Dubai Empire (Motivator out of a Langfuhr mare) runs for Bryan Gusdal. An impressive big chestnut, Dubai is a lovely horse and has run some great races for us but hasn’t managed to win yet! We’re expecting to remedy that situation in Cagnes, because he’s in great form and should easily be able to run to his rating of 32. Best on the fibersand at 2,400 meters and maybe more, his first outing is Jan. 29.
Folle Passion (Motivator out of a Dashing Blade mare) carries the silks of Susanne Born. Another impressive big chestnut, Passion is another distance specialist, happy from 2,000 meters on up. He likes heavy turf but can also handle the fibersand, and is nicely placed in the handicaps at 30.5. His first Cagnes target is Jan. 18.
Time flies, and so it is the moment for a quick look back at the year that was 2018. We had 151 runners this past year, and 80 of them came home earning some money; Twelve of them won, and our total yard earnings topped 400,000 euros for the first time, finishing at 410,258. We never have more than 18 horses in training at any one time and started a total of 31 different horses. That makes those numbers something our team can be proud of. We had some sales-ring thrills this year, too, watching Ardara Belle top 200,000 euros in the Arc sale.
In the 10 years that I’ve been a public trainer, the numbers have improved every year. We have every expectation that the trend will continue in 2019. We have some very interesting horses in the yard at the moment, and the search for even better performers never stops. But nothing can happen without our owners, and this is the moment to say a huge thank you for coming aboard and having the faith to stay aboard!
We are going to put every effort into making 2019 a truly spectacular year for our yard and our owners. As you all know, French racing is struggling and after next year there will be some serious questions about prize money and the situation going forward. So over the next year, let’s take all the money we can, and hope that France Galop can sort itself out so that next year when I’m writing my annual wrap, it won’t be an obituary for racing.
We’re off to Cagnes-sur-Mer in two weeks to start the year with a bang, and after that, we have some very specific goals to reach. We need more winners and more black type next year. Stay tuned to see if we can make it happen!
The day I wheeled the hay steamer off the truck, you’d think I’d just brought in the first motorcar of the industrial era. A small group of curious onlookers crowded around the new, mysterious machine with a mix of skepticism and apprehension. Chantal, the landlady of our stable, immediately started pacing the yard. The machine would consume two things she holds most dear: Electricity and water.
“You’ll need a special outlet for that. It’s going to take a huge amount of power,” she said, pacing around the steamer unit at a safe distance. I left her alone to digest the new contraption to go and watch the lot of horses I had just sent out to work. When I returned, she was measuring the length of the steamer box itself, an imposing, black casket-like box that could hold a bale and a half of hay or two bodies, if you were so inclined. “Where will this go? How much steam will come out when you open it? Where is the instruction manual?”
I continued to go about my work, and after the next lot, she had brought down her husband, Alan, to survey the situation and had read most of the instructions. “You’ll need a longer hose, too,” she decided. She spent most of the day fretting about how it would all work, and the next day our electrician friend came to install an outlet – and a meter so we could pay our share of the cost. “It’s not that big of a deal,” he said. “You mean I don’t need to build that nuclear power plant in the back yard?” I asked. Chantal, overhearing, stormed away. It was time to get started. We filled up the reservoir, put the first bale in the coffin, snapped it close and hit the button. An hour later, we popped it open to see the results, and they were impressive: The hay smelled wonderful and it was dust-free.
Mark, an owner who also doubles as our yard man, took to the new machine with the fervor of Heisenberg. He set his cell-phone alarm for every cycle, calculated how many bales we’d need for the day, came up with a system of rotating them through and – most importantly – kept water in the thing so it wouldn’t burn dry. We were cooking. And I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but the day we started feeding steamed hay, the horses started running better. We sent out six runners in the week after we started using the machine, and every one of them made money. Now this is what we’re more used to around here, and we desperately needed it after a dismal run of luck.
Fanoos started us off by hanging on to 5th place in a very hot condition race in Fontainebleau. She was only beaten a length and would have been closer if she hadn’t slowed down to watch the horses walking in the stabling area just next to the course about 200 meters from the finish. Gut Instinct followed up with fourth a couple of days later in Nancy, and then Hard Way won in Chantilly. It was the old man’s fourth career win and put him over the 100,000 euro mark in earnings. It also broke our losing streak. Just 20 minutes earlier in Craon, Alice’s Dancer finished 3rd in a Listed race, surprising us all. It was a fantastic run and fulfills our objective of getting some black type for her breeding career. Barbe a Box and Impulsive American rounded out the results, with both of them finishing fourth – Bbox in Lyon and the Imp in Maisons-Laffitte.
So it seems that we’ve turned a page, at least for now. We still have some problems to solve, as usual, but the recent run has made everyone breathe a little easier. Even Chantal, who has been convinced that maybe the new machine is harmless. And apparently quite helpful.
I’ve waited years to finally get a winner at Longchamp, and this month we got two: Hard Way won his handicap two weeks ago, and Eternal Gift followed it up with a win last Saturday. Hard-working Deep Ocean was in the money again this past week, and King Driver ran a fantastic comeback after a year off to finish third. Grey Falcon dropped in a check, too, confirming that the yard is definitely in form.
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Hard Way followed exactly the same pattern as he did last year: After his comeback race out in the country, he was ready to tackle Paris and found his favorite jockey, Christophe Lemaire, who rode a perfect race to give me my first winner at Longchamp. It was a 3,100-meter handicap, and Hard Way aced it carrying top weight of 60 kilos. His efforts got him back into the Bloodhorse magazine in America, with his longtime fan John Gilmore doing the honors. The next day, Grey Falcon stepped up in class and distance when he ran second division of the Quinte handicap in Maisons-Laffitte, trying 2,400 meters for the first time. He nearly wired it, just getting caught at the post to finish second by a short head. He has been really unlucky not to win yet, but he’s knocking on the door and it should happen soon.
Eternal Gift finally stepped up his game at Longchamp last Saturday, winning a mile handicap by a neck. I knew he was progressing, and he certainly showed us that he preferred the good ground and galloping track of Longchamp to the muddy traffic circle he found in Amiens. It was his third race back after gelding, and I think he’s going to be a useful horse now. He picked up three kilos in the handicap ratings, which isn’t great, but he still has margin for progress.
We barely had time to get him off the truck Saturday night before we loaded up Deep Ocean, Gold Knight and Not Bad for a Boy for the trip down to Vichy and the week-long racing festival there. Deep Ocean finished fourth in the Quinte on Sunday (we were all sure it was third, but there was just the shadow of a nose in front of him), but Not Bad didn’t distinguish himself in his claimer. It was his first race back in a year, though, and he has been a bit sore in the back, so he deserves another chance or two. Gold Knight showed quite a bit of improvement in his claimer on Monday. He didn’t get up into the money yet, but he did give us hope that we’re on the right track.
The star of the week, though, was King Driver, who was coming back after year off almost to the day. He had some serious health problems last year, and I was never able to get him to his potential. He showed that those seem to be behind him now, though, running a strong third. It was a very easy field of 18, and he would have won if he had kept to the rail instead of coming out to the stands side. He is still very green, having run only six races in his life before Wednesday, and there was a good crowd at the track and it was a night meeting, so once he hit the front, he just looked at all the people rather than pay attention to racing. He has come back very well and is likely to run in Deauville in early August.
In between the racing, I went to the Newmarket sales, where we found an addition to the yard optimistically named Greatest. He is a four-year-old gelding by Anabaa out of a stakes-winning mare, and he seems to want soft ground to run his best. So we’ll build him up and get him ready for a fall campaign. A half share in him is available, so contact us if you’re interested.
Next up might be Hard Way and Grey Falcon on Thursday in Chantilly. I don’t particularly want to race them against each other, but they are in the second half of the Quinte handicap and there aren’t many runners declared, so it might be too good to pass up. In any case, I’m pretty sure Hard Way will go, but I’m still undecided about Grey Falcon, who might prefer softer ground. Hard Way is really a soft ground horse, too, but he doesn’t really care what he gallops on as long as he feels good and wants to run. Both will gallop tomorrow morning, and I’ll decide for sure then. All of the horses are struggling a bit with the heat, and storms are forecast for Tuesday, which might make the going a little easier.
After that, we’ll gear up for Deauville in August, although we’ll probably have fewer runners than in July. Competition is tough there, and unless we have very good entries, it makes more sense to wait until September. In any case, the horses will tell me what they want to do. All I have to do is listen.
Two big events this past week: King Driver finally is officially a racehorse, and Hard Way has come home. King debuted Thursday on the fibersand in Deauville. I sent him there not because I thought he would be particularly adapted to the surface, but more because the big Chantilly trainers tend not to send their very best on the sand for a debut. I also realized the race 1,500-meter race would probably be on the short side for him, but he needed to learn what it was all about. I was right on both counts. There were a couple of decent horses from Chantilly, but I doubt next year’s Derby winner was among them. And King figured out he needed to stretch out and accelerate only about 50 meters from the finish, which was, of course, far too late. But he learned some very good lessons, and I’m very pleased with his debut. We drew our least-favorite far outside post, No. 15, which left us sort of hanging out to dry, but since all the horses were debuting, they all ran in a wide pack rather than arranging themselves in the usual ordered peleton. King was with the leaders until they started moving away from him at the turn, at which point he was wondering where they were going in such a hurry. Now that he understands a bit better, I suspect his next race will be quite a bit more interesting. And that should probably be on Nov. 3 at St. Cloud, a mile on the turf. The surface and distance will suit him better, although he’ll eventually need to stretch out closer to 2,000 meters. But he’s going to need a few races to learn the game, and there’s no need to push him too much. He is going to be a very useful horse if we do things right with him.
Hard Way, meanwhile, has come out of retirement. For the moment, he’s sort of the stable pony, but when I had a hack through the woods with him today he certainly felt more like a racehorse than a trekking pony. He is bright-eyed and seems very happy to be back. We’ll see what he tells us he wants to do.
Magical Flower ran her first handicap last week and finished only 7th, but she was carrying 59.5 kilos and the winner 53.5. Luckily, she’s now come down 1.5 kilos, so rated 30 we should be better placed next time out. She is a nice horse and will win somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 meters. She’ll be entered in both on Nov. 4, and we’ll take whichever race we can get into; unfortunately by not being able to grab 5th last week, she is still “exclu” because she hasn’t passed 3,000 euros in earnings and will be the first eliminated.
And we gave Rendition another shot yesterday in Pornichet, but the race confirmed what we pretty much knew: while her heart, head and upper body are in the game, her legs can’t keep up. So we’ll look for new horizons for her.
Meanwhile, I’m getting ready to head off to Newmarket tomorrow for the annual fall Horses in Training sale. The catalog looks enticing, as always, so anyone needing a racehorse to run down in sunny Cagnes-sur-Mer this winter should speak up! Buy yourself an excuse for a weekend in Nice in January!
I came back from Newmarket on Saturday with three new additions to the yard: Fortunateencounter (Fortunate Encounter, for those of you who weren’t able to make the split), a three-year-old French-bred Muthathir filly; Magical Flower, a three-year-old Oasis Dream filly with solid form, and a still-unnamed two-year-old Majestic Missile filly who we hope will soon be called Original Cyn. The three-year-olds should be ready to go for the Deauville season in August. The two-year-old will take a bit more time, but should definitely run this fall.
All three arrived Sunday morning early, just as we sent Comment Dit down to Vittel, where she won. Runaway Sparkle traveled north to Le Touquet, where she finished third. Hold That Emperor was in much tougher company today in Chantilly, where he could only manage 6th. We’ll look for something easier for him out in the country next.
Next out will be Strictly Rhythm on Thursday, where she will again tackle the Tierce handicap, this time at Longchamp. It is an evening meeting, which also features the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, a big garden party and after-race fireworks, so it should be a fun night all around.
With the new horses from Newmarket, there should be a busy summer ahead for the yard.
It’s been a little hectic so tough to keep up the blog – I’m way behind because we had a win last Sunday in St. Malo with Rose Fleur and a few places with some of the others. Rose won nicely. She is a huge filly, and it was almost like watching an adult compete against ponies – she literally towered over the opposition. She will be a better three-year-old, but seems to be racing well despite her ungainly size.
Strictly Rhythm tried her first handicap on Sunday at Chantilly, and that went less well. She was slightly out of sorts in the morning and I almost declared her a non-runner, but decided to go ahead after all. I think she is having some serious female issues at the moment, and she had a bit of a stress colic that passed quickly, but is still worrying. We decided to run her from behind, because I expected there is usually better pace in these big handicaps than in the condition races. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case, and they were again crawling until the final turn. She accelerated well in the stretch to finish 8th of 16, and she came back fine, which was the essential. I’m going to give her a bit of a break and have her well sorted for her next try, which should be on Bastille Day at Longchamp.
Talawa managed to snag a 5th place in a claimer in Aix-les-Bains, but she is still not really catching on to the game. It was a seriously weak field, and blinkers didn’t give us too much help. She needs more time and may go to the sales. We also were unlucky at Compiegne on Tuesday with Justthewayyouare finding the company a bit tough after moving up both in class and distance. He finished only 6th, but he is a good horse and we’ll find something a little easier next time out to give him confidence. He’s a very laid-back guy, and has a lot of potential. George had a crack at an easy handicap that day and didn’t really fire, either, but I’ve not really been able to get him back in top condition since his Guernsey trip. I’m not sure why, so I’ll keep trying to figure it out. Meanwhile, he’s on the easy list.
Things looked up yesterday with Hold That Emperor running a very nice third in Chantilly. He might have done even better than that, but we tried to relax him behind another horse, which wasn’t a good idea in the end. He was just behind the eventual winner, but he pulled like crazy and then lost his balance a bit when finally given room to run. Next time out, we’ll let him find his action and just roll along, and if that happens to be out front, so be it.
We head out to the country on Sunday with two fillies hoping to break their maidens: Layman’s Terms in Durtal and Comment Dit in Strasbourg. Then it’s back to home turf on Monday with Sotka in a maiden in Maisons-Laffitte and Golden Age in the claimer. Rolling along…