Bobby Zen

We have heard much about Christopher Head as he has stamped his name firmly in the book of young trainers to follow, and it will undoubtedly be wise also to pay attention to his sister, Victoria Head, who trains in her own right in Chantilly. 

It is exactly two years since the 28-year-old sent out her first runner for Jean-Louis Bouchard, and her stable has now grown from five horses in her debut season to 25. She is currently operating at a strike-rate of 25 per cent, with six winners on the board already this year and some potentially smart prospects on her hands.  Notably, they include several for American owner-breeder George Strawbridge, who was a longstanding patron of the trainer’s father, Freddy Head.

“My father retired last year and I was really lucky because George Strawbridge decided to put some horses with me,” Head says. 

“Last year was my first year with two-year-olds and I knew I had some good horses who would be better at three. I am not training for many years but I know they have quality.”

One who should be in action this week with an eye on future Classics is Hit It (Fr), an Almanzor (Fr) half-sister to Dice Roll (Fr) (Showcasing {GB}), who was third in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains in 2018 for Fabrice Chappet. The filly was bought by Strawbridge at the Arqana August Sale for €110,000 from breeder Maurice Lagasse of Gestut Zur Kuste. Hit It has won twice so far for for Head, at Saint-Cloud, and heads to Sunday’s G3 Prix de la Grotte. 

“Hit It is a good filly for sure and I am delighted to have this filly for the Strawbridges. She ran well in Saint-Cloud and she seems to like the  heavy ground. 

It’s not easy when you start out but they have trusted me from the beginning,” says the trainer. 

“I have five three-year-olds for them and I hope that there is a colt who is really nice who hasn’t raced yet. His name is Inwi and he’s a horse I am really looking forward to.”

Inwi (GB) is indeed beautifully bred. A son of Dubawi (Ire), he is out of the G2 Prix du Conseil de Paris winner Listen In (Ire), herself a Sea The Stars (Ire) half-sister to Group winners Dominant (Ire) and Es Que Love (Ire). And he is not the only smartly-bred galloper in the stable. Ante Alios (Ger) (Guiliani {Ger}), a half-brother to the Melbourne Cup winner Almandin (Ger), became her first winner for the powerful German operation Gestut Schlenderhan when striking at Chantilly in March. He too is entered this Sunday for the Listed Prix Jacques Laffitte. 

“Gestut Schlenderhan has supported French racing for many years and I am really lucky to have this horse – I think he’s very nice,” says Head. 

She is also keen, like many young trainers, to encourage syndicate ownership, which is gradually on the rise in France but still not as widely popular as in Britain or Ireland. 

“We are trying to bring young people into ownership and France is working hard to build the syndicate idea,” Head notes. “There are certainly more syndicates now than before, and I am lucky to have Ecurie Vivaldi in my stable, and also I have a new syndicate called High Heels, which is only for girls.”

Like many of the members of her esteemed dynasty, which stretches back many generations in Chantilly but has its roots in England, Victoria Head communicates fluently in English. This was no doubt aided by some international travels before she began her training career. She will have gleaned much from her time spent working for Aidan O’Brien in Ireland, Gai Waterhouse in Australia and, finally, “the genius” Andre Fabre back in her home town. 

She says, “I like to see many different things so I tried to travel a lot. I went to Aidan O’Brien and it was the most amazing experience. I did a bit of everything there – I rode out in the morning and worked for Coolmore at the stud in the afternoon. I loved this experience and I loved Ireland. I learned a lot there and afterwards I went to Australia, which was totally different, though I also liked that experience. 

“When I came back to France I worked for Andre Fabre for a year. That experience made me grow up a lot. I learned maybe the most from him because I was a bit older by then, but I also learned a lot from the people I worked with there. He has a really good staff.”

Though she maybe did not initially have the blessing of her own father to train, Head’s parents are now owners in her stable, with five horses on the books, including last month’s Saint-Cloud winner La Mandala (Fr) (City Light {Fr}) and Suchet (Fr) (Cloth Of Stars {Ire}), who won in February at Chantilly. Both are homebreds who carry a variation of the famous red Haras du Quesnay colours.

“My father didn’t want me to train,” she says. “I’m his daughter and he knows it’s a tough life and he said he would prefer me to do something else, but I was sure I wanted to do this so he’s happy now. My mother has always supported me.”

As the latest member of a celebrated family which has enjoyed much success on the French turf and beyond, Head admits that she has plenty to live up to but is also fully appreciative of the benefit of her surname.

“I try to do my work every day and don’t think too much about that,” she says. “I do feel the pressure of the family name, but at the same time it is easier for me to have that name; it has definitely made things easier for me. But for all trainers, you have pressure anyway, especially when you are building your business.”

Head trains from a separate yard to her brother but in part of the stable previously used by their father.

She adds, “Christopher has had great success and I am happy for him. Now I am trying to play my part.”

 

The post Spotlight on Victoria Head as Training Dynasty Extends appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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