Can Defi Du Seuil bounce back after Cheltenham woe?
efi Du Seuil enjoyed a brilliant 2019/20 campaign right until the final race of the season at Cheltenham Festival. Opportunity knocked for the French thoroughbred in the Queen Mother Champion Chase after Altior and Chacun Pour Soi were ruled out due to injury. It left an open field for the crown, which he was named the overwhelming favourite to win.
However, Philip Hobbs’ charge put forward arguably the most disappointing ride of the week, finishing in fourth at the event as Politologue took the crown. Defi Du Seuil now has a point to prove when he returns to the track for the 2020/21 season, although it will be a challenge to repair his reputation on the circuit. The return of Altior will also complicate matters, especially at the Tingle Creek Chase where his rival is the leading contender in the horse racing betting odds to triumph. The French thoroughbred sits in behind Altior at 4/1 in the minds of the bookmakers.
Defi Du Seuil is the returning champion in the race at Sandown Park. It was there the seven-year-old made a statement that he could challenge for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. He had previously hinted at his potential to compete with the elite horses by winning the JLT Novices’ Chase in 2019 at Cheltenham Festival, although the French thoroughbred ended that season with a defeat at the hands of his compatriot Chacun Pour Soi in the Ryanair Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
However, a return to Cheltenham Racecourse at the start of the 2019/20 season brought a return to his best in the Shloer Chase. There Hobbs’ charge bested Politologue in the race, triumphing by one-and-a-quarter lengths. Defi Du Seuil had momentum to take into the Tingle Creek Chase last December in a field minus Altior. The seven-year-old still had to battle for the win in the event, facing pressure from Un De Sceaux down the stretch. He just had enough to fend off the challenge of Willie Mullins’ charge to win by a neck.
There was nothing separating Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux in the bookmakers’ thoughts ahead of the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in their next duel. Hobbs’ charge put forward his best performance of the campaign, defeating his rival by two-and-three-quarter lengths. The French thoroughbred had momentum heading into 2020 Cheltenham Festival and his case to win the Champion Chase was boosted when Altior and Chacun Pour Soi withdrew.
Hobbs’ charge endured a nightmare performance on the day itself, failing to find his rhythm with Barry Geraghty in the saddle. He was never comfortable on the track and could never close on Politologue, who claimed the victory by nine-and-a-half lengths. Defi Du Seuil placed down in fourth well off the pace. It was a missed opportunity to capitalise on the absence of Altior and he now must re-establish himself on the scene against the great horse.
The situation does present the French thoroughbred with a chance to knock off Nicky Henderson’s charge. Putting in a flawless display at the Tingle Creek Chase to defend his crown would put him back on course to be the dominant chaser on the scene, although it will take a special effort to defeat the Irish thoroughbred. Defi Du Seuil’s start to the new campaign will determine whether he can be a great horse or simply a solid competitor.