French A Factor In Dubai Turf

Gr1 Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World

Jerome Reynier offers at least one contradiction during a conversation marked otherwise by a completely coherent case for why Facteur Cheval is well-suited to the challenge of Saturday’s US$5 million Gr1 Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (1800m) at Meydan.

At the age of 38, and the holder of a training licence for less than a decade, Reynier has made relentless progress up the ranks in the style of a man in a hurry.

Yet he has done so by showing great patience with some of his best prospects, giving them an easy time at two and three before gradually letting them out on the big stage later on.

Facteur Cheval breezed on the main dirt track on Thursday ahead of the G1 Dubai Turf sponsored by DP World (Pic – Dubai Racing Club/Liesl King)

It is the speedy version of Reynier that has been in evidence during the first three months of 2024, with his stable at Calas, near the southern French port city of Marseille, sending out a nation-leading 37 winners.

That can only be good news for backers of Facteur Cheval, who was last seen when finding only an irresistible Big Rock too strong in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (1600m) at Ascot in October.

“For me he was exceptional when he was second at Ascot because, after starting well, he got stuck out on the wing and Mickael [Barzalona] elected to duck back in to get cover, and he ended up in last place,” says Reynier.

“The way he ran down the Aga Khan’s filly [Tahiyra] from so far off the pace was remarkable. I was worried he would have endured a hard race but after a few days at home he was back in good form and that was a factor which helped me to decide I would prepare him for Dubai.”

Since that French-trained one-two, Reynier has enjoyed a dream run in preparing Facteur Cheval.

“We had a mild winter and never missed a day’s work with any of the horses, which explains our great start to the year,” says Reynier.

“We had a race in Cagnes-sur-Mer earmarked for his comeback but the ground was pretty worn at the end of the meeting so we gave him a racecourse gallop in Marseille.”

Reynier, like fellow French training tyro Christopher Head, is a great believer in using the monitoring belt designed by Arioneo which monitors all of a horse’s vitals during exercise.

The trainer says: “We compared the cardio readings from his Arioneo belt taken after his last major piece of work, a week out from the flight, and he recovered much quicker than this time last year. I don’t think he’ll want for fitness.”

The question that many have posed about Facteur Cheval’s candidature is whether he can be as effective on a fast track at Meydan Racecourse as he proved last year in deep ground at Ascot and also Goodwood, where he briefly gave Paddington a fright in the Gr1 Sussex Stakes (1600m).

“On his trips to Britain he was beaten by two absolute champions in Paddington and Big Rock, but still performed with huge credit on soft ground that he enjoys,” says Reynier.

“He was unlucky not to win his first Group 1 in the Prix d’Ispahan, where he was only very narrowly beaten and it is reassuring that good ground and over 1800 metres, which is what he faces here, hold no terrors for him, while he also ran Big Rock very close when third to Sauterne on fast ground in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp [1600m].”

Facteur Cheval won his first four races but wasn’t pitched into Group 1 company until he had turned four, a similar approach adopted by Reynier with another of the stable’s talismans, Skalleti.

The Turf would be an especially delicious race to win with Team Valor’s five-year-old Ribchester gelding, given Reynier spent time in Dubai as part of two years on the world-renowned horseracing management programme founded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Darley Flying Start.

“It’s incredible if I think back to when I was 16 and my father and I weren’t allowed into the parade ring at Longchamp, when a horse we had bred ran in a Group race,” recalls Reynier.

“It looked such a closed world to me and I was fortunate to travel the world with Darley Flying Start and to get to know Dubai.

“I was placed with Erwan Charpy for several weeks when the racing was still at Nad Al Sheba. Then in 2015 I came here for Dubai World week. If you had told me then that I would have a runner in one of the best races of the night just nine years later, I would have thought you were living in some utopia.”

Reynier has been given extra time to see how Facteur Cheval runs on Saturday before giving a decision on whether to accept an invitation to run in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) in Hong Kong at the end of April, with a plan to stay on in Dubai in place before travelling on, should connections decide to go.

Reynier said: “Team Valor are more internationally minded than many owners and will always target the big meetings like this. I think he’ll stay 2000 metres fine and the reason we’ve avoided fast ground with him up until now is because his musculoskeletal development probably wasn’t what it needed to be.

“Now he’s five years old and he has more experience, it’s the right time to try.”

  • The Meydan meeting commences at 13h30 on Saturday.

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