Royale Pagaille a Cheltenham Gold Cup Hopeful for Venetia Williams

Posted on 28th January 2017

In amongst the many livery yards of rural Herefordshire are the Aramstone Stables of racehorse trainer Venetia Williams just north of Kings Caple. It’s here in the valley of the River Wye that a most unlikely contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup has emerged in Royale Pagaille.

Williams has developed a reputation of making smart purchases on behalf of her owners from the sales in France. Sourcing good horses to race in the first place is just as important as their training and livery.

In Royale Pagaille, she unearthed a horse for powerful owners Rich and Susannah Ricci that didn’t look anything special on his French form. When trained across the Channel by Francois Nicole, the gelding by Blue Bresil only won one of his ten starts, and that a hurdle.

He came over to his current stable still a maiden over fences after six chase outings. Williams may have taken a chance on Royale Pagaille primarily because his sire is an up-and-coming source of bloodstock for the National Hunt game.


Blue Bresil has already produced Grade 1 winners in France and Ireland in L’Autonomie and Mick Jazz. That progeny reached the top over hurdles, while Royale Pagaille has left his past form behind with marked and rapid improvement after obtaining plenty of chase experience.

Just like his French runs when tackling fences, his first two outings in the UK were nothing to write home about. Royale Pagaille lost a match around Chepstow to Vision Des Flos on his British bow and then finished last of three in a beginners’ chase around Huntingdon.

With a summer out to grass and then given time to adapt to Williams’ training methods, however, he came back in for this season an entirely different animal. At the ninth attempt over fences, Royale Pagaille won a decent novice chase at Haydock as the outsider of four.

He then followed-up on that breakthrough success with an easy victory in handicap company at the Kempton Christmas Festival. The impressive way in which Royale Pagaille went about winning that earned him a 16lb hike in his rating.

Graded races were the only way forward. Despite the burden of topweight, Williams was happy to run him back at Haydock in the Peter Marsh Chase. This limited handicap has been a stepping stone to greatness for the likes of Little Owl, Bregawn, The Thinker, Jodami and Earth Summit.

Those equine names of past eras all either went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup or Grand National. What was so impressive about Royale Pagaille was his easy 16-length win in the Peter Marsh came carrying a 2lb higher rating than Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai did to victory in 2017.

In response to this sudden and vast progress, his Cheltenham races betting odds have been slashed by the bookies. Royale Pagaille holds three entries at the Festival; the three-mile novice chase for which he still qualifiers, the National Hunt Chase and the Gold Cup.

As the Riccis have Monkfish in training with Willie Mullins and targeting the former, it looks a straight choice between two of jumps racing’s most historic events. Royale Pagaille might be a flash in the pan or knocking on the door of greatness, but this is one Williams horse to follow.

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