French racehorse trainer Hugo Merienne is hoping thatHenri La Farceur can follow in the footsteps of the legendary Baracouda when he takes his chance in next week’s Grade One Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on St Patrick’s Thursday (March 16th).
The six year old joined fellow French challenger Gold Tweet in being supplemented yesterday for the Championship race – at a cost of £14,787 to his connections.
The 31 year old has had just three runners on British shores to date, most notably with Rockadenn, who was second to the Paul Nicholls-trained Sir Psycho in the 2020 renewal of the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle at Haydock Park.
And while Henri La Farceur has yet to race on this side of the channel, he won his most recent start, in the Grade Two Prix Leon Olry Roederer over two miles and five furlongs at Auteuil in December.
That race was on the CV of legendary French stayer Baracouda before he would go on to win back-to-back renewals of the Stayers’ Hurdle in 2002 and 2003 for Francois Doumen and Merienne is hoping that Henri La Farceur and Gold Tweet can lead a new generation of French stars on the Cotswolds.
He said: “We’ve been training him for this race. He likes the distance and I think he’ll like the track. It’s a challenge but we’ll see. He’ll need to come and improve but we will try.
“We were actually thinking about whether to go to Kempton over Christmas, but the horse had a hard race at Auteuil and we gave him a few weeks off. When Gold Tweet won (the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January) the horse was in really good form and back in training and we thought we’d come over.
“There’s a lot of French trainers who’ve won in England and a few have come here already, it’s like a dream to come here. It’s like the World Cup and we’ll try our best.
“There’s plenty of time with Henri Le Farceur and he will make a nice chaser next year. Who knows, if he doesn’t run as expected this time around we could come back next year in a chase, we’ll see how he handles it and it gives us a hint for the future. He won the Prix Leon Olry Roederer and the last horse to do that and come here was Baracouda!
“I have been training now for five years in Chantilly and for a couple of years before that I worked for a few yards, mainly in Ireland.
“We won a Grade One race with St Donats in the Prix Cambaceres at Auteuil. He was entered in the Triumph but we mainly did that because the owner is English (William J Williams) but we don’t want to give him a hard race at this age.
“Cheltenham is a bigger jumps event than anything we have in France, though it’s getting popular in France again – I can feel it with my owners. I hope one day we get to the same level as Cheltenham is here, but we’re far from it yet. We’re going to try and put another flag on the Prestbury Cup!”