By Liz Price
For a while, it looked like PIERRE-CHARLES BOUDOT was destined to always play second if not third fiddle to the likes of Maxime Guyon and Mickaël Barzalona, who a couple of years older, had just like him been apprenticed to André Fabre in Chantilly. Fairly tall for a jockey and struggling with his weight as a youngster, Boudot had to work hard to convince people that he was just as good, if not better than his colleagues, with whom he maintains a firm friendship.
Determination to succeed and the desire to make his father Marc, who had tragically succumbed to a brain tumour when Pierre-Charles was only 14 years old, proud, as well as a good dose of undeniable talent in the saddle allowed him to slowly but surely come out of the shadow his fellow apprentices had cast over him and make himself a name as one of the most successful jockeys in France.
“When I was 19 or 20 years old, it was difficult,” remembers Pierre-Charles Boudot, or PC as he is commonly called by everyone in France. “With more experience, I learnt how to deal with the weight issue, and it obviously helps when you ride every day. I’m very close to my family, which is also very important. And it definitely helps when you ride good horses. I have worked hard and while I didn’t’ win any major races at the beginning, I did make up for it in numbers.”
Only 26 years old, he has already been champion jockey twice in his native France and in 2016 broke the European record held until then by Peter Schiergen, when he rode 300 winners in one season. Another championship title features once more on his agenda, but over the last couple of years he has enjoyed more and more success at the top level, which he admits is giving him a huge amount of satisfaction.
“When I was champion jockey for the first time, I didn’t really have that many high-profile horses to ride and so I made the championship my priority,” he continues. “Looking at this year, I have already won several Group 1 races, but I am still chasing the title. One doesn’t exclude the other.”
Runner-up in the jockeys’ championship in 2017 and 2018 behind Christophe Soumillon, with whom he actually shared his first championship in 2015, he pauses and then adds with a smile: “I was younger when I went after the title. If you asked me today, I would always say that I prefer to ride more Group 1 horses. It’s just the most amazing thing to ride those kind of horses.”
Boudot has certainly developed a liking for those elusive Group 1 performers. Following a first success at that level in 2014 when Gallante gave him a victory in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris, he has since added a further fifteen Group 1 races to his name. And this season he has certainly hit new heights when he won his first classic race thanks to the Andre Fabre-trained PERSIAN KING who literally left the opposition standing when he stormed home in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains.
Only a month later, Boudot celebrated his second classic of his career when the Francis-Henri Graffard-trained CHANNEL created a bit of a surprise in the Prix de Diane Longines. And to round off his amazing spring of 2019, he recorded his first Royal Ascot victory when he guided WATCH ME to success in the Coronation Stakes.
“It was great to win the Poule d’Essai des Poulains with Persian King,” he recalls. “We knew he was good as he had beaten the 2,000 Guineas winner at two and so it was great he confirmed his class that day. The Prix de Diane was different. I wasn’t riding the favourite and to win it with Channel, who is trained by Francis Graffard, was great. Just like Andre Fabre, Francis Graffard is a trainer for whom I ride a lot, who trusts me, so it was great to win a classic race together. We come from the same region, so that creates a special bond.”
Like Channel, Watch Me is trained by Francis-Henri Graffard and Boudot continued: “Everybody dreams about winning a race at Royal Ascot and Watch Me was just an outsider in the Coronation Stakes. She had been unlucky in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches but revealed her real talent in the Coronation Stakes. To win that race only a week after the Prix de Diane was quite surreal. I haven’t had many rides at Royal Ascot, so that was quite special.”
He hasn’t ridden often at Royal Ascot, but he will return to the Berkshire track this week as he is set to partner the Andre Fabre-trained WALDGEIST in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Interestingly, Waldgeist was Boudot’s sixth Group 1 winner when he lifted the Criterium de Saint-Cloud at Saint-Cloud in the autumn of 2016. At the time, the duo beat Best Solution, a winner of the Grosser Preis von Baden and the Caulfield Cup, as well as 2017 St Leger winner Capri and 2017 Epsom derby victor Wings Of Eagles.
Since then, the Stall Ammerland & Newsells Park-owned Waldgeist has won the 2018 edition of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and the 2019 edition of the Prix Ganay. However, seeing that he has had the misfortune of being born the same year as the mighty Enable, his owner’s dream of winning the Arc with Waldgeist is at the moment just that, a dream. Twice they met last year, once in the Arc where Waldgeist finished fourth, beaten only a length and three quarters, and then again in the Breeders’ Cup where he finished fifth, but where he was beaten more than thirteen lengths.
“It’s going to be quite a race,” Boudot muses. “It’s sure to be a tremendous race. Enable was impressive when she made her seasonal reappearance and she is without doubt the best about. However, a race is a race.”
And he adds: “I think Waldgeist has improved since last year. Last time when he ran at Ascot, the ground was probably not right for him. I think he is a horse who likes better ground and hence I can’t wait to see him perform on faster ground.”
Boudot’s first half of the season has been exceptional and he is looking forward to Saturday. The King George is not the only target though he is lining up as he will be back only a week later when he will partner the Prix de Diane winner Channel in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. “I have never ridden at Goodwood yet but I know its quite a peculiar track. However, Channel is a very uncomplicated filly. She is very easy to position in a race, it’s like riding a bike,”
Pierre-Charles Boudot is flying high at the moment and associated with some of the best horses currently running in France, he must not be underestimated when back on our shores during the next couple of weeks.