At the Races

He was a star, that’s all, he was a star. The best horse there could be. Temperament, strong physique, capacity to go fast, capacity to breathe and everything. It’s necessary to have everything, it’s necessary to be complete. And I was 24 years old. He had run 11 times, won 10 times, he was called Nino 2. But you see he died from a groin hernia, the vet did not recognise what he had. On Sunday he won, on Wednesday he was dead. Like us.

Before the start of the race he is 13 to 1. The race starts, he is 5 to 1. There are some things which… no… but it is the truth, you must say what is, no? There are some who bet at the last moment and that’s all. I don’t know. There are people who are in the know then at the last moment they put a bet on, the owners or the people who know. It’s not normal that the front horse? when the race starts he is 11 or 12 to 1, the race has started, he falls at 5. It’s not normal. But well, in the end you don’t have to come.

The love of the horse, yes or no which appears in a few seconds before your eyes, the bitter pleasure of victory which only rarely eliminates the shadow of past defeats and that which could happened. That’s it. The magic of horse racing.

There are 256 race courses in France – as against 50 in England. There isn’t a town which hasn’t it’s PMU bar for betting. Almost no day without a race somewhere. There are the big race courses in Paris where the grand prix are held, such as the celebrated prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. But the day to day care of the race courses is another thing and that starts with very hard work?

Ah well, it’s necessary to do it with a passion for horses, if you do not have a love of horses you stop, because you work every weekend, every day. If you don’t have a passion you don’t do it.

It’s about horses, it’s about athletes. They must be ready. They must always be at their best.

Ah, well, it’s me who is responsible already this morning until the first feed, it’s me who cares for them. Around six and a half hours in winter, and then that can go from four and a half to five hours in summer, following the heat in fact. So first of all it’s the feeds, followed by the walking, the jogging and then the work twice a week. And the evening is the same. It’s me who feeds again in the evening. All the caring, all the caring and feeding are what I deal with. It depends on the horses, there are some who need much care because they are high level athletes so automatically there are quite a lot of things to do.

Today, here at the Parilly stadium in a suburb of Lyon’ the prize for the through bred races reaches up to 12000 euros. For the horse and carriage you can win up to 6000 euros. It’s not bad – if you win – but from there to earn one’s by it is less certain:

Very hard, especially when you have a small stable. It’s very had today.

The ideal is to invest in (les reclames) such as in Paris, sometimes it’s not enough for Paris, on the tracks like here in Lyon they make their living. But the hardest is to find an owner. Very hard.

We are in the stables of Jacou des Ducs with the trainer Patrick Pichon and his stable lad. For them there isn’t a magic formula for training, it’s necessary above all to listen to the horse.

It’s difficult to say. You must adapt to each horse. It varies. Jacou, oh? You must work quickly and very often. You have to make him work quite well at speed and basic training frequently. Working on lengths? It’s necessary that he works a lot.

It is a good horse, he has good potential but this year he has not run very well. Many health problems, and very, very nervous. When? the least of the problems he has? He gives less than he is capable of doing. He is capable of (achieving) but he doesn’t like to have a handicap. He doesn’t like the 25 metres handicap and so he starts at 25 metres, that’s a bit tricky? But the prize is not very open. He is capable of (making his mark). A question of will.

A question of will and a question of the jockey also, like us he proudly remembers Alexandre Laffay:

The jockey, as we say, makes the horse and the horse makes the jockey. There are some good and some bad.

It is better to wait and then let him canter the course. Because the horse throws his fire and after that he reduces his pace he reduces his pace. He suffocates.

It is not necessary to go so fast. Those who trot, if they start to gallop they will be announced as disqualified.

Yes but well you have the right of so many striding close now and so well? Beyond the striding, well you are out run. You can ask for more effort if he it is there. He cannot, and so he begins to gallop.

The love of the work? I have to say that I have the impression that there are few jockeys who encourage their sons to follow them.

It’s a pleasure, it’s my work. I am capable of doing it and I cannot do anything else.

And you started?

Very young like everyone. And well you know, the young. When you love horses you start early otherwise you don’t start.

That’s all, it is permanent stress, physical and moral stress permanently, because I tell you, you are always afraid of injury, you are always afraid he will have a problem.

And there is the compensation of thevictory, even if sometimes the previous winners have difficulty admitting that that can still excite them.

Ah well that still pleases. Better to win than to be 200 metres behind.

You travel a lot. You go to Vincennes, you go everywhere. You go to Marseilles. You go to Bordeaux, Toulouse? you go everywhere.

Yes, a very good atmosphere. Well yes there are many cliques but in our sector we like each other a lot. We share good times. There are good times.

As for Paris. That helps always if you have some good tips:

Ah the winners. I don’t know. You have, ah well my husband manages for my father-in-law, and things are going to be tight in the betting and besides we have one in the eighth who could take part in the finish, yes, I think so if all goes well.

And if not. You could try science:

Ah, well, everything counts, everything counts, no? the appearance of the horse, his way of trotting, everything counts. It’s not easy. The race is not easy. There is a horse who is the favourite who has a good chance, but – because in the trot there is always one but

Or if you trust to luck:

No, no, no, no, I sting like this inside. What happens? ( I don’t know?)
We tap (you) like this tap, tap, tap.
Us in the team, we have played for thirty years, and have never won anything.
More than sixty years.
Sixty years, we have not won anything.
We have been going to the races for sixty years.
No, there are no secrets there. There is no shrewdness at the races, it is luck. The races are an unknown quantity.
All the clever ones, where are they? Fled!
So! They are in the cemetery.

And sometimes it works. Certainly the winners have an air of not being deceived, viewing that the losses they have suffered (was) before they understood:

No, I won a place. I was in 11th place.

And you will win?

Oh that I don’t know. He is 15 to 1. I don’t know. 12 euros perhaps.

A little smile even so.

Yes, even so yes. It is the first time I have won since the start of the meeting. I have lost from the start so that I am happy to have won.

In the trainers’ enclosure satisfaction is evident:

It is recompense also when he runs well, you see. There are times of deception and there are many times of joy. Especially that you do a lot. There are a lot of horses in our stables which is important because we have them very young. We buy them as well but we have many of them who run under our (breeding) (name) which is important.

And the losers? At least there they gain in wisdom:

Those who play big, you don’t see for long.

$Id: 2003_12_soc.htm 35 2021-02-12 12:17:35Z alistair $

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