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    28 January 2024

    Unlikely Contender, Il Est Francais, Set to Run at Cheltenham Festival

    Il Est Francais: Aiming for Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris

    In a surprising turn of events, Il Est Francais is set to bypass the Cheltenham Festival and instead focus on the prestigious Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris. Despite his stunning performance at Kempton, where he secured a remarkable victory in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, the French connections have decided to prioritize their star chaser’s home soil.

    Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm’s six-year-old sensation captured everyone’s attention during Boxing Day with an electrifying display. The mere thought of witnessing him conquer Prestbury Park had racing enthusiasts brimming with excitement when he was entered for the Turners Novices’ Chase.

    However, plans quickly changed as the recent cold weather spell in France reaffirmed George and Zetterholm’s decision to keep their talented chaser closer to home this season. They remain steadfast in their ambition to conquer further challenges abroad next year.

    “He’s absolutely thriving after his triumph at Kempton. He has enjoyed a couple of weeks strolling on the walker and grazing in the paddock. His condition has significantly improved; he gained an impressive additional weight,” shared George enthusiastically.

    The frosty conditions that recently swept through Chantilly, where Il Est Francais is based, played a significant role in reshaping their strategy for this campaign. Consequently, they will opt for the French Gold Cup, held at Auteuil, a racecourse where their star chaser has consistently excelled.

    George continued, “Due to the weather conditions and his missed training week caused by snowfall, I don’t believe we will be heading to Cheltenham. Nonetheless, he remains in fantastic form. The entry was primarily precautionary in case there was an opportunity at Turners Novices’ Chase that fit perfectly into our schedule. However, with the recent setback due to snow and frosty weather conditions, it’s clear that our focus should now be on the French Gold Cup.”

    Il Est Francais will have a preparatory race scheduled for April 6th – a Grade Two event – before aiming for the main event: a Grade One competition set for May.

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