Ioritz Mendizabal: "I don't tend to look back too much!"


Ioritz Mendizabal: "I don't tend to look back too much!"

After a great 2020 campaign, Ioritz Mendizabal has started 2021 with a bang, as underscored by his victory on the Dubai World Cup evening card a fortnight ago.

JDG Arabians. – At Meydan you rode Deryan to victory in one of the most prestigious races for the PA breed, the Dubai Kahayla Classic (Gr1 PA). So the season began well for you!

Ioritz Mendizabal. – Yes, you could say that. However, Deryan surprised me. I've always had a lot of affinity for this horse, and especially on this kind of surface. He's a horse who continues to have his own particular idiosyncrasies, as he tends to idle when he hits the front. Although he tends to prove more effective on dirt, and so the horse is capable of delivering some bonanza performances.

Deryan is trained by Didier Guillemin and he carries the colours of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whose stable is managed by Thierry Delègue. Can you elaborate on this collaboration?

This collaboration started one and a half years ago. I continue to make myself available to ride for this concern when I can. The Meydan raid was far from straight forward, as the horse was coming off a moderate effort at Riyadh. It presented something of a challenge as, in the wake of this trip, a quarantine period of eight days became mandatory. However, I had to make the trip in order to defend the colours of Sheikh Mansoor, and it went well.

You worked for Jean-Claude Rouget for a long time before going your own way. How is your career structured nowadays?

I prioritise riding morning work for Simone Brogi and, when Jean-Claude Rouget has a need for my services, having remained on very good terms with him, I also make myself available. After that, I tend to ride on an ad hoc basis.

Let's look back at last season. As for a ten year period you didn't ride a Gr1 winner, and, yet in 2020, you won two such races: the Prix du Jockey Club aboard Mishriff and the Darley Prix Jean Romanet on Audarya. That’s a phenomenal achievement…

It's more than just phenomenal (laughing). A year ago to the very day, if you would have told me that, I wouldn't have believed you. You need to keep going and retain the necessary belief – for sure I had a fantastic year.

As far as Mishriff is concerned, did you think he would progress further and achieve what he did further down the line, namely the Saudi Cup and Sheema Classic double?

Before the Jockey Club, and having watched his races, I was happy enough to ride him. I knew he would run well but had no idea that he would go on to become the best horse in the world. On the other hand, and, referring to the racecourse, what he did 200m from the post,[at Chantilly that is to say: changing leads and finding another gear is the hallmark of a crack performer. That goes without saying.

You have collected four French jockeys’ championships (2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010), and your first title entailed you setting a new record (220) for the number of winners ridden in a single season...

However, this record was shattered the following year... by Christophe Soumillon [editor's note: 226 wins], and this was a considerable achievement because I thought that my own milestone would last for a while. I had experienced the effort that it takes to reach the 220 winner mark... So the mere fact that he went on to beat my record is incredible.

Looking back, how do you view your career?

Honestly, I don't tend to look back too much. I'm happy doing what I'm doing. I try to be as consistent as possible. However, it’s not easy to remain at the highest level in France because there are a lot of good jockeys on the scene.  I wake up fuelled by the passion and the added desire to come across a good horse. That's what drives me above all else.

What about the evolution of the jockey’s profession?

As in all professions, you have to adapt. As those that don't adapt are destined to disappear.

Those that stick to what they already know will never progress.

What are your goals at present?

Every year I strive for the same thing, but it's hard to achieve it: unearthing a good horse. I will really go for it – subject to coming across whoever will enable me to facilitate the ‘development’ of the good horse in question. That’s the end game.