Chantilly trainer Francis-Henri Graffard completed a fairytale week when Watch Me sprang a 20-1 surprise in the Coronation Stakes after Channel had given him his first French Classic success in the Prix de Diane on Sunday.
Graffard admitted he is living the dream, while winning rider Pierre-Charles Boudot modestly proclaimed he was a “lucky boy”.
Watch Me was a forgotten filly in the Group One feature on the fourth day of Royal Ascot, after finishing sixth in the French 1000 Guineas behind Castle Lady – although she had no luck that day.
Not only did she comprehensively turn the tables on that rival, but she was too good for the English and Irish 1000 Guineas heroine, Hermosa.
Graffard, who has been training for nearly eight years, said: “It’s a week you dream for. As I was saying last Sunday, you get up every morning to do this job to be part of this game at this level.
“That is why I set up at Chantilly. I wanted to run in Classics – I wanted to win big races. It happened last Sunday. That was a big day for a Frenchman in France.
“I was confident again. I had trust in my filly. She worked very well. I felt we had to put the run in the Guineas behind us.”
So it proved.
“She travelled really nicely and quickened very nicely to win well,” added Graffard.
“I’ll have to watch the race again, but she took the lead quite early and never stopped.
“To be fair, Olivier Peslier after the French 1000 Guineas said to me ‘run her in the Diane because she will stay – and she will win the Diane’.
“But after she had bad luck in the race, I didn’t want to change everything – so we said we’d come to Ascot and see.”
The outcome gives Graffard happier issues to solve.
“Everything went against her in the French Guineas,” he said.
“I started in October 2011. We have had some nice winners, but this one is very special.
“I don’t know what we’ll do with her. I didn’t enter her in the Falmouth (at Newmarket) – we had to see how she did today.
“She has the (Prix) Rothschild (at Deauville) in the summer. We’ll see how she comes out of the race.”
For Boudot it was another milestone in a burgeoning career, and he must have felt at home as a small but noisy party of supporters waved French flags in celebration.
The 26-year-old was joint champion jockey in France in 2015, and rode a European record of 300 winners when taking the title outright in 2016.
“That happened thanks to putting in a lot of work and having good horses to ride,” said Boudot, whose only previous Royal Ascot winner was on Le Brivido in the Jersey Stakes two years ago.
This season has gone brilliantly, with Classic victories on Persian King in the French 2000 Guineas and Channel in the French Oaks – but winning at the Royal meeting is different.
He added: “Winning a Group One race at Royal Ascot is very important for a jockey, and for everybody who worked for this horse.
“Royal Ascot is the best place in the world for the racing. I’m a lucky boy.
“It’s been the perfect year.”