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Katie Walsh: Ill Est Francais was jaw-droppingly good

16 Jan | BY Katie Walsh | MIN READ TIME |
Katie Walsh: Ill Est Francais was jaw-droppingly good

The Betway ambassador gives her views on the best of the racing from the Christmas period, and looks ahead to this weekend's showdown between El Fabiolo and Jonbon.

Happy New Year to all the readers of my blog. I hope you all enjoyed the sporting action over the holiday period – I know I certainly did. It was, as ever, superb racing and there were three standout performances for me. While I don’t think they will surprise anyone, I was very impressed.

Constitution Hill

I love him. He’s just outstanding, and everything he does – and the way he does it –  is special. I know he’s exuberant, but I love the way he jumps. It’s one of his best assets. He doesn’t seem to alter his stride, he’s just up, over and away.

The news broke today that he won’t be making his next start at Trials Day at Cheltenham a week on Saturday due to a dirty scope, but he should have plenty of time to get back to his best level of form in time for the Champion Hurdle in March. If he does get there in peak fitness, I know he won’t be a betting proposition, but as a racing fan you have to be excited by what he can do.

Galopin Des Champs

I was so happy to see him back to his brilliant best. I liked the way they rode him more positively, and so did he, by the look of things. He’s got lots of natural pace and he jumped from fence to fence in great style. All roads lead to the Dublin Racing Festival and then Cheltenham for the Gold Cup. If he’s in this sort of form, he’ll take some beating. 

Ill Est Francais

Wow. I was blown away by him. The word was that he was very good and connections knew they had something special, but horses have a way of making you look silly sometimes. My word, though, this guy didn’t let anyone down. He was jaw-droppingly good. He won the Kauto Star for novices, but he would have won the King George on the same card if they’d have run him in that instead.

With the technology we now have, the data we can get on a horse’s performance is brilliant. It’s shown that he made up over 20 lengths throughout the race from his jumping alone – that is one hell of an asset to have. He’ll not be seen in England again until 26th December this year, where he’ll likely head to the King George – for which he’s already the favourite – but he’ll be running in the Grand Steep in France in the Spring, where the prize money is brilliant. 

Other stand-outs

It was good to see Bob Olinger win the Relkeel in the style he did, which is a testament to the training performance from Henry de Bromhead and his team. It’s often hard to go over fences and then come back over hurdles and consistently reach the top level, but he looks like he’s not far off that now and I would say he has plenty of options over two and a half and three miles. It should also be said that Rachael gave him a peach of a ride. 

I’m not sure that the novice hurdlers are the best crop this season, but I was very impressed by Mystical Power on Sunday. He’s obviously very well bred, but I wasn’t overly excited after his debut win. Yesterday really caught my attention, though. I see he’s the new favourite for the Supreme, a race that JP McManus has a very strong hand in with Jeriko Du Reponet for Nicky Henderson and A Dream To Share. We haven’t seen the Champion Bumper winner yet, though, so you’d think he might not make the Supreme at this stage. 

The racing over the weekend wasn’t first class, but the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas on Friday, which was rearranged from last week, was the best race. The winner, Readin Tommy Wrong, was given a great ride by Daryl Jacob and ultimately was the best horse on the day and won fair and square, but the horse to take out of it for me was the third, Lecky Watson. He was very keen and is still learning but, once he learns to settle, I think he’ll pick up plenty of nice races. He’s one for the notebook.

This weekend

The race we’re all looking forward to seeing is round three of El Fabiolo versus Jonbon in the Grade 1 Clarence House at Ascot. Hopefully it’s a competitive race and both horses come out fine and take each other on again in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. I still can’t decide which side I’m on as they’ve both looked very good – and have improved – this season. I’m sure Saturday will tell us more.

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Katie Walsh

Katie Walsh

Successful former jump jockey who, until 2021, boasted the best ever Grand National finishing position by a female jockey.

Katie Walsh

Katie Walsh

Successful former jump jockey who, until 2021, boasted the best ever Grand National finishing position by a female jockey.