Timo Keersmaekers: "Messi’s results have spurred me on"


Timo Keersmaekers: "Messi’s results have spurred me on"

A few days in the aftermath of Messi’s win (Dahess) in the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown (Gr1), trainer Timo Keersmaekers reminisced on this prestigious win, his first at this level, and elaborated on his ambitions for the future.

The French Purebred Arabian. – How are you feeling two days after recording your first Gr1 PA success?

Timo Keersmaekers. – I’m very happy of course. We had a stroke of luck after the World Cup, as Messi subsequently disappointed at Mons. We had a lot of rain in the lead-up and it proved impossible to work him on my gallops. We kept him ticking over by exercising him in the forest before picking up the pace over a ten day period. We were also able to capitalise on the favourable conditions during the quarantine period at Meydan. We were able to train on the main track and that proved very beneficial for the horse in terms of acquiring speed. The result speaks for itself. It’s incredible.

Particularly as Messi dominated the opposition head over heels in the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown…

Adrie de Vries advised me to enlist the services of Pat Dobbs, who is a very good jockey. I told him that I had no qualms about the longer (200m) trip compared to the World Cup, and that my concerns centred more around the pace at which the race would be run, which could be very fast. Pat Dobbs adopted the right tactics, which were virtually the same as at Longchamp, and entailed deploying waiting tactics that bit longer with a view to drawing on the horse’s finishing kick. Consequently, Messi managed to take up a good position and he was very relaxed. He also produced a fast finish. The horse was also in very good spirits after the race.

What lies in store for the horse?  Will you give him a break?

Messi is back home. I’m going to give the horse a 15 day break before he resumes training,

while, at the same time, ensuring that he is kept ticking over by continuing his twice weekly visits to the forest. As we don’t want him to lose too much condition. The game plan revolves around whether he receives an invitation to run in either the Obaiya Arabian Classic, on the Saudi Cup card, or the Dubai Kahayla Classic (Gr1 PA). Messi has the advantage of still being relatively fresh, as his training regime/season only started in June of this year. He’s in good spirits – as we send him out to grass each morning when he is back home – contrary to what happens at the bigger stables where horses are placed in small paddocks. That must do the horse a power of good.

Does racing on dirt hold any terrors for you?

No. He had already won on the sand at Mons last year, and the way he was working on the dirt at Meydan, a few days prior to his success at Abu Dhabi, was incredible. It was a game for him. I must stress that there is simply no comparison between my training facilities back home and those at Meydan which are Champions’ League class!  He thoroughly enjoyed himself.

You must have had numerous offers to buy the horse after the Abu Dhabi win?

There has been no shortage of offers despite the fact that he’s already quite old for a PA racecourse. I’ve don’t need to sell him as I have a profession on the side from which I earn a living. Thanks to the victory in Abu Dhabi, we netted close to €600,000 and no offer came close to that figure. I’ve also received an offer to lease Messi, but the horse is synonymous with a whole host of emotions for me personally. He is very dear to my heart. So I would therefore prefer to keep him unless an offer is tabled which I can’t refuse. However, the horse has enabled me to fulfil a dream which I've always harboured, like racing here in Dubai.

Has the success you’ve had with Messi fuelled the desire to train more horses?

Yes, I wish to train more horses despite the fact that my work entails me spending time in hotels for most of the year, when the Covid crisis isn’t afoot. However, I’m going to try and change my agenda so as to be able to train four to six horses. However, no more than that. I’m also very interested in the pre-training aspect, as you can work in a calm manner and the pressure is less. I’ve just bought a horse at the Deauville sales this morning for the sum of

10.000 €: an English thoroughbred filly by Teofilo by the name of Britannia. The results obtained by Messi have spurred me on. I hope that he can race for another season before retiring to stud as a stallion.