French trainers to follow:
The record of André Fabre is without equal in the French training ranks. As well as clinching a 30th trainers’ title in France in 2019, Fabre saddled a record eighth winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the shape of Waldgeist, his first victory in the race since Rail Link in 2006.
Fabre first won the Arc with Trempolino in 1987, followed by Subotica, Carnegie, Peintre Celebre and Sagamix in the ’90s and Hurricane Run the year before Rail Link. The trainer’s other big-race successes on French soil include 18 classics, the Grand Prix de Paris on 13 occasions and four wins in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris back in the ‘80s.
Jean-Claude Rouget finished second in the trainers’ championship in 2019, when his wins included a fourth Prix du Jockey Club courtesy of Sottsass. Rouget did not saddle a Classic winner in the first 30 years of his training career, but all that changed when three suddenly came at once in 2009, winning the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches with Elusive Wave, the Prix de Diane with Stacelita and the Prix du Jockey Club with Le Havre.
Those wins helped Rouget secure his first French trainers’ championship – a title he wrested back from Fabre again in 2016 – but he is still waiting for his maiden success in the Arc after Sottsass could finish only third behind Waldgeist in 2019.
The only other person to have won the French trainers’ championship this century is Alain de Royer Dupré, who took the title thanks largely to the exploits of Zarkava in 2008.
Unbeaten in six previous starts, including classic wins in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and the Prix de Diane, Zarkava ended her career with a brilliant win in the 2008 Arc, in the process giving her trainer a second win in the race after Dalakhani five years earlier.
The up-and-coming force in the French training ranks looks to be Francis-Henri Graffard. A former assistant to Alain de Royer Dupré, he won his first classic when Channel took last season’s Prix de Diane and has since been added to the Aga Khan’s roster of trainers.
He had saddled 12 runners from 22 runners in 2020 before the coronavirus intervened, identifying him as very much a trainer to follow as the action returns in France this week.
French jockeys to follow:
Like Britain, the jockeys’ championship in France – otherwise known as the Cravache d’Or – is decided by number of winners, which meant that Maxime Guyon took the title for the first time with a tally of 234 winners in 2019.
Guyon is no stranger to success at the highest level, either, having previously tasted classic glory with the likes of Lope de Vega, who won both the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Prix du Jockey Club in 2010. Guyon has also won the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, courtesy of Miss France in 2014, but he is still waiting for his first success in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
By contrast, Christophe Soumillon already appears on the roll of honour for the Arc twice, having been in the saddle for the wins of Dalakhani (2003) and Zarkava (2008), both of which came in the colours of his main supporter, the Aga Khan.
Belgian-born Soumillon is a jockey in demand all over the world, with his big-race wins internationally including the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Shirocco in 2005), the Japan Cup (Epiphaneia in 2014) and the Dubai World Cup (Thunder Snow in 2018 and 2019). His CV on French soil also features 13 classic wins and the Cravache d’Or on 10 occasions, including when sharing the title with Pierre-Charles Boudot after the pair both rode 179 winners in 2015.
Boudot, who started his career over jumps, is arguably the most exciting talent in the saddle to have emerged from France in recent years, and he went one better than in 2015 when winning the Cravache d’Or outright with 300 winners the following season.
The runner-up in every year since, 2019 was arguably his best season in the saddle yet, with his most high-profile achievements including a pair of classics wins – the Poule d’Essai des Poulains with Persian King and the Prix de Diane with Channel – and six winners at Paris-Longchamp during Arc weekend, including a first victory in the big one itself with Waldgeist.
Boudot was also leading the Cravache d’Or standings with 38 winners when the 2020 Flat season in France was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The two jockeys who made up the top five last season – Mickael Barzalona and Cristian Demuro – also tasted classic success in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and Prix du Jockey Club, respectively, while a special mention must also go to Olivier Peslier.
Peslier won the Cravache d’Or four times between 1996 and 2000, and, although well into the veteran stage of his career, he was still successful at Group 1 level in 2019 when Villa Marina won the Prix de l’Opera on Arc day.
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