ONE of the performances of the weekend was the Grade 2 Denman Chase victory of the Colin Tizzard-trained eight-year-old Eldorado Allen (Khalkevi). The win has also given connections a headache – whether to go for the Ryanair Chase or the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

The original plan was the Ryanair, and Eldorado Allen wasn’t given a Gold Cup entry. He was running further than he had done before in the Denman, but the way he finished out his race he could well become a Gold Cup challenger. He needs to run two furlongs further again – and stay up the Cheltenham hill.

Oh, and yes, the owners would have to stump up £30,000 to run him in the Blue Riband of steeplechasing.

A half-brother to the dam of Envoi Allen (Muhtathir), Eldorado Allen was bred by Bruno Vagne, a former IT technician turned farmer from Clermont-Ferrand. On his 420 acres in Souvigny, close to Moulins, he has a herd of breeding cows and a superb collection of AQPS mares. The Vagne family has been breeding successfully for some four generations.

Vagne’s broodmare band descends from three different AQPS families. The most established of them is that which has produced the Denman Chase winner, and it is a family that has been good to the Vagne family.

Members of this particular female line have enjoyed great success in France, England and Ireland, and they all descend from the unraced Dalila (Vieux Chateau), the only offspring of the unraced Scarlett H (Verdi). The last named mare was born exactly 60 years ago.

While Envoi Allen, the Grade 1 bumper, hurdle and chase winner of 13 races from 16 starts on the track (he also won a point-to-point) is the star of this family, it is one that has high-class winners coming out of every branch, and in numbers. Every season seems to produce another good ‘un.

Bright future

Placed in a couple of starts in France, on the flat and over jumps, Eldorado Allen won over hurdles and was listed-placed, but connections knew from the outset that his future lay over fences. Three of his four victories over the larger obstacles have been at Grade 2 level, and last March he was runner-up, though some way behind, to Shishkin in the Grade 1 Arkle Chase.

The best runner sired by Group 1 winner Khalkevi (Kahyasi), Eldorado Allen is one of six winners from his dam Hesmeralda (Royal Charter), and these come from just seven foals. Hesmeralda won nine times over jumps in France and just two of her offspring were fillies.

Envoi Allen is the first foal from one of the pair, Reaction (Saint Des Saints), and she won twice over jumps in her native country. Her second offspring is Fighter Allen (Vision D’Etat), a bumper winner in France as a four-year-old on his debut, and a hurdle winner and Grade 3-placed in Ireland.

The other daughter of Hesmeralda was Une Epoque (Dom Alco) and she won the Grade 3 Prix Sytaj Mares Chase at Auteuil and is now among the broodmare band at Bruno Vange’s. She is making quite a mark with three of her offspring all winning races last year, the best of which is the useful Grade 3-placed hurdler Gladiateur Allen (Saint Des Saints).

Apart from these fillies, it is worth mentioning another of Hesmeralda’s sons, Auvergnat (Della Francesca). He cost J.P. McManus €220,000 as a four-year-old but managed to win a large slice of this back with five wins over jumps, most notably taking the valuable Grade B Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting in 2018.

Most talented

Go back another generation, to Eldorado Allen’s grandam Violeta (Rhapsodien), and up pops another Cheltenham Festival winner, the ill-fated Espoir D’Allen (Voix Du Nord). This most talented of runners won the 2019 Grade 1 Champion Hurdle for JP McManus and Gavin Cromwell but sadly died the same year following a freak accident.

Violeta bred 10 winners, and this bettered the record of her dam Dalila (Vieux Chateau) who had seven winning offspring. One of these, Tarsky (Fereed), was a multiple winner in France before moving to the USA where his best effort was runner-up in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.

His half-sister Herinie (Or De Chine) is the grandam of Eudipe (Useful) who won listed chases in England and France and was runner-up in the Grade 1 Royal SunAlliance Novices’ Chase.

A couple of more recent smart performers who descend from Herinie are the Grade 2 winning juvenile hurdler Galahad Quest (American Post), and the Grade 3 Quevega Mares Hurdle winner Elfile (Saint Des Saints), and she was placed in Grade 1 races at both the Cheltenham and Fairyhouse Festivals.

Espoir D’Allen and Envoi Allen may be the only Grade 1 winners so far in this exceptional family, but they are unlikely to be the last. Could March in the Cotswolds see the next one emerging?