Il Est Francais is bang on course for a tilt at the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day following another facile success in France.
A Grade One-winning hurdler last year for the training partnership of Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm, the five-year-old made a smart start to his career over fences at Auteuil in September.
Connections had already been planning a cross-Channel raid for later in the year – and he now looks set to make the trip over the Christmas period after successfully stepping up to Listed class with an 11-length victory in the hands of James Reveley.
“He did everything right today, he jumped perfect,” said the jockey on Sky Sports Racing.
“The ground is pretty bottomless and he went through that, so he’s done everything we’ve asked of him so far and next stop Kempton. At his age, he’s up there with the best I’ve ridden and he’s got everything that a champion needs to have.
“He’s yet to prove it on the track in Grade One company over fences but I think he’s capable of winning plenty more races.”
Il Est Francais prevailed on five of his six outings over hurdles, including the Prix Renaud du Vivier at elite level.
Trainer George was thrilled with this latest victory as a 1-5 favourite and has no fears about the obstacles at Kempton.
He said: “It’s never nice watching a horse when he’s that short a price favourite and he had to do it all himself in front and everything, but watching him just makes it a lot easier, he just does everything so effortlessly.
“He’s a very exciting horse. It was a first time over fences on ground that heavy and he’s done it very well, so there’s lots to look forward to.
“The sky’s the limit with him and he adapts very well; from the first day he jumped fences he took to it like a duck to water, he’s very natural in everything he does.”
‘He’s just getting better!’
Owner Richard Kelvin-Hughes said: “Good horses can go on any ground. We can all see that he would love better ground than this, but he can still do it on this ground, so it makes it very exciting.
“I don’t think he made one mistake and James rode a perfect ride on him. He’s just getting better and better and he’s so mature for a young horse, relatively. What a future – we’ve just got to look after him now!”
With regards to a trip to Kempton, he added: “That is very much on the cards.
“It will be slightly better ground there, I would have thought – and it will be interesting to see him against some of the English and Irish horses there, as well.”