Olivier Peslier

The four-time Arc winner is aboard staying superstar Stradivarius in the 2020 renewal and has other notable rides over the weekend at ParisLongchamp.

  • Wednesday 30 September
  • Blog
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By Liz Price

Olivier Peslier has won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe four times and while he says that he might struggle to beat his friend Frankie Dettori’s record of six victories in France’s “piece de resistance”, he is going to give it his best shot when he gets into the saddle on STRADIVARIUS on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Racing.

The announcement that the French jockey, who lifted the Epsom Derby long before Frankie did, as he likes to tease one of his closest friends in the jockey’s room, is going to partner the Bjorn Nielsen-owned superstar in this year’s Arc, was only confirmed on Sunday.

Peslier says: “Frankie had quietly inquired to see if I would be available, but I knew his owner was still hoping to get a Britian-based jockey like Andrea Atzeni, who has won on Stradivarius before. However, I obviously said yes, I am free. I make sure I’m free. I am absolutely delighted to be riding him, as I believe he has a great chance and I am very grateful to Mr Nielsen that he is giving me this opportunity.”

Watch every race from Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend at ParisLongchamp on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October.

Unlike Frankie, Olivier cannot remember in how many Arcs he has ridden, but even if he hadn’t received the call-up for Stradivarius, he wouldn’t have been without a ride in the Arc. Although which horse he would have eventually ridden is not quite clear as he explains indignantly.

“I had enquiries from the Japanese and my agent in England Shippy Ellis was also calling around and can you believe it, one of the trainers actually said that I was too old. Really? I’m younger than Frankie and they don’t call him too old to ride in the Arc, do they? Also, have a look at who has won the Arc in the last fifteen years. Fallon, Kinane, Jarnet, Dettori, so what do you think the average age is of an Arc winning jockey? Well, they will see. Too, old, unbelievable.”

It is funny to see him so incensed, as one of Olivier Peslier’s trademark characteristics is that nothing ever bothers him. Fairly laid back, he is unconcerned by public opinion and far from intimidated by powerful owners and trainers. He will listen what people have to say to him but in the end, he does what he wants, even if everyone tells him it might be detrimental to his career.

It has to be said that he has done fairly well in his career that has seen him crowned champion jockey four times in France and win every major race on the planet, including the French Classics, except bizarrely for the Prix de Diane, two of the English Classics including the Derby with High Rise in 1998, as well as races like the Japan Cup, the Dubai Sheema Classic, the Breeders’ Cup Mile…in fact there are too many of them to list them here.

Hence, it is completely understandable that it grates him when it comes to his ripe old age of 47 years. In fact, he is just as excited about having a ride in the Arc as he was in 1996 when he won it for the first time with Helissio. Peslier won it again in 1997 with Peintre Celebre and made it three-in-a-row in 1998 when he won it with Sagamix. Peslier completed a four-timer by breaking Japaneese hearts in 2012 when 41-1 outsider Solemia snatched victory from Orfevre.

He also came agonisingly close again to winning it in 2005 when he was riding the Wildenstein-owned Westerner, who had earlier on lifted the Ascot Gold Cup when it was run at York. Westerner went on to finish second to Hurricane Run in the Arc, producing a great performance.

Hence, Olivier has a lot of experience with stayers and he laughs: “Yes, I do seem to attract stayers, but Westerner was a totally different horse to Stradivarius. He was super keen, he pulled like a steam engine and he would stop in front. I have watched Stradivarius’ races and he is completely different. I think that Stradivarius is much better, and he has a real chance, especially with the rain that has been falling. I am super happy that I am going to be riding him.”

Peslier is actually starting the weekend by partnering the Freddy Head-trained stayer CALL THE WIND in the Group 1 Prix du Cadran. The George Strawbridge-owned six-year-old, who won the valuable Longines Turf Handicap in Saudi Arabia before lockdown, recently lifted the 1m7f Group 2 Prix Kergorlay at Deauville and despite the ground looking to be on the soft side, he is bound to go off favourite.

“Yes, the ground is not ideal,” Olivier concedes. “He is a brilliant horse who was second in last year’s Prix du Cadran when the ground was very soft and he was also the runner-up in the Royal Oak, which was run in heavy ground. He is all class and he should definitely be able to win it again, but he would prefer better ground. But he is in great form, so anything is possible.”

He is also going to ride the four-year-old German filly DURANCE in the Prix de l’Opera. Trained by Peter Schiergen, she won the Group 2 Gran Premio di Milano in June from Royal Julius who is running in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and was last seen finishing two lengths behind Barney Roy in the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden.

She is bound to enjoy the drop back in trip to a mile and a quarter and Olivier said: “I don’t know the filly, but she won that race in Milan, which looked good and Peter always has his horses spot on. I was told she had some other options, but they chose to come to Paris, so she must be in good form.”

While spending the winter abroad is unlikely to happen this year, his link with HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani remains strong and he is also partnering the four-year-old filly ARTEMIS in the Qatar Arabian Trophy des Juments for Purebred Arabians on Saturday and the eight-year-old TAYF in the Group 1 PA Qatar Arabian World Cup on Sunday.

“I won that race ten years ago,” remembers Olivier. “And I wouldn’t mind winning it again. The Qatar Arabian World Cup is super important. My horse finished third at Goodwood last time out, so we shall see.”

And then he concludes with a grin: “I got bumped off my ride in the Prix Marcel Boussac by Frankie, but hey, I’m riding Stradivarius in the Arc, so it doesn’t matter.” No, and it will matter even less, should Stradivarius become the first horse since Levmoss in 1969 to win the Ascot Gold Cup and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the same year. Frankie might not talk to him for a while, but their friendship is built on stronger stuff than a Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. At least, we hope...

Watch every race from Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend at ParisLongchamp on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October.

Olivier Peslier
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