A LOOK AT THE TOP TEN FRENCH STABLES - The French trainers look ahead to 2019
No less than 35 trainers picked up at least a share of prize money during the 2018 French Purebred Arabian racing season. Here we take a close look at five of the top ten handlers which were ranked in terms of prize money won. [Part 2 of 2]
THOMAS FOURCY [Royan-La Palmyre]
The top earner in terms of prize money won in 2018, Thomas Fourcy enjoyed notable success in the Qatar Arabian Trophy des Pouliches (Gr1 PA) via Al Haffanah. He continues to enjoy the backing of Al Shaqab, in addition to opening his doors to other owners.
The French Purebred Arabian. – I would imagine that you will look back to the backend of the 2018 season with a certain satisfaction?
Thomas Fourcy. – The word satisfied may be stretching it a bit. My three-year-olds were hardly vintage quality with the exception of Al Haffanah (Amer) and Shalaa (Dahess), who showed his mettle. We had a lot of setbacks and several horses were of average ability. Apart from October and November, which were good months for the stable, it proved to be an average season. I’ve set my sights on reaching higher goals. We had banked on Al Haffanah delivering the goods in the latter part of the season. The filly had been pleasing me in the mornings and how she ran on her debut. I didn’t want to race her during the summer as the tracks were too firm for this fairly backward filly.
You then went on to enjoy a couple of big wins in Toulouse.
Yes, thanks to Rijm (French Arabian Breeders’ Challenge Classic - H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup, Gr1 PA), and Al Naama (French Arabian Breeders’ Challenge Sprint, Gr2 PA). Both deserved their PA Group wins. Al Naama was beaten by Al Shamoos (No Risk Al Maury) before faring badly at ParisLongchamp – over a trip that was on the long side and after having an unhappy time of it during the race. She also led home a stable 1-2 at Toulouse when Lwsail (Amer) completed the forecast, although the latter isn’t the easiest of rides.
Earlier in the season, Al Walid won the Prix de Carthage-Hannibal (Gr2 PA) in good style?
Al Walid (Dahess) made a very good start to the season by winning at Pau. The horse was in very good order and we were able to cash-in. Subsequently, life became more complicated for him when the better horses started to make an appearance. We gave him a break before sending him to Qatar during the winter. He’s done what has been asked of him by winning two races and getting placed behind some of the best horses. Granted the way he has been campaigned, the horse should continue to deliver the goods for his owner.
However, the good horses in the yard continued to make their presence felt…
Khataab (Amer), the Qatar Arabian World Cup (Gr1 PA) second, also springs to mind. He has always been among the elite performers. He doesn’t race very often as he is prone to suffering from minor health problems. We kept him under wraps and he delighted us on how he ran on the Arc de Triomphe card. Our immediate reaction after the race was one of disappointment because the winner, Fazza Al Khalediah (Jalnar Al Khalidiah), was still an unknown quantity at the time. However, the latter has since run some blinders in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) circuit, and this gives the performance of Khataab added kudos. He is competitive with those type of horses.
You must have some big targets in mind for the unbeaten Al Haffanah?
She is being aimed at the Qatar Arabian Trophy des Juments (Gr1 PA) during the Arc de Triomphe weekend. Put simply, the filly will have just one prep race en route to this race, and there’s no pressure. Should she win at ParisLongchamp, which is what I’m hoping for, the next port of call is the Amir’s Sword (Gr1 PA) at Doha.
You must have relished the win of her sister Al Sheeh on March 24th?
Yes, even taking into account that I was surprised that Al Sheeh (Dahess) was able to beat Bayan (Munjiz), as the latter had run second to Al Haffanah in the Qatar Arabian Trophy des Pouliches (Gr1 PA) at Saint-Cloud. Her homework is fine but, to my way of thinking, she isn’t necessarily a champion. She shows another side to her character in the afternoons. It’s not within the reach of every PA horse to do what she did on her debut, considering the lack of leeway at the beginning of the straight. She really surprised me in a positive way.
What is the latest on Shalaa?
He’s going well and is on course to return in the Prix Dormane (Gr3 PA) at La Teste on April 26th. He’s a late-maturing type and I had planned on running him at Mont-de-Marsan before the Qatar Arabian Trophy des Poulains (Gr1 PA) in which he was third. However, he had sustained a cut testicle for his pains and, despite being given the green light by the vet, I decided against running him at the former venue. I’m not going to say that it cost us a PA Gr1 win, as he was beaten by some good horses – having more than held his own. He confirmed that form by going on to land the Prix Ourour (L PA) at the backend. Coming off a break, he has steadily been finding his form. He won’t be firing on all cylinders come April 26th, but it should enable him to be spot-on for the Qatar Derby des Pur-sang Arabes de 4ans (Gr1 PA).
You have a number of three-year-olds in training this season. What are your initial impressions?
There are around ten colts from this age group which I like a lot although they aren’t necessarily precocious types. Our working methods will hopefully unearth those potential Gr1s PA performers.
Could you give a few examples?
Al Shaqab’s Snan (Al Mamun Monlau); Mwarid (Amer), the brother of Al Haffanah and Al Sheeh; Mounjared Al Cham (Azadi); Durgham Al Cham (Azadi); Amyr du Soleil (Amer); Jabalah (Al Mamun Monlau); and Al Malhouf (Dahess), the half-brother of Lwsail. This particular group are potential prospects for the Gr1 PA race at Saint-Cloud.
Sticking with the three-year-olds, I have a great affinity for Goldamer (Amer), the full brother of Mister Ginoux, but he is going to need more time. We will give him a quiet introduction and a more likely target is one of Breeders’ Challenge races towards the backend. There's no question of taking risks and will train the good horses with their four-year-old careers in mind, even if the Gr1 PA race at Saint-Cloud is on the agenda.
Where are we with the fillies?
They are less numerous than the colts in my yard but I still have three or four standout prospects. Some combine physical attributes with their breeding page. One can cite the names of Meethag (Dahor de Brugère), the sister of Al Haffanah; Al Efreeta (Dahess), the sister of Shalaa; Namira Al Cham (Azadi), the full sister of Al Fahda, and Al Shama (Nizam), who should be in her element over distances considered to be in the ‘intermediary’ range.
So you should be very hopeful in terms of achieving results going forward?
I’m more confident than last season. My current lot of PA horses are much better in physical terms than my 2018 string. However, I’m not really in a hurry, as was the case last year, when we didn’t have the same quality in the yard. I will let the horses develop for the better.
Does no longer working exclusively for Al Shaqab represent a big change for you?
Not really as I still have a lot of horses which bear the Al Shaqab label. A different clientele enables me to work with other people, and pick up on different methods or way of doing things. I still have a lot to learn. It’s a good place to be in – even if it makes for a lot of work. I was unquestionably a little more relaxed beforehand, but you can’t rest on your laurels. If you are reliant on a single client there is an element of risk should it not work out. Al Shaqab have helped me a lot. The new situation which I find himself in was the result of the joint decision process. I’ve got some good ammunition at my disposal this season and things should work out well.
ANTOINE DE WATRIGANT [Mont-de-Marsan]
Having taken out his trainer’s licence in 2005, Antoine de Watrigant claimed his first Gr1 success via the English thoroughbred Gailo Chop in 2015. Over a period of three years, he has also been adding high quality Purebred Arabians to his string. The results have continued to flow as denoted by the success of last season’s generation leader Marid.
The French Purebred Arabian. – The highpoint of your bonanza 2018 season proved to be the victory of Marid in the Qatar Arabian Trophy des Poulains. What is your take
on matters in the cold light of day?
Antoine de Watrigant. – Marid (TM Fred Texas) is a good horse and there’s nothing more to it than that. Providing there are no hitches, he will prove that his place lies beyond the confines of just the mere good performers. He won three of his four races last term and, reflecting on his third in the Qatar Coupe de France des Chevaux Arabes (Gr1 PA), the horse should never have got beaten. Peslier wasn’t in the saddle and that was the decisive factor. So he could easily still be unbeaten. However, all things being equal, the fact that he was to prove a dual Gr1 winner, speaks volumes. The horse accounted for some serious opposition and one has the impression that there is more in the locker, and that he could yet get better. He’s quite a delicate type and far from straightforward, and I hope that he will age well. He’s a quality horse. I’ve been training PA horses for only three years, and he’s very much in a class of his own. The dam, Al Dahma (Amer), is undoubtedly the best PA broodmare in the world, and one with the ability to generate a third/fourth foal of such quality, after being bred to a young stallion. I immediately became aware of his ability in the morning.
Although you don’t have a large numbers of horses in training, your charges often prove effective in black type races?
In the older PA horses’ division, I was able to go to war with Aoun (Mahabb), Taymour (Mahabb) and Meelad (Azadi), the brother of Marid but a class below him. He has since gone to Qatar. Taymour is a good horse and one that hasn’t shown his full potential. He doesn’t care much for fast ground and Abu Dhabi clearly wasn’t his cup of tea. He should have contested the Dubai Kahayla Classic (Gr1 PA), only for the outbreak of equine rhino pneumonitis to put paid to those plans and he stayed at home. It proved to be a blessing in disguise. When successful in the Grand Prix de Sa Majesté le Roi Mohammed VI (Gr3 PA) in Morocco, he delivered a masterclass. On a heavy track, or what could be described as bad ground, and granted the pronounced kickback factor as a result of racing towards the rear, he was still able to make up ground progressively. At the end of the day it was no contest. He continued in the same vein at Deauville in the Doha Cup - Prix Manganate (Gr1 PA) after making a close contest of it with some quality performers, Rajeh and Rodess du Loup. During the Qatar Arabian World Cup (Gr1 PA), he was ridden all wrong and that run shouldn’t be held against him. Finally, after travelling to La Teste for the Shadwell - Coupe du Sud-Ouest des Pur-sang Arabes (Gr3 PA), he had the race won in two strides. On the proviso that he is a ridden by a jockey that understands him, he is clearly a very good horse. He has a devastating change of gear. He hit it off with François-Xavier Bertras in Morocco and the rider was suitably impressed. He felt that the horse had a high cruising speed. Should his services not be required by trainer François Rohaut, he will be booked for Taymour each time he races.
Can you elaborate on your standout three-year-old performers?
On the face of it, and factoring physique and breeding into the equation, we are clearly operating well below the levels of last season. I was aware of this and had been warned about it in any case. Some seasons are of the fallow variety. However, I’ve a full sister to Marid, Hakida, in the yard, and she seems an interesting prospect. She will need time but the filly
looks to be somewhat above average. She won’t see the racecourse before the summer.
Regarding the remainder, we’re talking about average horses – even if they are proving to be speedier than what has come before them in the past. The horses that have come into the yard have tended to be on the muscular, thick set and backward side. I gave Juhana (Kandar du Falgas) her racecourse introduction and she has proved a bit pacey.
However, the French programme isn’t geared towards either short distances or intermediate trips?
In the cases of Taymour, Aoun and some of my other horses, I took the conscious decision not to race them over shorter trips as they can develop bad habits. It can set them off and they can subsequently race very freely. They don’t need that. I gear their preparation in such a way that they are taught to work over 2,000m, the very distance of the top PA races.
The horses tend to remain with me after a successful season, and the fact that good performers are coming into the yard each year is a considerable plus. I’m lucky. Certain professionals do their job – only to see their horses eventually go elsewhere – and, believe me, that’s not funny. Other trainers push their charges to the limit. That’s a shame as it can adversely affect a horse’s career.
You can extensively travel and race the quality older performers which get better with age. When the results starts to come your way, a certain confidence sets-in. I was in Dubai the other day after visiting Qatar. It’s a real pleasure to be able to discuss with them. I met Jean de Roüalle, who trains the Yas Horse Racing horses in the UAE, and we were able to come to an understanding; this will entail me sending him horses which are deemed to be best suited to the local racing conditions. Everyone needs to find their niche and, in the final analysis, the owner needs to come out on top. It’s my way of working.
FRANÇOIS ROHAUT [Pau]
The six best PA horses of the François Rohaut yard during the 2018 season have either been retired to stud or exported abroad. However, the Pau handler is looking ahead to the 2019 campaign with a mixture of enthusiasm and ambition. He has every right to be – considering that the yard is home to around 40 juveniles and a fair sprinkling of quality three-year-old Purebred Arabians. Consequently, he probably has never been so well equipped in terms of horsepower.
Broaching the subject of the younger stock in the yard, the Pau-based handler said: "I’ve a good group of three-year-old Purebred Arabians both in terms of attractive physical specimens and breeding. I hope that some good horses will emerge from the pile but it’s too early to say which ones. We have started to put them through their paces but the majority of them aren’t precociously-bred. Many owners like to aim their horses at the big end of season races, in addition to prioritising their four-year-old campaigns. The early season races aren’t a priority. We will be in a better position to evaluate the situation in June. Our main aim is to keep them fit and healthy which entails them learning their trade and being toughened up. If they prove to be very good, they will take the direction of Saint-Cloud and then Toulouse. Al Mahbooba (Madjani) is the most forward of the lot. She had an entry in the very first race for three-year-olds but we eventually opted not to run her."
Muraaqib returns to training. François Rohaut has trained numerous Gr1 PA winners in his time, including Lahib (Kairouan de Jos), Verdoyante (Dormane), Bopp Moon (Dormane) Muraaqib (Munjiz), the best PA horse trained in France in 2018, Al Jakbar (Al Sakbe), Gabra (Dormane) and Sivit Al Maury (Akbar). He is also one of the rare handlers to have moulded the careers of two heavyweight PA stallions, Munjiz (Kesberoy) and Mahabb (Tahar de Candelon). François Rohaut said: "Munjiz and Mahabb were in the yard at the same time and the timescales as regards their departure to stud were almost identical. We are talking about two contrasting physical specimens. Mahabb was all about speed whereas Munjiz had a lot more stamina. However, it’s a source of amusement that some of the progeny by Mahabb are capable of out-staying their pedigrees, and that Munjiz can be an influence for speed. These are the mysteries of genetics. I’m delighted that both horses have proved successful at stud. Progeny by Mahabb can prove to be somewhat delicate but those able to make the grade have proved to be remarkable PA performers. Munjiz remains one of the best PA horses which I’ve ever trained. Year on year, he produces quality performers which tend to be very solid physical specimens, and ones which get tougher with age. Muraaqib has returned to the yard and it will give me great pleasure to prepare him for another racing season."
The 2018 racing season won’t go down in the annals of French racing as a vintage one, and many Chantilly trainers, in tandem with their provincial counterparts, harbour legitimate ambitions of doing better in 2019. François Rohaut fits this profile. He enjoyed his first Gr1 success in 1986,
when he had yet to reach his 30th birthday. He then had to wait a few seasons before diverting all his attentions to the flat scene, before a further gap spanning two decades ushered in his first classic success. Ever since then, the dye has been cast. This has given rise to the successes of Lucayan (Poule d’Essai des Poulains, Gr1), Torrestrella (Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Gr1) and Tie Black (Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Gr1). He is part of a select band of five French handlers and current licence holders to have trained at least three classic winners, a club which comprises André Fabre, Jean-Claude Rouget, Pascal Bary and Alain de Royer Dupré.
His previous six Gr1 winners, Torrestrella, Lucayan, Signs of Blessing, Tie Black, Turtle Bowl and Mrs Lindsay, all raced at two, often without the burden of too much expectation, before all winning first time out the following season. Granted his propensity for training progressive types, allied to the stable being home to a group of juveniles considered to be smart three-year-olds in the making, clearly ties in perfectly with the French programme. Consequently, the French racing public are of the mind when it comes to discerning the juveniles of the Pau handler that the best is often to come the following season. He said: "We have a nice lot of two-year-olds this year - even if it is still too early to gauge their level of ability. They are a little more forward than in previous seasons as we’ve had a very good winter. They’re a promising lot and I thank the owners for the trust which they have placed in me. It would be difficult to mention all their names, and particularly those which aren’t particularly precocious. It’s something of a boon for the stable to receive an intake of such quality."
Looks can prove deceiving. Apart from the successes of the speedball Balbonella (Gay Mécène), François Rohaut has also landed the Prix d’Arenberg (Gr3) with Toupie (Intikhab), the future second of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, in addition to tasting success in the Prix du Calvados (Gr3) via Lady Vettori (Vettori).
However, it’s inevitable that when six of your last seven Gr1 successes have been recorded by three-year-olds, and that the prestige successes enjoyed by his fillies, namely the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and the Prix Vermeille, belong to the same age group, it leaves a certain impression. After a trainer has distinguished himself with these types of horses, the owners have a tendency to home in on this and fuel the trend by sending similar types to the handler. Consequently, the two stables which have the greatest juvenile representation in the yard, Shadwell and Al Shaqab Racing, are thought unlikely to have entrusted the Pau professional with their speedier types. However, he has proved capable of training Gr1 winning juveniles over 1,100m, as denoted by the success of Balbonella in the Prix Robert Papin, which enjoyed Group one status at the time. He has also proved capable of capturing the big sprint race for three-year-olds and up, the Prix Maurice de Gheest, via Signs of Blessing. This is in addition to his big jumping success in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris (El Triunfo), and the exploits of some of the best Anglo-Arabians of the last few decades such as Féerie Blue, plus the Gr1 PA wins enjoyed by the likes of Munjiz, Lahib, Verdoyante, Bopp Moon, Muraaqib, Al Jakbar, Gabra, Sivit Al Maury and Rajeh.
The dreams afforded by the English throughbred sector. Of the 40 or so juveniles trained by
François Rohaut this season, some are bred in the purple and namely a trio acquired for 200,000 Gns/euros or more. Cœur d'Or (Dabirsim), for one, is a full brother to Cœur de Beauté (Dabirsim).
The latter proved a smart juvenile and, after running second in the Prix de la Vallée d’Auge (L) and the Prix Eclipse (Gr3), went on to capture the Prix Zeddaan (L). The filly was only beaten a head in The Emirates Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (Gr1) the following season, when the race was switched to the ‘grande piste’ at the last minute which did her no favours. Sharib (Invincible Spirit) is the brother of Motamarris (Le Havre), an impressive debut winner at Chantilly in March, and to Riqa (Dubawi), second in the Prix Coronation and the Prix Volterra (Ls), as well as Saraaba (New Approach), the Prix de Thiberville (L) runner-up. Sharib is also the uncle of Tantheem (Teofilo), successful in both the Prix de Cabourg and the Qatar Prix du Petit Couvert (Grs3). He is the nephew of Tamayuz (Nayef), the author of a double strike in the Prix Jean Prat and Prix Jacques Le Marois (Grs1). Only four juveniles by the sire Deep Impact (Sunday Silence) are currently in training in France. The breakdown reveals that André Fabre houses two of them – with Pascal Bary and François Rohaut tasked with training the two others. The as yet un-named Al Shaqab Racing colt is out of the
British Gr2 placed mare Shagah (Invincible Spirit). François Rohaut is very familiar with this line, having enjoyed considerable success with the likes of Pearl Banks, Pearls or Passion, Pearly Avenue, and Pearly Shells.
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