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Press Release 26th December 2023 Kempton Park

Il Est Francais produced a spectacular round of jumping at Kempton Park to land the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase – drawing instant comparisons with the horse the race is named after.

The legendary Paul Nicholls-trained Kauto Star won the King George VI Chase five times and the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice to earn himself superstar and legendary status in the Jump racing world.

And Nicholls was forced to watch as the French-trained five-year-old Il Est Francais put in some breathtaking jumps to become the third French-trained winner of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at odds of 13-8, defeating his own charge Hermes Allen (11-8 favourite).

The victory was a first UK Grade One success for the training partnership of Noel George - son of UK-based trainer Tom George - and Swedish-born Amanda Zetterholm.

After watching Il Est Francais lead for the entire three miles and leave his five rivals in his wake, George said: “I’m just delighted that he’s been able to come over here and show everyone just how good he is. It’s great for French racing to come over here and prove we can be competitive at the top level.

“He made a couple of mistakes today but he was very, very good otherwise and he has an incredible cruising speed… He takes my breath away every morning on the gallops.”

George continued: “It is not very nice to watch as you always have your stomach in your throat. When you see him in the morning and I say he takes your breath away, he does. I was just nervous him coming over here and showing how good he is. I know he is the real deal.

“He doesn’t have to go in front, he has just got that cruising speed. I never work him in front at home as he does too much. He always sits in behind and quickens past them. He is a horse with so many different options. The dream this season is to win the French Gold Cup as his breeder, who owns half of him with Richard Kelvin-Hughes, he did everything he did to keep him trained in France to win a French Gold Cup and that is our main aim this season. A French Gold Cup then a King George here next year is very much what we would be thinking, but whether we go to Cheltenham we would have to see. The first day we schooled him over a French fence he did it like an old handicapper. He adapts so easily. I was pretty confident, but you are never 100 per cent sure when you come across the Channel.

“Now we can dream that he is a real superstar. One of the reasons why I love being out there is the breeding and the youngsters and the horses and materials we start with. To see all these horse coming to Cheltenham for the English and Irish stables that are all French bred. This was a French superstar that we managed to keep in France and prove they are the real deal.

“Richard Kelvin-Hughes invested a lot of money in this horse, and trusted us, and his dream is to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup and if we could do both that would be amazing. We take each step as it comes. It is his first trip across the Channel and he has shown everyone how good he is which is great.

“He jumped off and I thought Christ James you are going to quick, but the horse is just in his comfort zone. I’ve been watching all the replays of this race for I don’t know how many years. The speed he goes around Auteuil on heavy ground is quicker than the speed they go in this race. The big thing with the French horses is their jumping. He made a few little fiddly errors but he will learn. It is the way he takes lengths out of them with his jumping that is just phenomenal.

“This is our first year training as we got our licence in January. The horse won a Grade One under dad’s name in November, so officially it is our first Grade One so it is huge.”

The previous two French-trained winners of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase were Francois Doumen’s Djeddah in 1996 and the Guillaume Macaire-trained Jair du Cochet in 2002.


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