TREVE TO HEAD THE GRAND PRIX DE SAINT-CLOUD, writes Nigel Howard
It is perhaps rather fitting that the opening race of the Royal Meeting, the Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1), won by Solow, was trained by Freddie Head, a member of what is effectively French Racing’s “Royal Family”.
Their involvement in racing at the highest level can be traced back more than 150 years. The Head family tree reads practically like that of the thoroughbred. On the dam’s side, Freddie and famous training sister Criquette Head’s great great uncle was Tom Jennings, handler of the legendary Gladiateur. Trained in France, Gladiateur lifted the British Triple Crown (2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger) in 1865 and as such became known as the “Avenger of Waterloo” by the adoring French racing public. At four, he went on to win the Ascot Gold Cup and the French equivalent the Prix Royal-Oak. These days, a magnificent bronze of the horse holds court at the entrance to Longchamp racecourse.
On the sire’s side is William Henri Georges Head, four times French champion jump jockey between 1912 and 1920. It was William’s marriage in 1916 to Henrietta Jennings, daughter of Tom Jennings’s brother Henry, also a top trainer, that brought these two great racing families together. They had three children, one of which was Alec, father of Freddie and Criquette. William Head turned his hand to training after his retirement from riding and was highly successful. He saddled Bon Mot to win the Arc in 1966 with grandson Freddie in the irons!
Alec, born in 1924, like his dad started out as a jump jockey and rode many big winners including the French Champion Hurdle for his father William in 1946 aboard Vatelys. However, in 1947, at the age of only 23, Alec switched to training. He saddled his first Group 1 winner when Sanguine won the Prix Morny in 1950. At the age of just 28, he secured the first of four Arcs de Triomphe with Nuccio in 1952, and provided son Freddie with an Arc winner (Ivanjica) in 1976, before lifting his fourth and final Arc trophy in 1981 with Gold River.
Not content with just training horses, Head bought the HARAS DU QUESNAY just outside Deauville in 1958 together with father William and brother Peter. It was soon to be producing quality stock, the first of which was Le Fabuleux who won the Prix de Jockey Club in 1964. The Stud is now firmly established as one of the finest in France and it was here that Motivator met with Trevise and produced the current queen of the turf, Treve, in 2010.
Treve was placed with Criquette Head and originally ran in the all red colours of the HARAS DU QUESNAY. She won the Prix de Diane in such stunning fashion that she immediately became very hot property. Soon afterwards, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, founder of Al Shaqab Racing, dug deep to secure the purchase of an equine superstar.
On Sunday, TREVE returns to the track in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (1m4f). It would seem to be the ideal mid-season contest as she continues her preparation for a tilt at a record-breaking third Arc win.
Nine runners go to post for today’s Group 1 event and, on paper, TREVE cannot be beaten. With the weather set to be fine, good ground is expected. Of the contenders, FLINTSHIRE, by Dansili, lines up for revenge after finishing an excellent second to Treve in last year’s Arc. He is ridden by the unstoppable Vincent Cheminaud this time after Maxime Guyon gave the horse a rather lacklustre ride in the Coronation Cup at Epsom. The key to this horse is a strong gallop and firm ground. If this is the case come Sunday he is not without a shout, especially as Treve, in contrast, would prefer a little give in the ground.
Andre Fabre runs the Godolphin-owned MANATEE, recent winner of the Grand Prix de Chantilly over today’s distance. This relatively unexposed son of Monsun is likely to prefer softer conditions also, but he has done little wrong having won three of his four starts. His win at Chantilly was a game effort from Prince Gibraltar, though that horse is no world beater, so it would be a surprise if he were able to trouble the wonder mare on Sunday
Improving with age is the Alain Couétil’s MELEAGROS, a son of King’s Best and winner over 1m4f at Longchamp in the Group 3 Prix d’Hédouville at the beginning of May. As good as that run was, the bare form of the race just isn’t up to the level of the main contenders and he is another that would seemingly prefer soft ground to produce his best.
The famous green silks of the Aga Khan are carried by DOLNIYA, who meets FLINTSHIRE for the fourth time this year, their latest meeting being in the Coronation Cup at Epsom on Oaks day. Both horses seemed to run below their best that day, and a step up on that performance is both needed and expected here. This daughter of Azamour is a Group 1 winner having triumphed in the Dubai Sheema Classic earlier in the year beating FLINTSHIRE into second and a reproduction of that form might just cause the favourite to break sweat.
However, this race ought to be all about the mighty TREVE. Her reappearance at this track in the Group 2 Prix Corrida at the end of May could hardly have been more impressive. She travelled supremely well, and when Thierry Jarnet pressed the button the response was immediate, the five year old winning easily by four lengths from Group 1-winning filly, We Are.
Her preparation for the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud has gone well according to all reports and it is to be hoped that her performance cements her position at the head of the market for this season’s showdown at Longchamp in October with an eighth career success. A third victory in the Arc would surely see a bronze of Treve commissioned and placed alongside that of Gladiateur where this story all started some 150 years previously.