Gabriel Leenders says his English is not very good, but that hasn’t stopped him from using British training methods when he works his string at Jerzé, a private training centre that lies between Le Mans and Nantes.
“Yes,” he laughs. “I spent some time in England with David Pipe and also with Nicky Henderson and while our horses don’t have to climb a hill as steep as they have to do at Nicky Henderson’s, they will still finish their work going uphill. My horses also work in fractions, pretty much like the English to. I like combining the English way with the French training methods. It seems to work for me.”
Gabriel Leenders is the son of jump trainer Etienne Leenders, who now works closely with his other son Gregoire. All of them are based at Jerzé, which boasts stunning sand and fibre tracks that are peppered with a variety of obstacles. Gabriel, who at 1.94m used to be by far the tallest jockey in the weighing room, also spent time with Alain de Royer Dupré before joining the training ranks in 2014.
From five horses six years ago, he has grown his string to over one hundred and his ambition is “to train as many winners as François Nicolle and Guillaume Macaire before they retire.” Already in the top ten jump trainers in France and with the support of owners like Simon Munir and Patrick Joubert, it can only be a question of time before he realises his ambition.
Here, he talks to Liz Price of attheraces.com about his runners for the remaining season at Pau and the three-year-olds that he is hoping to bring out once Auteuil opens its doors in March.