SPOTLIGHT ON THE TOP TEN TRAINERS - French trainers look ahead to 2019

29.03.2019

SPOTLIGHT ON THE TOP TEN TRAINERS - French trainers look ahead to 2019

No less than thirty-five trainers picked at least one slice of prize money in Purebred Arabian races during the 2018 French season. In this article we home in on the trainers which filled the first five places in terms of prize money won on the French stage. We shall shine the spotlight on the trainers which rounded out the top ten in the next edition. [Part 1 of 2]

ÉLISABETH BERNARD [La Teste-de-Buch]

The 2018 season proved to be quieter than usual despite the presence of a pair of class acts.

Granted that the yard has had an influx of new horses, 2019 is expected to be the season when the empire strikes back.

The French Purebred Arabian. – Why was 2018 a difficult year for the stable?

Élisabeth Bernard. – Last March, I felt that the strength of the stable was negligible. However, a miracle happened when a three-year-old, Fettah du Loup (Kerbella), captured the Prix Tidjani (Gr3 PA). This was followed by the success of Hajres (Nizam) in the Prix Dormane (Gr3 PA). They proved to be morale boosters but, these two wins apart, it was all downhill.

However, I believe that the omens for the forthcoming season are good?

It’s a miracle that the boxes in the yard are full again after the catastrophe of 2018. I lost a few owners and that’s very frustrating, considering that they had been long-standing clients. However, that’s racing.

Who are the new owners in the yard?

Al Asayl has returned. It’s a source of great joy in view of the emotional attachment that exists with the colours of the President of the United Emirates and consequently that speaks to the link with Sir Bani Yas (Amer). Muslims make no distinction between men or women in their 'professional' choices, which, to my way of thinking, is contrary to what happens in the western world. Al Shaqab are also on board. The racing manager promised he would in the wake of the death of Jean-François, my late husband. They have kept their word and have had the foresight to send me a son of Al Mamun Monlau (Munjiz) and a filly by Dahor de Brugère (Dahess).  It’s been a real way of 'reconnecting' as we trained both their sires. I’ve also had the opportunity of visiting M’Hammed Karimine in order to choose some horses. This very successful Moroccan breeder operates at a different level and is the architect of his own success. He’s passionate about the sport and his colours are going great guns.

What are your horses to follow?

Hajres has had a few health issues. We are going to get the experts in and, providing he recovers, I’m convinced that he’s going to have a great season. Should the opposite materialise, he won’t remain in France. My three-year-olds are superior to last year’s crop in terms of physique and breeding. I have a lot of time for Jarif (Dahess) who is out of Kiss de Ghazal (Dormane). He’s a magnificent specimen and is one for the future, but he isn’t a precocious type. I’m convinced that he’s going to be very good. In common with his dam, he will carry the colours of Haif Al Ghatani. Loubana de Grine (Af Albahar), owned by Monsieur Karimine, is my other eye-catcher. I have yet to work her but am convinced that she’s going to be very good.

Which other horses among your younger stock would you describe as standouts?

I like the former Philippe Sogorb runner Jaazmah Athbah (Jalnar Al Khalidiah). Battash de Faust (Af Albahar) is a half-brother to Easter de Faust (Mahabb). I like the sire who has given Alsaker. He’s an attractive type and is very different to his sister and namely: compact, stocky and “speedy”. Abdullah Al Attiyah is part of the intake of new owners. Al Asayl has sent us two colts which appeal as above average: Gurm (Dahess), the brother of Mahbooba (Bibi de Carrère), and Mirzam (TH Richie) whom I like a lot. He’s a magnificent type.

CHARLES GOURDAIN [Pau]

The Pau trainer enjoyed a magnificent 2018 season which yielded five PA Gr1 wins, including that of Al Shamoos in the world’s richest prize for Purebred Arabians, the

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown (Gr1 PA).

The French Purebred Arabian. – What is your overview of 2018?

Charles Gourdain. – Winning five Gr1 PA races with five different horses, including a top race in Abu Dhabi, isn’t within the reach of everyone. It’s something to behold and proves that you are doing a good job. That asides, there are always those which are of the opinion that you have had a stroke of luck (laughing). It’s common in this industry to hear all manner of things but, joking apart, you need a bit of luck in order to have good horses, and performing ones at that for the duration of the season. It’s true that we have a few exceptional horses in the yard.

Will these same horses be your standardbearers for this season?

Rodess du Loup (Dahess) springs to mind and he is on very good terms with himself. He’s a proud sort and is going very well. Nafees (Azadi) is also coming to himself. Both have been earmarked for some top races in Britain and France. Should the opportunity arise, they may even be campaigned further afield now that they have passed the age of four. Al Shamoos (No Risk Al Maury) is being geared towards the Dubai Kahayla Classic (Gr1 PA). Her owner is happy with how she is faring. The filly is well although this race does pose something of a special challenge as it is run on dirt.

Although it’s not a surface which all horses like…

Yes, because there is a lot of kickback. Nevertheless, what may favour Al Shamoos is the pace at which the race is run at. The filly should be able to race prominently from the off. However, there’s no escaping that tackling this surface for the very first time at Gr1 level raises a number of question marks. It’s a shame because the turf track at Meydan is magnificent and it’s tailor-made for a top PA race. The organisers surely have their reasons…

Will the racing ambitions of Al Shamoos be European ones after this race?

Yes, because she has several races lined up in France as well as Britain. Playing a lead role in the Qatar Arabian World Cup (Gr1 PA) at ParisLongchamp is obviously part of her plans.

Which horses do you feel will eventually take over the baton in the yard?

We have a lot of younger horses such as the Royal Stables of Oman-owned Tiwi (Njewman),

Petit Princes (Josco du Cayrou) is the younger brother of Al Zair (Madjani). Qamriyah (General) is the sister of Nafees and is a very attractive three-year-old filly. Hamiyat El Izz (Izza Al Khail) and Amir Al Zaman (Hilal Al Zaman) are respectively the sister and brother of Al Shamoos and warrant a mention. The filly, a four-year-old, is a very attractive type and she should make her debut in April.

The colt has more physical presence than Al Shamoos. He is a very attractive type to look at but a backward one at that and his racecourse debut will have to wait. These young horses represent the future of the stable.

DAMIEN DE WATRIGANT [Artassenx]

Based at Artassenx near Mont-de-Marsan, Damien de Watrigant has overseen the development of the training centre of the Haras de Mandore. He enjoys the backing of top owners such as Shadwell and Mohammed Al-Nujaifi, and he is pinning his hopes on some of the younger elements from these stables as regards launching his 2019 season.

The French Purebred Arabian. – What are your abiding memories of 2018?

Damien de Watrigant. – It wasn’t a great year but the forthcoming season should prove far more interesting. We should have a good season with both our English thoroughbreds and Arabians.

Which are your standout performers among the older brigade?

There is, of course, Ahzar (Munjiz). He was a bit disappointing in Abu Dhabi but he had been ill during his stay there. We became aware of this on his return and it explains why he didn’t perform to his optimum level. He is due to reappear in the Prix Damas (Gr3 PA) at Bordeaux-Le-Bouscat on May 4th. After which, he will be aimed at the top races. No and No Al Maury (Nizam), owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is another of our big hopes for 2019. Hailing from the Renée-Laure Koch academy, he is being aimed at the PA Group races over 2,000m. He won in very good style at Newbury last year. Ideally suited by good ground, he should be on his travels again.

Can you outline which four-year-olds are worth following?

In the wake of her winning debut in February, Aksinya (General) is worth noting. She is quite backward but should enjoy a good season. We have taken our time with her as she wasn’t ready to race as a three-year-old. During the course of the last few months, the penny has dropped and she continues on an upward curve. Jadeeda (Njewman) also ran promisingly on her debut and is a filly with potential. She is the sister of Jamaheer (Mahabb). Gérard Larrieu has sent me Feria de Faust (Dahess): a filly which I have a lot of time for. She had a minor setback last year which forced our hand as regards putting her out to grass again. However, she is coming on strongly this year. Bel’Izam (Nizam) is the stable’s number one hope for this season. He is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He was a bit tender and hails from a family that needs time. However, he should achieve his full potential as a four-year-old. He has been working very well and should make his seasonal debut in a maiden at Bordeaux-Le Bouscat on April 13th,the Wathba Stallions Cup - Prix Al Sakbe. We’re not far away.

Can you identify your most promising three-year-olds?

I have in my care two attractive fillies from our breeding operation, namely the backward Chafika (General) and Faraj (Majd Al Arab). They should be seen to their best advantage towards the backend of the season. Ballerine Al Maury (Munjiz) is also in the yard and is a magnificent sort. She really has the X factor and I like her a lot. She hails from the maternal line of of Boum de Ghazal (Zippy Al Maury), and all those good horses whose names begin with the letter B and which bear the Renée-Laure Koch label.

Fawaaz (Munjiz), the brother of Ahzar, is also in the yard and he, too, looks to have a bit of quality about him. Forgehill Chinco (Hilal Al Zaman) is doing all we ask. Nenawa (Dahess) is a very attractive filly and the sister of Ghazwa (Zawam), although a little backward.

DIDIER GUILLEMIN [Mont-de-Marsan]

By virtue of sending out thirteen winners, the Mont-de-Marsan professional was the most successful trainer in terms of the number of Purebred Arabians races won in 2018. He also proved himself among the top fifteen trainers in the domain of English thoroughbreds: a fact he underpinned by having the best strike rate in terms of winners per number of runners.

The French Purebred Arabian. – Last season Deryan won the Qatar Coupe de France des Chevaux Arabes, and he was twice second in Gr1 grade. How is he doing?

Didier Guillemin. – He’s going very well. He’s a class act and I believe that he can have another successful year in 2019. He was a bit unlucky at Saint-Cloud last year. However, Marid, having twice dominated him last season, is in all probability a good horse. Deryan (Mahabb) could make his return at Toulouse en route to the Gr1 events at Chantilly.

Neef was part of the same age group and he won the Prix Chéri Bibi (Gr3 PA). What is the latest on him?

He will certainly benefitted from the inter-seasons’ rest period but isn’t as good as Deryan. However, he’s a very useful and sweet-natured horse, and is certainly open to further progress as he comes from a family which improves with age. He can do better than last season.

Joudh and Karabosse de Ghazal certainly delivered the goods on the racecourse. Will they race in France this season?

After finishing third in the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown (Gr1), Joudh (Mahabb) has remained in the United Arab Emirates. She’s a very good filly and one that already showed her quality as a three-year-old. However, her propensity to race freely proved her undoing as a four-year-old and she subsequently lost her form. I’m uncertain where Karabosse de Ghazal (Munjiz) will be heading – possibly to stud.

Adiba progressed from race to race and crowned her 2018 season with a victory in the

the French Arabian Breeders' Challenge (Gr2 PA). What are her plans?

Again, we are talking about a quality filly. She hails from a line noted for its backward types and which needs time, but one whose performers improve with age. Having made great strides forward from race to race, she can continue on an upward curve in 2019.

In 2009, 61 of your horses won 33 races for a bankroll of € 794,843. In 2018, your 101 protégés, from all breeds, captured 87 races for a total prize money of € 2.184,933. How do you explain this rise?

On the subject of Purebred Arabians, the possibility of being able to add young and well-bred horses to the yard is very important.

Every horse, no matter what the type of breed, is different. Each breed has its qualities and its preferred disciplines. Adaptability and finding what makes them tick in each case is key. In this same optic, it’s also very important to have a very good team in place, and one which is both dedicated and efficient in the way it works. The vital component of success is having horses which are well-grounded.

When a horse proves manageable and is responsive to what is asked of him, it translates itself in terms of lengths gained during a race. Races are won on the training track. At Mont-de-Marsan we have the tools to get the job done – both in terms of training facilities and the way the grass is looked after. The maintenance team does its utmost to make our lives easy. Consequently, the ambiance is also very good. Jean-Pierre Capitaine, the president, is also

on the ball as regards driving forward our success. As a result of the training tracks being well maintained and watered, the good horses don’t break down. It does wonders for client confidence.

XAVIER THOMAS-DEMEAULTE [Mont-de-Marsan]

The man from Mont-de-Marsan went to the top of the class as the average prize money earnings of his charges were the highest recorded by a French trainer in the Purebred Arabian sector during 2018. Of the six horses in his care, four went on to gain black type. His string also shone at the highest level in the English thoroughbreds’ domain, and notably via Patascoy, second in the Gr1 Qipco Prix du Jockey-Club.

The French Purebred Arabian. – The destiny of Shahm has been an atypical one and is a horse which you have had to tune accordingly. What are his objectives in 2019?

Xavier Thomas-Demeaulte. – He hasn’t returned to training at this point in time. Shahm (Mahabb) has had a few problems and, that’s a pity, as we were expecting good things from him. I’ve no idea what lies in store for him in 2019. Taking a look at his background, his has been a remarkable ascent, having first seen the racecourse at the age of four at one of the minor provincial tracks – yet he went on to triumph at Gr1 level at ParisLongchamp the following year. He’s a very good horse and furthermore a very endearing one at that.

Belqees is still part of your string. What are plans for her this season?

Belqees (Mahabb) was a dual Group winner in 2018, and not many finished in front of the champion that is Al Shamoos (No Risk Al Maury). She is expected to make her seasonal debut in a Gr2 race for fillies and mares at Toulouse on April 15th. She may even race abroad which is an option for a filly with a good temperament.

Shahm (The President of the UAE Cup - Coupe d'Europe des Chevaux Arabes, Gr1 PA), Baseel (Prix Razzia III and Prix Nevada II, Grs3 PA), Belqees (Prix Nevadour, Gr3 PA, Shadwell - Critérium des Pouliches, Gr2 PA), Wadeeaa (third in The Qatar Arabian Trophy des Juments, Gr1 PA)… all proved to be success stories for the Yas Horse Racing Management {operation}. However, I believe that you are relatively new to the Purebred Arabian scene?

Shahm is only the second Purebred Arabian which I have trained. The first was Dubai Heros (Amer), the winner of the Coupe de France des Chevaux Arabes – before going on to finish third in the Prix Kesberoy (Grs1 PA). I deploy the same training methods with them as other breeds. Nevertheless, I believe that having good pedigrees is very integral to their success. It’s always a source of satisfaction when the Purebred Arabians which I have trained go on to enjoy success after being exported. Wadeeaa (Mahabb), for example, made all to win the Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (Gr1 PA) on her dirt debut in January. That means that the horses which we train have scope for improvement

In 2009 your 56 horses won 34 races and netted € 861,000 in prize money. Fast-forwarding to 2018, it is noticeable that the number of horses you have in training is around the same. However, the results have taken a quantum leap forward, namely 63 horses – all breeds went on win 38 races for a total of 1.7 million euros. How do you explain this rise?

Having a very good team in place is the key component in this job. You need to do the maximum for the horses in your care. I bought Patascoy (Wootton Bassett) for € 40,000 € at

the Deauville sales. His sire, Wootton Bassett (Iffraaj), wasn’t the name he is today. A certain number of our purchases are by younger stallions, as it is possible to unearth good horses at reasonable prices. Finally, Mont-de-Marsan is an excellent place to train.