Il Est Francais was hugely impressive in powering to success in the Grade One Prix Renaud du Vivier at Auteuil on Sunday as trainer Tom George continues to reap the rewards in France.
And with George’s son Noel soon to take a trainer’s license across the Channel, the pair hope to continue tapping into a lucrative market.
Il Est Francais, owned by Richard Kelvin-Hughes in partnership with Haras De Saint-Voir owner Nicolas de Lageneste, who bred the horse, had finished second in a top bumper last November and remained unbeaten in four hurdles when he took the prize. on a stretch of two miles and three furlongs.
Accompanied by his regular jockey James Reveley, the four-year-old cruised to an eight-length victory on ground officially described as tough.
Tom George said: “He has won his only four starts over hurdles and won them very impressively. The world is his oyster, indeed.
“He’s got a great attitude, he jumps incredibly well, he’ll stay, he’s got speed. He didn’t like the tough ground yesterday, but he won it all the same – and he’ll deal with whatever comes his way.”
He added: “Il Est Francais will come to England and you will see it in two places rather than one.
“In terms of plans, we are still undecided. He won. He’s only four. He came out of the race well and out in the paddock this morning. The world is his oyster.
“We have to look at the bigger picture of where it could end up. Below, you will see it here (in England). This is the best young horse that France has seen for a long time.”
Setting up a satellite site in France has been years in the planning and the George family are keen to establish their training roots in Chantilly with Noel leading the French operation.
George added: “The French are changing their tact a bit. They have seen all their best horses disappear in Ireland and want to start seeing them compete in their country. They want to see them race in England at Cheltenham, but they want to see them in both places.
“The attraction was that Noel is 95% through getting his coaching license and we’re going to mix it up in two countries. This will open up a whole new path. It will be dual licensed.
“Over the last 10 years we’ve had a lot of runners in France and two years ago our big plan was, and it’s just coming to fruition, Noel was going to go to Chantilly. Then he has to learn the language and get a French trainer’s license and pass all the exams in French. It is extremely difficult.
“So during that time we sent quite a few horses over there. France Galop has actually been helpful by granting a second temporary license so we’ve had a yard there and we’ve had a lot of runners there in the last month or two.
“If all goes well, he’ll be in France and I’m here. He probably has as many horses there as I have here.
“French breeders want their horses to compete in both France and England. There is so much money involved there, as we saw yesterday (with £95,537 won by Il Est Francais).”
George, who trains at Slad in Gloucestershire, cited the facilities they have available at Chantilly and the maintenance of the track in general as an added attraction.
He added: “We started with this plan three years ago. We have had many sacrifices to endure, with Brexit and Covid. It was very hard. But now we’re in a position where we’re going to have a big French court, probably in the best training center in the world.
“The gallops there are incredible. Noel has a mile and a quarter circular sand gallop and he is the only person using it and it is maintained by France Galop. The school grounds are larger than Fakenham Racecourse. On this school ground and round gallop, it has pop-up sprinklers to water it.”
George says there are plenty of opportunities for English-trained horses in France and he quotes fellow trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who owns Goa Lil.
“The money part is so different. Which sums it up right is that I’m training Goa Lil for Nigel in France, who runs in a Listed race at Compiegne on Wednesday. For Nigel Twiston-Davies to have a horse trained by Tom and Noel George in France says it all really! He has already won nearly £50,000. It’s a different world.
“If a horse has a serious handicap in England, like Goa Lil, or hasn’t won any money, which it doesn’t in England, the beauty is that most races in France are geared around prize money being won. Because no one has won much prize money in England, you are so well ahead of these races in France.
“Nigel’s horse runs at Compiegne on Wednesday for a £120,000 race and that’s just a midweek race. I told Nigel it’s the best advert I’ve ever had – but getting Nigel Twiston-Davies to pay Tom George’s coaching fees takes a bit of coaching!”