klassical Dream (Dream Well) won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Gr1) from start to finish. Mrs. Coleman's red and yellow jacket looked immaculate in the final bend, as Willie Mullins’ trainee left his best Thomas Darby (Beneficial) over 4 lengths behind. Another Frenchbred, Itchy Feet (Cima de Triomphe), finished third.

Klassical Dream was bred in France by Hubert Honoré and Laure Guillaume, master of the Academy of Equestrian Arts at Versailles. The 5yo gelding started in France for owner Ecurie Zingaro, owned by the equestrian showman and the Versailles academy founder Bartabas, who sold him through bloodstock agent Pierre Boulard to the late John Coleman.

Fourth in the Prix Cambacérès 3yo Hurdle (Gr1) behind Master Dino at Auteuil in November 2017, Klassical Dream stands now undefeated in three races in Ireland and Great Britain. He is out of Klassical Way (Septième Ciel), winner at Auteuil and Enghien over hurdles and fences for Ecurie Zingaro.

Co-breeder of the horse and manager of his Haras d'Oméel in Normandy, Hubert Honoré was attending his first Cheltenham Festival.

The Arkle Trophy (Gr1) also went to a Frenchbred jumper trained by Willie Mullins as the 6-year-old AQPS Duc des Genièvres (Buck's Boum) won by 13 lengths after galloping near the leaders until the top of the hill. The Sullivan Bloodstock representative (like Silviniaco Conti and Champion Hurdle fancy Laurina) was the only horse bred in France at the start of this hot race. He was bred in Allier by Colette Serre. His dam Lobelie (Round Sovereign) only ran over the flat until she was 6 years old. As the only French flat races for half-blood horses of 6 years and over take place in Corsica, she went there then and won three races before returning to the Mainland. Her latest foal is a 4-year-old filly by Sageburg trained by Éric Vagne, who also trained Duc des Genièvres when he started his career with a win over hurdles in his backyard at Moulins. He was exported after that and even though he finished twice in the frame as a novice hurdler in Gr1 level last season, he did not manage to win. Duc des Genièvres was also placed in his first two first chasing races this term, only to win for the first time on the British Isles last time out at Gowran Park!

Only a fall at the last hurdle of Benie des Dieux (Great Pretender) in the Mares’ Hurdle Race (Gr1) prevented the French from winning the 4 Gr1s of the opening card. Ir looked like the Willie Mullins-trained 8-year-old mare had the race in the bag but she had to let Roksana (Dubai Destination) go for Ireland, and beat the Frenchbred 5-year-old Stormy Ireland (Motivator) by a little bit more than 2 lengths.

On the other hand, the 5-year-old A Plus Tard (Kapgarde) did not fail in the handicap Novices’ Steeple Chase (LR), run over a little more than 1m1/2. Bred by Mrs Henri Devin, Antonia, he won a Listed race at Auteuil in April when trained by Dominique Bressou, and now belongs to Cheveley Park Stud. It was his fourth race since leaving France, and his second win.

Another 1-2 for French breeders closed the day as Le Breuil (Anzillero) outstayed Discorama (Saddler Maker) in the National Hunt Challenge Cup (Gr2).