Jean-Pierre Deroubaix: «"Our wish is for an international calendar which mirrors that of its English thoroughbred racing counterpart"
Paris hosted the 21st General Assembly of IFHAR (the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing), which heralded the election of a new executive committee, on October 7th. Jean-Pierre Deroubaix, one of four elected members, outlined the context in which the session took place and its stated objectives.
The French Purebred Arabian. – One would suppose that it was a source of great personal satisfaction that you were elected unanimously?
Jean-Pierre Deroubaix. - It’s not an end in itself. I’m above all conscious of the new responsibility entrusted to me by IFAHR. I’m also mindful, at the same time, of the need to ensure that my role within AFAC (Association française du cheval arabe de course) also needs to be brought to fruition. The French association has come a long way in the last few years.
Can you outline the nature of this evolution?
AFAC needs a representation which is modern in outlook. Its president needs to be capable of being heard at both national and international level, and be an English speaker with a good network of contacts within France Galop. Axelle Nègre de Watrigant has filled this role as she meets the requirements of this particular profile.
We’ve also been intent on ensuring that AFAC has a presence within ACA (Association d’éleveurs de chevaux arabes pur-sang et demi-sang). Stéphane Chazel has been elected president of the latter association and it’s a considerable advantage granted that he owns PA racehorses and endurance performers. It’s a seamless transition. He will be the ACA representative on matters relating to the French stud book and WAHO (World Arabian Horse Organisation). I’m also intent on playing a role within the French stud book.
THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OF IFAHR
Faisal Al Rahmani (United Arab Emirates) - President
Mats Genberg (Sweden) - Vice-President
Jean-Pierre Deroubaix (France) - Treasurer (role shared with Hicham Debbagh)
Hicham Debbagh (Morocco) - Secretary (role shared with Jean-Pierre Deroubaix)
Nelly Philippot (Belgium) - Member
Sami Al Boenain (Qatar) - Member
Mohammed Al Nujaifi (Iraq) - Member
Mohammed Al Hashimi (Oman) - Member)
Neil Abrahams (United Arab Emirates) - designated point of contact between the different board members.
Explain how you were put forward the for IFAHR role?
It was suggested within AFAC that I should throw my hat in the ring. Consequently, I came into contact with Monsieur Gadot, the other French representative, and with the aim of ensuring that we are on the same wave length.
The fact that I was elected unanimously is a reflection of my huge advantage of knowing all those who were eligible to vote, having become acquainted with them during the course of my profession.
The positions of secretary/treasurer are combined roles which I share with the Moroccan representative Hicham Debbagh. This should allow me the necessary time to find my feet within IFAHR, which is still a bit of a mystery to me.
The aim is to transcend any lingering political problems by setting in motion a plan that will cover the next few years. It needs to be something substantial but some real groundwork needs to be done before then.
What are the plans for the internet site?
We need to obtain the results in real time or almost. The simplest course of action is to ensure that the relevant ‘link’ for each race that gives access to the required site is in place. For example, France Galop would be that of French PA racing. We could do likewise with the studbooks. I think we will be successful.
Concerning the issue of the stud-books shouldn’t we be treading the path of harmonisation?
During the course of the general assembly we enlisted the input of Weatherbys: the organisation which oversees the running of the British Stud Book. It’s a role not dissimilar to that undertaken by IFCE (Institut français du cheval et de l’équitation) in France. I’m hoping that we can provide a stallions’ catalogue worthy of the name. The aim is to ensure that the IFAHR website contains all the racing performances, pedigrees, produce records and photos of all existing PA stallions. Regardless of the breeder, we need to adopt the same format for everyone. Weatherbys can also trumpet the fact that it has achieved this in the English thoroughbreds’ sector. It’s also necessary to ensure that stallions’ progeny records are updated promptly and in a timely manner.
And what of the international calendar?
It’s something which I feel strongly about. However, it’s going to take time as we need to explain to the organisers and sponsors that it’s not possible that the races open to the same types of PA horses at Goodwood, Doncaster and Windsor take place within a week of each other. I’m aware that the race dates are set in stone but it’s possible to modify the race conditions. It’s simply a question of good will. It has an adverse knock-on effect and the list includes the prep race for the Qatar Arabian World Cup (Gr1 PA) which attracted a mere three runners. It’s simply not on and our wish is for an international racing calendar which mirrors that of the English thoroughbred world. For it needs organising on the basis of month, age and a horse’s gender. Many countries staging black type events have no long term vision. The need for the harmonisation of race conditions needs to be explained to them.
What are your other areas of work?
There’s the need to help the small breeders as their numbers are dwindling in the domestic context. There is a general tendency of wanting to sell but the subsequent reinvestment is no longer taking place. It’s a real problem. It’s perfectly acceptable to sell a mare when an offer of € 200,000 is on the table. However, when it comes to buying another mare, you could find yourself in a situation when there are either none are for sale or you are up against purchasing power of the Middle Eastern buyers, and they operate in a different financial sphere. It’s impossible. The possible solutions could include staging races here in France, or elsewhere in Europe, in the October to March/April period. This would be at a time when racing in the Persian Gulf states is dormant and it would make for less competition. These races would be subject to certain conditions and they could in some cases be events restricted to the homebreds of the local breeders. The fillies/mares winning such races would become more attractive propositions from a commercial standpoint, and they could also be the source of future broodmares for French breeders. Another solution, using the Belgian example, is to stage races for horses which haven’t won € 10,000 in prize money. The Gulf States also cater for races which are devoid of horses owned by the sheikhs, and a racetrack in northern Qatar is being built for this purpose. To sum up, lasting solutions need to be found which enable French breeders to keep their broodmares. We could also canvass the big French studs when it comes to investing in PA broodmares. The Niarchos stable has already taken this path. There is potential.
What are your other areas of particular interest?
I feel strongly about animal welfare. It’s a subject which we need to broach and be up to speed on, as otherwise we will become the focus of criticism. We’ve nothing to be ashamed of as regards European PA racing as the horses are pampered. We’re talking about very attractive specimens and ones which aren’t subject to the excesses of the whip, as it serves no purpose. For PA horses are very adept at communicating their moods and how they’re feeling. If they get upset, they simply tend to put the brakes on. They are also are owned by genuine horse lovers. We mustn’t be in position whereby we are subject to criticism, but should rather be communicating what is best practice.
That would appear to be ambitious?
Yes. There’s multitude of things taking place at the same time but it’s something which resonates strongly within me as I have a strong passion for the PA horse. It’s a milieu which I particularly like and one where everyone knows each other. We message each other and also exchange photos. Our paths also crossed on the day of the Arc [de Triomphe). This doesn’t happen in the world of the English thoroughbred to which I’ve also been introduced. The owners and trainers of PA horses are, in fact, all on friendly terms. We’ve also been given access to some incredible people such as Sheikh Hamdan on the big Newbury raceday in July. On that occasion, all manner of people from the Gulf States were present. There’s no mistaking the togetherness as we embark upon our discussions. It’s quite extraordinary.
Has the election of Faisal Al Rahmani at the head of the IFAHR changed anything?
The great advantage of having elected Faisal is the support he gets from Sheikh Mansour
and the president of the United Arab Emirates. These are people with deep pockets but ones whose love of horses extends equally to endurance and show breeds as well as PA racehorses. That opens the door to sponsorship. He’s an ‘ideas’ man, and if a small team of people intent on achieving can be built around him, then things will move forward.
Do you have any final thoughts?
I’m reflecting on the work of Lara Sawaya and the of the Sheikh Mansour Festival when it comes to sponsoring races on the world stage. This has enabled us to uncover the fact that certain countries have an ‘Arabian’ presence such as Brasil, Uruguay, and South Africa… Her enthusiasm is very useful although she should ensure that her annual conference is open to new faces. I would like to return to the point which focuses on those countries where there is an ‘Arabian’ presence. The optic here is to ask ourselves: "How can we improve matters by adding to the local stimulus?". I’m thinking above all of South Africa where I discovered that there was a big presence of the breed, and the reverse scenario of Saudi Arabia where a couple of people are involved in the organising the races worth millions of dollars against the backdrop of a small horse population. Although the latter country will no doubt invest heavily in the breed. Finally, I’ve written to the Turkish Jockey Club and explained that the main reason for their candidate finishing last in the executive committee elections was down to the fact that we didn’t know her. Turkey is the country which stages the most number of PA races in the world, but they are closed to foreign competition as is the access to their stallions. If Turkey continues to pursue a closed doors policy it will invariably rank in last place on the list…They need to open more races to international competition and to provide the necessary support when it comes to racing their best horses overseas. We also need to be in a position to buy the sperm samples of the local stallions, and Turkish buyers also need to be allowed to buy what they want.
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