Frédéric Sanchez, the rising star of the French Purebred Arabian training scene
A former champion apprentice turned Gr1 PA winning trainer, Frédéric Sanchez has travelled far and wide throughout the world. However, his racing odyssey has barely started.
At the beginning. Frédéric Sanchez was born at Aix-en-Provence into a non-racing family. During his youth, his sporting ambitions revolved around another discipline: professional football. Having represented France at youth level in the round ball game and scored a goal against Italy as an 11-year-old, he was entitled to think that he was living the dream. However, he didn’t grow enough physically and this meant that he had to face up to the disappointment of putting his footballing ambitions on ice. However, his small physique was to prove an asset when his father suggested that he should become a jockey.
It was a friend of his father which suggested that the young man should knock at the door of AFASEC (Association de Formation d’Action Sociale des Écuries de Course). Consequently, Frédéric Sanchez embarked on a road which took him to Chantilly, and entailed him serving his apprenticeship with a British trainer based in France, John Hammond. The latter has recently announced his retirement from the game, but he steadfastly limited the numbers of horses which he had in training to 70 – despite his successes at the top level. At the time, his string included the high class act Suave Dancer (Green Dancer). Frédéric Sanchez rode this particular champion during his morning work when the horse’s designated rider wasn’t available. However, such a privilege wasn’t granted immediately. He explained a touch humorously: "I kept falling off on a daily basis at that time."
His pivotal moment came when John Hammond and his assistant David Anderson decided to let him ride one of the stable’s runners in a race in which the yard had two runners. Frédéric Sanchez finished in front of his older apprentice colleague – after which his mentor decided to steer his pupil down the path of becoming a fully-fledged jockey. Having spent a winter riding at Santa Anita (California), he returned to France where he subsequently become champion apprentice.
Race riding. Frédéric Sanchez numbers two French champion apprentice titles after topping the list in 1991 and 1992. During an eighteen season career, he rode 800 winners as well as boasting nine top ten finishes in the French jockeys’ championship. At the age of 24, the opportunity of a three month riding stint in Hong Kong arose. It was to prove successful as he ended up staying a whole season where he rode for Patrick Biancone. He rode three Gr1 winners for the stable plus a further one at this level for Tony Cruz. Frédéric Sanchez never tasted Gr1 success in France, although during his peak he can reflect on the second place of Abbatiale (Kaldoun) in the Prix de Diane. It was a ‘placing’ laced with tragedy as the filly was beaten a nose after breaking down 20m from the wire.
He complemented his Hong Kong experience by undertaking further winter stints in Japan and Singapore. Frédéric Sanchez also rode in Dubai for trainer Erwan Charpy during the 2001-02 season, where he was understudy to Seb Sanders. He recalls: "Tadhg O’Shea was under my wing as the stable’s apprentice. Here’s hoping that I taught him something!"
During his time in Dubai, Frédéric Sanchez rode the PA horses of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan trained by Julian Smart and Julio Peromingo. He was number two in the pecking order behind Wayne Smith. He finished sixth on Alto de Maligne (Djelfor) in the Kahayla Classic which was won by his mount’s fellow Julian Smart stablemate Nez d’Or (Dormane).
A new life and career. By now in his 30s, the battles with the scales started to become problematic. He said: "I was the first member in my family to work in racing. No one forced me to continue." Following the suspension of Patrick Biancone in Hong Kong, Frédéric Sanchez headed to the US, where he was granted a short term licence. The trappings of a new career were beginning to take shape and he said: "I was thinking in terms of training horses as being an enjoyable activity. However, I’ve never had the ambition of wanting to train 100 horses but rather a small string. Instead of retiring from the saddle, I hit upon the idea of combining race riding with being a trainer. That’s how the change came about, after which I met my future wife Stéphanie. We’ve being together now for 13 years. It was to prove the ideal moment as regards beginning a new life. We originally set up shop at San Sebastian (Spain). Its close proximity to France made it relatively straight forward to run horses there by hopping across the border. We trained ten to fifteen horses. Despite the positive results obtained in the first two seasons, we decided to return to France. The high set-up costs of training in a foreign country were a key factor in this decision."
The Sanchez operation then decamped to Chantilly where it was based for three years before transferring to Pau. It has been based in the South-West of France for seven years now,
and half of the 20 strong string are PA horses. The number of Group class English thoroughbred performers are conspicuous by their absence, but several horses have proved competitive at handicap level. The stable is ticking over but it’s above all with his PA horses that Frédéric Sanchez has hit the big time.
An opportunity arises. The former jockey sees a direct link between the time he spent in Dubai and the trust placed in him by the son of the then president, His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The initial steps yielded little in terms of results and coincided with the arrival of Thabit (Munjiz). He explained: "They sent me a horse and told me that it wasn’t a champion, adding that I should try and see what I could do with him!"
Thabit eventually landed the 2016 edition of the Coupe du Sud-Ouest (Gr3 PA). At La Teste-de-Buch, he dominated performers of the calibre of Mabrooka (Mahabb) and Sir Bani Yas (Amer). We’ve also had the brothers of Thabit join the yard – as well as his sister. Bandar (Munjiz) went on to finish third in the French PA Derby (Gr1 PA) won by Nafees (Azadi). A Gr3 PA winner in Morocco, he went on to become his handler’s first runner in the Kahayla Classic. However, the trainer is of the opinion that their sister, Najah (Munjiz), was the better performer. She landed the Prix Razzia III (Gr3 PA) on her introduction before scoring a Gr2 PA double at Toulouse. However, her racing career was curtailed by injury. Consequently, Hayyan (Munjiz) became his first charge to win at Gr1 PA level by landing the British and French versions of the PA Derby.
Frédéric Sanchez said: "Hayyan is the fourth product of his dam which I’ve been able to train. As befits the ethos of Sheikh Mansoor, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, horses and men are deserving of respect. They’re also very honest people and ones which I’m very happy to train for."
The link with this particular bloodline is a very strong one as his other Gr1 PA winner, Bayan (Munjiz), is out of Mowafaka (Tidjani): herself a full sister to Dahwa. After winning a maiden she went on to triumph at Gr2 PA/Gr1 PA level in a campaign spanning four starts. She was a courageous sixth in the Qatar Arabian Trophy des Juments (Gr1 PA) at ParisLongchamp last time. As things stand, she is going to be roughed off for the season, but with a view to returning to training next year.
Before the British PA Derby, Frédéric Sanchez had no plans to run Hayyan in the Qatar Arabian World Cup. However, shortly before the horse’s British sortie, he went on record as saying: "Should he win today, we could go down that route next year. He’s still a four-year-old and is much too young. He may head to Abu Dhabi for the Jewel Crown. However, we do need to look after our older horses."
Hayyan’s first Gr1 PA success put his trainer in the spotlight. He said: "When you win as jockey, you dismount after the race and return home where you sit down to a meal with your friends and family. However, when you become a trainer you need to be available 24/7 – 365 days of the year. I’m very close to my team and that’s the reason why I wish to train a small number of horses. I also like to build a close rapport with the horses as they’re a bit like my own children."
In the past, Frédéric Sanchez would love to have trained in Hong Kong. As things stand, his focus has changed. He said: "We’re very involved with our French stable. Perhaps one day, it would be very interesting to winter the horses in Abu Dhabi before returning to France for the summer."
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