Jean de Roualle celebrated 40 years as a trainer this year and, at the end of the United Arab Emirates racing season, he chose to retire and return to France. For the time being that is….PART 1 OF 2
photo 1 – Après la victoire de Ziyadd CRÉDIT dubai racing club
His career has transcended the spheres of English thoroughbreds and PA horses, and has been punctuated by numerous high class performers. Growing up, racing was not the how the family earned its living, although they owned saddle horses and went hunting. His father entertained great expectations of his son, and after school, university and military service, it came as a shock to learn that Jean was heading to Kentucky to work at a stud.
He said: « I love horses and racing, but I think my father thought I was rather destined to be the President of France! I wasn’t ready to attend business school, which is what he wanted, so horses were a kind of escape. I didn’t think then I would become a trainer, and yearning for a change of scenery, I headed to the US for two years. »
After initially cutting his teeth at Benson Farm, he transferred to Spendrift Farm the following year where he worked in the stallions’ barn. Describing it as “a fabulous experience”, it proved an easy decision when it came to expanding his horizons to the training sphere as, on his return to France, the opportunity to become assistant to Francois Boutin arose.
« I spent four years with Francois Boutin. He had Nureyev (Northern Dancer), a magnificent champion, and many other good horses in the yard. I applied for my training licence in the wake of Francois telling me that Mr Niarchos had the intention of having 150 horses in-training with him. However, it was subject to a particular pre-condition that I would
exclusively train the remaining ‘Boutin’ horses, and those of three other owners’. »
« The ‘others’ were Gerry Oldham, who owned the triple winner of the Ascot Gold Cup, Sagaro (Espresso), Jean-Luc Lagardère, the top owner-breeder and the first president of France-Galop, plus Chrys Goulandris [Lady O’Reilly]. François told me it was time to fly the nest and that he would help me, as he couldn’t retain all of his owners, and that subject to their agreement, I could the train the horses of his former owners, adding that he would monitor the situation during the first year. »
photo 2 – Jean de Roualle CRÉDIT scoopdyga
« So I started [training] on 1 January 1983 at Chantilly [editor’s note: he had his first runner at Maisons-Laffitte on March 25 where Fool For You was sixth]. I was very lucky to win my first group race, the Prix d’Aumale at Longchamp, with Eastern Dawn (Damascus). The filly belonged to a marvellous owner from New York, Mackenzie Miller: a client I picked up from Francois Boutin. I subsequently experienced a few lean years but, in 1991, I won my first Gr1 race, the Prix de Diane, with Caerlina (Caerleon). »
He experienced his last Gr1 success with an English thoroughbred in 2007 when Satwa Queen (Muhtahir) won the Prix de L’Opéra at Longchamp. In the aftermath Steven Lamprell, the owner who had many horses with the handler, quipped: “You will never come across another horse of that calibre again – so you should quit training!” However, Jean de Roualle soldiered on and he has trained close to a 1000 winners in France. However times change, and the big owners come and go.
photo 3 – Satwa Queen (au centre) CRÉDIT scoopdyga
« I asked myself a few questions, and I spoke to my wife, because you always need a woman by your side! So what would the future hold in store for us? That of training mediocre horses? I don’t wish to sound arrogant, but when you’re lucky enough to train Gr1 winners, you want to keep on having good horses.
« There was another issue in France. I had been based at Chantilly for over 30 years, and others were upping sticks and heading to other parts of France to train; our training fees were going up, and yet the equivalent rates in the provinces were half of those at Chantilly, and we couldn’t match this. »
He signed off his French career on 29 March 2011 via the win of Satwa Ruby (Verglas), also owned by Steven Lamprell and his wife Gillian, at Compiègne. As, a month later, he had headed to Morocco to begin a five-year contract with the Al Alami family, one of the wealthiest in the country, with the optic of launching Jalobey Racing. It was an ambitious project but, within four years, this concern had mopped up all the top Moroccan prizes. However it came with a new challenge: the Purebred Arabian (PA) horse.
He added: « To my way of thinking classic horses are classic horses, and if the component parts are in place, you can achieve irrespective of the breed. I remember it well when Hermes and Longines ceased sponsoring the Prix du Jockey-Club and the Prix de Diane. The Qataris agreed to step in on the proviso that space be found for PA races on these cards. My mind-set was like everyone else at that time, as PA horses were not like they are now: given that the races then were not good to watch, which is why we were very snobbish about them to be frank. When you watch them now it’s amazing the progress that they have made. »
photo 4 – Djarnizam Maamora CRÉDIT scoopdyga
Djarnizam Maamora (Nizam) was the game changer as regards changing the trainer’s view of the PA breed. After winning seven races in Morocco and twice placed at local Gr3 PA level, the horse headed to France in 2013. Immediate success at Cagnes-sur-Mer ensued, before the challenge of Deauville’s Prix Manganate beckoned, which represented quite a step up in class. A far from disgraced fifth, when beaten less than six lengths, by the likes of Muntasar (Majd Al Arab), Tabarak (Nizam), Mushrae (Munjiz) and Al Mamun Monlau (Muniz), it gave further impetus to the foreign challenge. Trips to Paris and Baden Baden were next, before the horse returned to Morocco for a winter break, which was the prelude to three further wins. Britain was the next destination as regards seeking Gr1 PA success, which resulted in a third to Al Mouhannad (Nizam) in the Za’abeel International on the Dubai Day card. He followed up with a fifth to Al Atique (Amer) at Doncaster.
However, in June of that year, the Moroccan venture ended after a parting of the ways between Jalobey and Jean de Roualle. An offer from Dubai subsequently materialised, and so the handler transferred to Al Ain to train the horses of HH Sheikh Mansoor’s YAS Horseracing Management. Overseeing a team of PA horses whose careers had begun in France, he found himself back at the top table again thanks to Gr1 PA successes of Loraa (Mawood), Ziyadd (Bibi de Carrerre) and Somoud (Munjiz).
« My goal was to win a third President Cup with Somoud but unfortunately he came second. He won five Group 1PA races, and having given us is all, he will now begin his career as a stallion. Majdy (Mahabb) was my last runner in the UAE. The colt won easily and it was an emotional occasion.
As for me, I’m back in France. I’m still on very good terms with Sheikh Mansoor and his team which is led by Khalil Dababneh. Éric Lemartinel is taking over and he’s an excellent trainer. I think he will have young horses with potential [in his yard] next season. »
His parting shot, laced by a smile, was: « Initially, I have a pétanque competition awaiting me and I cannot miss that! I think I will find retirement boring and I hate fishing! But there are a couple of offers on the table so we will see what the future holds. »
photo 5 – Ziyadd CRÉDIT DUBAI RACING CLUB
Twelve quotes from Jean de Roualle
The training of PA horses
« Training the top PA horses is exactly the same as training top English thoroughbreds, but, regarding the rest of the equation, it’s more difficult as you can’t train them as hard as English thoroughbreds given that they aren’t precocious. However, the racing careers of PA horses tend to be longer ones. Hence the presence of races such as the Jewel Crown, or the big prizes in Saudi Arabia, whose prize money levels are rising very quickly. It’s something incredible. It’s a very privileged position to be in, and I should know, in my [past] capacity as private trainer to Sheikh Mansoor. »
Exchanging viewpoints with Thomas Fourcy
« PA horses don’t react the same way, and if you over-train them, they say apply the brakes straight away. You need to gear their race preparation, or at least for some of them, in such a way that they’re fresher than [English] thoroughbreds. For example, I used to breeze my English thoroughbred colts 48 hrs before a race. Yet you wouldn’t do that with a PA horse as they need to be a bit fresh. However, they are not all the same. Thomas [editor’s note: Fourcy], speaking on the subject of Lady Princess, told me: “Jean, she spends three months at stud being rested over the winter. On returning to the yard, she does a hack canter every day, and there is a gap of ten days before any of her speed orientated workouts, and then I run her. There’s no gallop, no stablemate that works alongside her, no lead horse, nothing, and yet she’s invariably ready to run. She’s from another planet. I don’t know her sectional times as I’m not at all interested in the clock.’ »
Can the breed improve further?
« From a breeding point of view, there has been massive improvement. France has been at the forefront of PA breeding. Initially, the South-West of France led the way and the problem is the numbers, as there aren’t enough races for PA horses.
Happily, Sheikh Mansoor sponsors a number of races. However, they should double or even triple the number of PA races. As more horses impacts on the selection process which is the only way of improving. I’m not a fan of embryo transfer. It’s not my cup of tea. »
The best horse you have trained? « I would say Caerlina with whom I won my first Group 1, the Prix de Diane. But the horse that made the most impact on me was Satwa Queen. She won five group races in three seasons, including the Prix Jean Romanet in 2006 and 2007. Moreover, following her last victory in the latter event, the race was subsequently upgraded to Group 1! There is a whole story around this mare… After seeing her as a yearling in a field at Satwa Farm, Normandy, her future owner Steven Lamprell acquired her after falling in love with her. A Dubai resident, he saw it as a sign, as « Al Satwa » is the name of a district in the Emirates’ district with which he is familiar with. Satwa Queen was later sold for 5 million guineas at the Tattersalls Sales at Newmarket: a record! » Caerlina has since become a great broodmare as her name features in the pedigrees of the Gr1 class performers: La Nuit Rose (Rainbow Quest), Al Wukair(Dream Ahead), Haugthy (Empire Maker), Curren Mirotic (Heart’s Cry), Hikaru Amaranthus (Agnes Tachyon)…
photo 6 – Al Wukair,, à gauche, un petit-fils de Caerlina CREDIT scoopdyga
A horse you would have liked to train?
« Arazi. He did not have a [long] career because of a knee problem, but I have never seen a horse generate so much interest. He was heralded as the top French juvenile prior to the 1991 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Furthermore, he delivered a bonanza performance! Very slowly away, he initially trailed the field. Slowly but surely, he ‘meandered’ his way through before scooting his way past the whole peloton. After this victory, François Boutin said that he wanted to aim him at the Kentucky Derby. On his return (1992) in the Prix Omnium II at Saint-Cloud, the paddock area had to be roped off, as there must have been 350 journalists in attendance! The horse was a real star! »
The greatest jockey you have come across?
« It’s complicated when it comes to putting forward just one name… but, if I had to make a choice it would be Gérald Mossé. He’s the complete package! I knew him when he was an apprentice, and he won some big races for me before becoming a friend. In amazing shape physically, he shows great tactical acumen during a race. When we go to dinner after racing we discuss a lot of things, but never broach the subject of racing. As what went before is now all in the past. »
The greatest trainer?
« John Gosden. I really like his way of going about things and his phlegmatic nature. »
An unexpected victory? « The win of Queen Maud (Akarad) in the 1997 edition of the Prix Vermeille (Gr 1). Olivier Peslier come down to work the filly on the Tuesday before the race. She worked like a drain! I was crestfallen because she had been the proverbial rock in the Prix Vanteaux a few months earlier… Olivier told me not to worry, and he rode her in such in way that instilled a winning feeling in the filly! And she won! »
Your greatest source of pride?
« During my lifetime, my proudest moment is to have won the President Cup in Abu Dhabi four times in six years. It’s a deep source of pride and one devoid of pretentiousness. This is the kind of motivating factor that drives you forward, and incites you to continue! Besides, I have no desire to stop training! »
Your biggest regret?
« I have no regrets! I always thought that training horses was not to be my destiny. In any case it was a source of regret for my father. It is a job which requires passion, and a tough one at that, but it’s one that gives you a lift. To train horses is to attend the school of humility, as without horses we are nothing! »
The anecdote you never dared to tell? « After my victory in the Prix de Diane, we celebrated with friends at the « Cabane à champagne » at Chantilly racecourse. I was rewarded with a magnificent Hermès trophy, offered by the sponsor, which I entrusted to my wife. On reaching home, I ask my wife: « Where is the trophy?” She no longer had it! My wife had lost my first Gr1 trophy! We almost got divorced (laughing)! We finally returned to the racetrack, where someone had kindly retrieved it us. »
Photo 7 – Ziyyad CREDIT dubai racing Club