A multiple part series looking at at French recruits moving across into UK and Irish National Hunt Racing.
James Du Berlais
James Du Berlais (FR) Age: 4 (Foaled March 15th, 2016) Sex: Gelding Sire: Muhtathir Dam: King’s Daughter (FR) Trainer: W P Muliins Owner: Munir/ Souede
James du Berlais is a brother of the champion and young sire Goliath du Berlais (Saint des Saints).
James Du Berlais was exported from France to Ireland on the 02/12/2020, to join Champion trainer maestro Willie Mullins, who with 7 more winners at this year’s 2020 Festival cemented himself as the outstanding trainer in Festival history with 72 victories, since it all began for the Closutton maestro 25 years ago.
He is clearly in good hands but what has James Du Berlais achieved to date for former Trainer Robert Collet in France?
He had earlier needed a few races to find his bearings, before finishing second place in Prix Robert Weill Listed Handicap Hurdle at Auteuil, and going on win after that in both the valuable Fifrelet 3yo Hurdle, and the Prix Le De Mezaubran Listed Handicap Hurdle where he was subsequently purchased by UK based owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede to stay in France with Robert Collet . That already looked to be a shrewd piece of business, as James du Berlais shortly afterwards, went on to finish 2nd in the Grade 1 Alain du Breil 4yo Hurdle Race at Compiègne, only beaten by For Fun, and has been campaigned at the top level ever since.
Recent races he has ran in.
The Group One Prix Renaud du Vivier (Grande Course De Haies Des 4 Ans) Ran over 2m3f is one of the biggest events in the French jumping calendar, and offers a winter championship contest for four-year-olds. In recent years, this high quality contest has been won by future stars such as Blue Dragon, 9 times graded winner L’Autonomie, Master Dino (one time fav for the JLT) and the mighty De Bon Coeur. James du Berlais went off a very strong market favourite at odds of 2/5 and was looking to add his name to this illustrious list. There was seemingly a difference in opinion amongst the jockeys as to where the best ground was as the field spread across the track throughout. All but the outclassed and weakening last time out winner Gaius were positioned to win entering the home-straight, however it was the son of Martaline, Moises Has, who despite a bad error at the final hurdle, showed plenty of resolve to deny James du Berlais by a short head at the finishing post.
This was still a very good run from James du Berlais, and the quality of the field was high, as you would expect from such a prestigious race. It is to be strongly noted that conditions were very heavy here, and in the favour of Moises Has, as per the quote below.
“Moises Has will be better on heavy ground. And we’ll have to count on him for the good The Renaud De Vivier (Gr1)” Francois Nicolle
Moises Has had the time before, finished 2nd to James du Berlais in the Prix Pierre de Lassus Hurdle (Grade 3) over 2M3f. The race had been won previously by French NH stars Bonito Du Berlais, Device and the aforementioned trio of L’Autonomie, Master Dino and De Bon Coeur. In this year’s renewal, James du Berlais went off a well fancied 6/4 favourite here. He travelled and jumped well throughout, before joining last time out winner Grace Feline in the lead in to the final turn, picking up very well when asked. James du Berlais shifted outward between the last two hurdles to take up the lead, jumping a little to the left at the final obstacle. He went on further and won by a very comfortable five lengths ahead of the next time out Prix Renaud du Vivier winner Moises Has. Again it was a strong field here, and this performance confirmed him as the best of his generation. The following quote is from his rider, who was seemingly as impressed as I was.
“I respected James du Berlais a little too much last time. But that’s how it is when you ride them every morning, you love them and you don’t want to hurt them. When I asked him to accelerate, I had to increase his speed by 10 km/h; we can look at the stopwatch! I’ve been getting up for him every morning for two years. It has its small flaw, that of being a little left-handed. Finally, he wanted to cross the runway on his own. Today I stayed inside, I took care of my horse and not the others. If the horse you ride is better than the others, you can be inside, left, right, where you want… It doesn’t change anything”.
Other notable runs of James du Berlais, would start and not end with the Prix Questarabad (Hurdle)
Questarabad was one of the most talented horses to soar over the hurdles at Auteuil in the last two decades. To honour the memory of Questarabad, a champion over the hurdles at Auteuil, this race was named after him in 2013.
The Grade 3 race is ran over a distance of 2M3f and won in recent years by UK and French NH stars such as Footpad (W P Mullins) Prince Ali the aforementioned L’Autonomie (French made 4th), Master Dino (Stormy Ireland and Saglawy 3rd and 5th for W P Mullins) Blue Dragon and De Bon Coeur.
In this year renewal James du Berlais started as the 3/1 2nd favourite behind the 13/10F and 4 race unbeaten Galleo Conti (Poliglote) who is full of quality, Galleo Conti led the race, where the pair were still both going well in the latter stages, before James du Berlais, who was running in his 2nd ever group race, asserted in the closing stage to win nicely by2.5 lengths over Galleo Conti.
Where does James du Berlais go now?
He has just had an entry in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival where I have personally just backed him at 50/1 EW with the Non Runner No Bet concession. This is not only because I am a fan of the horse from following him on from handicap hurdles all the way to being the best of his generation. He does have valid claims – he is highly rated, travel and jumps well, he does have a slight tendency to go out to his left, however that is no issue for the likes of Cheltenham and Aintree. He has had a little time to acclimatise to his new surroundings, and if I had to guess, I would say that the Red Mills Trial Hurdle (Grade 3) at Gowran Park in February, which was won by now stable mate Cilaos Emery last season before finishing 3rd in the Champion Hurdle itself. Whether that is to be he case, we will find out in due course, The Aintree Hurdle over 2 and a half miles at the Grand National meeting would also be over a trip which should suit, so options are open.
Looking further into the future, I would personally be strongly assuming that James du Berlais will be going Novice Chasing next season, where his valuable experience over the fixed brush hurdles around France will be a great advantage. This would strongly lead me to believe that he will take high rank in either the Arkle or the Marsh Novice chase at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival.