Il Est Francais lost his unbeaten record over fences after trailing home a bitterly disappointing last of five in the Grade Two Prix Murat at Auteuil.

Trained in France by Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm, the six-year-old was thoroughly impressive in winning his first three starts over the larger obstacles, with back-to-back wins at Auteuil followed by a brilliant front-running victory in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Connections soon ruled out a return to Britain for the Cheltenham Festival, instead electing to remain on home soil for the time being, with a tilt at next month’s Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris – the French equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup – top of his agenda.

Il Est Francais was unsurprisingly prohibitive odds to make a successful return from just over three months off the track and with the extra mile of the Grand Steep perhaps in mind, James Reveley switched to more patient tactics, initially attempting to settle his mount at the rear of the five-strong field.

The Yorkshireman eventually gave Il Est Francais his head and allowed him to stride in front, but the petrol tank quickly ran to empty on straightening up for home and he had almost stopped to a walk by the time he clambered over the final fence.

Reveley allowed his mount to coast home from there on in as Youtwo Glass narrowly denied the George and Zetterholm second string Gallipoli victory in a driving finish.


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