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Sports
French trainer Nicolle planning Festival raid
2016-02-24
NEWS_IMG
Francois Doumen famously enjoyed six successes at the Festival
Francois Doumen famously enjoyed six successes at the Festival, with horses such as dual Stayers' Hurdle winner Baracouda and Gold Cup hero The Fellow, and this year another Francois, Nicolle, will attempt to fly the French flag at Cheltenham.French Festival raids may be rarer than they once were, with Kelami and Moulin Riche in 2005 the last French-trained runners to triumph at the festival, but there is likely to be at least one representative this year with Nicolle planning to send Le Curieux to contest the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle.Nicolle - one of the most successful trainers in France and a near neighbour of Guillaume Macaire at Royan on the west coast - will be hoping to arrest the decline in French fortunes as he could be doubly represented if he allows The Stomp to take his chance in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle on the Friday.'He has the right profile'Le Curieux followed up a debut success at Moulins with three solid efforts at Auteuil, most recently finishing fourth in a Listed event over two miles in November. That performance earned him a French rating which equates to around 136, the same mark that was allotted to last year's third, the Jonjo O'Neill-trained The Saint James, who carried 11st 5lb."I think he has the right profile for racing over there," said Nicolle. "I have wanted to have a runner in England for a long time and he provides me with an opportunity. He is a good horse and, although we will have to see what weight he is given in the handicap, I think he should suit the race."'He has plenty of pace'Nicolle described The Stomp - who carries the colours of former champion Flat trainer Jean-Claude Rouget - as "a possibility" for the County. The improving six-year-old was last seen finishing second in a Grade 3 hurdle at Enghien, a track with a far more pronounced bias towards speed horses than stamina-sapping Auteuil.Nicolle said: "He is rated 71kg in France and I don't know what the handicapper will give him in England. Everything will depend on what weight he gets. Two miles will suit him well as he has plenty of pace, but he is less likely to travel than Le Curieux who is almost certain to go."Nicolle plans to take the pair on an away day to Maisons-Laffitte on Thursday, where France Galop has taken delivery of a set of British-style hurdles on loan from Jockey Club Racecourses.