Defi Du Seuil has won races at two previous Cheltenham Festivals and is certainly one of the best racehorses ever trained by Philip Hobbs. A French import to his yard when purchased by leading Irish owner JP McManus out of Emmanuel Clayeux’s stable, he was the outstanding juvenile of his year going seven races unbeaten in 2016-17.
With bags of course experience under his belt, Defi Du Seuil is a real Cheltenham specialist. He had a spell in the doldrums when Hobbs’ yard wasn’t firing at all, but has since bounced back and made up into an even better chaser.
This bay gelding sired by Voix Du Nord was related to the late Champion Hurdle hero Espoir D’Allen, another McManus horse who had a big future in National Hunt racing until his untimely death. Hobbs has entered Defi Du Seuil in both the Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles and the Ryanair Chase which is half-a-mile or so longer in distance.
He has Grade 1 winning form at both trips, so is effective over further. Defi Du Seuil has been campaigned very successfully over the shorter distance this season, though, and the betting suggests he is more likely to run in the Champion Chase.
Besides Triumph Hurdle success as a juvenile, Defi Du Seuil has also scored in the Scilly Isles and Tingle Creek over fences at Sandown Park, the JLT Novices’ Chase during last year’s Festival and the Clarence House around Ascot.
He heads to Cheltenham with almost £600,000 in career earnings to date. What’s scary about that is Defi Du Seuil is only a seven-year-old with time on his side and scope to get even better. We shall find out just how good he is at the Festival where he seeks a third win in four seasons.
Defi Du Seuil and Cheltenham racing almost go hand-in-hand. He has had eight career starts at the track and won six of those. A success rate of 75 per cent is a fearsome record.
His more likely Festival target is the Champion Chase, for which Defi Du Seuil is a general 2/1 favourite with bookmakers. The firms that are already non-runner no bet for Cheltenham have him slightly shorter.
As for the Ryanair Chase, Defi Du Seuil is as big as 10/1 ante post with Paddy Power, but some NRNB bookies have him a quarter of that price at 5/2. The fact that a leading Irish firm have him at a double figure price for his other Festival entry is further evidence that the Champion Chase is his probable route.
If going in the two-mile Cheltenham feature contest, then Defi Du Seuil against reigning champ Altior could be one of the clashes of the week. He is three years younger than Nicky Henderson’s stable star, but will also face a strong Irish contingent that includes plenty from Willie Mullins’ yard.
Defi Du Seuil could do battle with the likes of Chacun Pour Soi, Cilaos Emery, Douvan, Min and Un De Sceaux. He has beaten the latter in both the Tingle Creek and Clarence House this season already.
Henry De Bromhead is another trainer having a fine season in Ireland, so A Plus Tard could be another danger to Defi Du Seuil. Many of these horses are double-entered, however, and could avoid him by running in the Ryanair Chase instead.
Frodon, who won the Ryanair last year, and Riders Onthe Storm are contenders in the two-and-a-half-mile Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 if Defi Du Seuil should switch targets. Plenty points to a Champion Chase bid, however, with McManus seeking a first-ever win.
Defi Du Seuil is unbeaten in three starts during the current campaign. He returned to action in the Grade 2 Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November and won under hold-up tactics, beating last year’s Champion Chase runner-up Politologue by just over a length.
From there, Defi Du Seuil went back up to the highest level and landed the Tingle Creek at Sandown prevailing by a neck over popular veteran Irish raider Un De Sceaux. He then confirmed that form at Ascot in the Clarence House when easing down for a 2¾ lengths victory.
This hat-trick is evidence that Defi Du Seuil has progressed since last season when he also improved throughout his novice chase campaign. After trailing in last of five on his bow over fences in the Arkle Trial at Cheltenham, he was stepped up in trip and won a competitive minor event at Exeter which also produced RSA Chase winner Topofthegame.
Defi Du Seuil then ran well under a penalty when chasing home subsequent Betfair Chase victor Lostintranslation in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase back at Cheltenham. Off level weights, however, he reversed that form in the Scilly Isles at Sandown and then followed-up in the JLT Novices’ Chase during the Festival.
After a long, hard season, Defi Du Seuil rounded things off at Punchestown where he was beaten by the unexposed Chacun Pour Soi. That rival had spent a very long time off the track and was just over four lengths too good that day.
If the two re-oppose in the Champion Chase, it will be interesting to see if Chacun Pour Soi can confirm Punchestown form. Defi Du Seuil has certainly delivered more at the highest level and his defeat in Ireland may have been a case of bumping into a flash in the pan.