Horses To Follow » Ma Filleule

Ma Filleule

Ma Filleule put up a career-best to finish second in the Baylis & Harding Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday, and she is a highly-progressive mare now who should be worth following.

Settled just behind the front rank in the early stages of the race by Nico de Boinville, she jumped and travelled well throughout. She was one of just two or three horses who were still on the bridle as they set off down the hill to the third last fence.

Moved towards the outside on the run to that obstacle, she moved up alongside long-time leaders Standing Ovation and Tour Des Champs on the approach to the fence, but she made a slight mistake at that obstacle, and her rider became unbalanced and lost his left iron. He did get it back before they reached the home turn, but by that stage Holywell had moved up on her inside, between her and Standing Ovation, and assumed command.

She and Holywell had it between them from that point and, when Ma Filleule jumped on at the second last, she looked the most likely winner. However, Holywell loves this hill, as he demonstrated in the Pertemps Final last year, and he powered up it, coming from a length behind on landing over the final fence to win by almost two lengths.

Ma Filleule lost no caste in defeat, however, pulling, as she did, seven lengths clear of the third horse The Package. She was a 33/1 shot for this, and she was passed over by Barry Geraghty in favour of Hadrian’s Approach, so she obviously surprised connections with her performance as well as punters. She is only six years old, and this was just her eighth chase, just her third in Britain for Nicky Henderson. She still has lots of scope to progress further.

The handicapper has raised her 7lb for this, but that is reasonable. She holds an entry in the Topham Chase, and that would be an interesting race for her. She jumps well, it is easy to see her taking to the big Aintree fences, and Nicky Henderson won the race last year with a horse with a similar profile in Triolo D’Alene – a six-year-old French import who had run in just six chases for the trainer. Even if she does not run in the Topham, she will be of interest wherever she goes next.

11th March 2014