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A TALE OF TWO JOCKEYS
By Tom Krish
Friday 13 Dec 2013
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He has won over 100 Group I races in his career. His list of victories is long. It covers every racing jurisdiction.

The incomparable Olivier Peslier is in Mumbai. He is in India to ride for the Shyam Ruia family. His two rides so far, both in run-of-the mill events, have been anything but productive. The 40 year-old Peslier, considered by many racing pundits to be among the top five reinsmen in the world, is making his first visit to India.

Yes, the sight of the French legend in a non-descript race in Mumbai going off at fancy odds is new to me. I have seen him all over the world commanding attention in some of the most prestigious and lucrative races. Let us hope that things will change for the better in his future Indian assignments.  Peslier is a much sought after jockey in the international circuit. He is a leading member of the jet set. In addition to plying his trade in his native France, jockey Peslier makes trips to England and Ireland to ride in high profile races. His services are in demand in other countries in Europe as well. He is active in Japan and Hong Kong when the racing season shifts into low gear in France. In the U A E, Peslier has had considerable success.

Peslier’s  win on Ouija Board in the 2006 Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot is etched in my mind. It was the first time that he was aboard the multiple stakes winning mare. It was a brilliant ride. Ed Dunlop, Ouija Board’s  trainer, paid tribute to Peslier by saying that there is no better jockey in the world who understands mounts the best  the first time around.

Then there is Vision d’Etat getting the better of Tartan Bearer in the Prince of Wales in 2009. Ryan Moore and Tartan Bearer carried my money but I could not help applauding wildly when Peslier returned to the unsaddling enclosure. It was cerebral Peslier at his best.

Equiano in the King’s Stand and Goldikova in the Queen Anne are two other Royal Ascot wins for Peslier that I cannot forget easily.

I was there to greet Olivier Peslier every time he rode the great Goldikova to victory in the Breeders’ Cup. In 2008 and 2009, it was at Santa Anita in Arcadia. In 2010, the scene was Churchill Downs. In 2011, Goldikova’s attempt to make it four in a row was not successful. With Goldikova,  Peslier won several Group I contests. I am not sure about the number but it is in double digits. In her final Royal Ascot appearance, Goldikova and Peslier were thwarted by Canford Cliffs and Richard Hughes. Jockey Hughes said, “tactically, it was the most demanding ride of my career.”

In the Breeders’ Cup post-race conferences, Peslier was an effective participant. He just said enough without undermining the importance of Freddie Head, Goldikova’s trainer. He is incredibly articulate. 

 Jockey Peslier won the 1998 Epsom Derby with the Luca Cumani-trained High Rise. It was a time when French riders were not asked to ride at Epsom because the English trainers believed that the Surrey course’s undulations were too much for the jockeys from across the channel.

Intello won the 2013 French Derby for Olivier Peslier. There are four wins in the Arc de Triomphe in Peslier’s resume. He won with Helissio in 1996, with PeintreCelebre in 1997 and with Sagamix in 1998. In 2012, Solemia and Peslier were passed by Orfevre and Christophe inside the final furlong but Solemia made a renewed bid to get the verdict. Yes, I was at Longchamp to greet Peslier.

There might have been another Arc victory in Peslier’s bag in 2010. He rode Sir Michael Stoute’s Harbinger in the King George. The winning margin was 11 lengths. Workforce, Ryan Moore’s mount, was a victim. Harbinger became a short-priced favorite for the Arc but an irreversible injury changed everything.

Peslier has been the French champion jockey four times in 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000.

I caught up with Peslier. I called him from Chennai. He spoke to me with the same warmth and affection he has shown me over the years. “I am here with my wife. We are having a good time,” he exulted.

“I like racing in India.  I can see why a lot of good things have been said. Mumbai, I like especially. The long stretch makes racing competitive. Everything so far is fine. I am here until Wednesday. I do not know my plans after that. I will go back to Paris. May be, I can come back.” Peslier said.

I urged him to boil the water and be careful about what he eats. “I am careful, thanks, “ he averred.

A friendship that was struck in Tokyo during the 2005 Japan Cup has endured.  Peslier would go out of his way to find some time for me whenever I was in Paris. I want the Indian fans to be aware that jockey Peslier is not a ‘whip happy’ rider. He has an uncanny sense of pace. He is a perfect package as a rider and that is what has helped him to be a star on the international scene.

There is another French character attracting attention in Indian racing circles. To be hired by Dr Vijay Mallya gives a jockey tremendous exposure. There is pressure to perform. His background clearly suggests that he will do his task quite well and justify expectations. Jockey Louis-PhillipeBeuzelin is riding for DrMallya. At the moment, he is confined to Bangalore. Several prominent runners have already been spoken for and Beuzelin’s current role is severely limited.

Only 22, jockey Beuzelin has over 200 career wins. In 2013, his 25-winner haul came from riding in France, Denmark, Germany and Morocco. “You can call me Louis,” he said, as we began our phone conversation.

In the short span he has been a professional jockey, Louis has served the cause of the legendary Sir Michael Stoute.  In the Betfred Silver Bowl at Haydock Park.  Jockey Beuzelin rode Stoute’s Desert Creek , the 5-4 favorite, to a popular victory.  

The most memorable win in Beuzelin’s career came in the 160,000-pound 2010 Cesarewitch at Newmarket, the home of racing in the United Kingdom.  It was a 32-runner field. The Cesarewitch is over 3400 metres and run on Future Champions’ Day at Newmarket  in October. A 16/1 chance, AaimTo Prosper, a Brian Meehan trainee, ran out a winner. “That was the first time I sat on AaimTo Prosper. Trainer Brian told me to keep going hard.   I thought we hit a soft spot and I could see William Buick charging at me. I held on by a neck. Undoubtedly, the Cesarewitch was a big thrill,” Louis asserted.

I want to point out that Jimmy Fortune and Olivier Peslier were in the 2010 Cesarewitch. Sentry Duty and Peslier were sixth. Jimmy Fortune and Swingkeel were ninth. What is worthy of special mention about AaimTo Prosper? Brian Meehan’s ward got an encore in the 2012 Cesarewitch with Kieren Fallon as a 66/1 outsider.

“I speak three languages, English, French and Spanish. I am happy to be in India. It is going to be a great experience. I’ll go back to France at the end of the Indian visit. I intend to be here until the Invitation Cup. My hope is that I get good ones to ride,” said Beuzelin.

We spoke about the catastrophic  auto accident jockey Beuzelin was involved in four years ago. It was November 14, 2009. “It was a wintry day. I suffered every conceivable injury. I was in an induced coma. My riding career was in jeopardy. My recovery was nothing short of a miracle. I’m lucky to be alive,” Louis said.

Jockey Beuzelin continued. “I have spent time honing my skills in America. Sir Stoute sent me there in 2009. I worked for Neil Drysdale in California. Then I went to Miami and I worked for Patrick Biancone. The American trip was a confidence-building thing.”

Brian Meehan sent an email. In it, trainer Meehan says this. “Jockey Beuzelin rode ( work in the mornings from 2009-2011. He rode several winners for me including AaimTo Prosper in the 2010 Cesarewitch.  He’s very polite, reliable and an effective rider. I wish him all success.”