Bon Anniversaire Olivier

…a day late but never mind. I meant to post this yesterday but ran out of time.

I noticed in yesterday’s birthdays section in the Racing Post that Olivier Peslier had turned 45.

In the nearly 30 years I’ve followed racing I’d have to have Peslier as one of my top 3 jockeys of this era. Plenty of words might describe him; words such as cool, suave, stylish, deadly, professional etc etc, ultimately he’s so often been just the right man for the big day.

He’s won everything pretty much in France of course, including four Arcs. Three of those came in successive years in the 1990s. I was there when he rode Helissio in 1996. It’s one of the races seared in your memory, Helissio came round the final bend in front and simply ran right away from a great horse in Pilsudski who was second, beaten about 6 lengths

The following year I was back at Longchamp to see Peslier ride one of the real greats, Peintre Celebre who sprinted away from Pilsudski, who was second again with Helissio well beaten this time,

By the way isn’t it great to be able to watch these old You Tube videos, with Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s commentary!

Peslier made it an Arc hat-trick the following year on Sagamix and then had to wait 14 years before winning a 4th Arc on Solemia. This was another dramatic and unforgettable race.

This was finally to be the year of the Japanese after so many near misses. Indeed, commentator Ian Bartlett says “they’re going to do it at last” as Orfevre swept into a 2l lead with less than a furlong to go, under Christophe Soumillon, but as the Japanese horse tied up near the finish Peslier sensed his chance and galvanised Solemia to swoop in the last strides. Having backed Orfevre I was gutted, but it was a great ride from Peslier to get up and win.

It’s not just Arcs of course, where Peslier has starred. In England he has starred often in the biggest races including a Derby on High Rise in 1998, trouncing the field in the King George on Harbinger in 2010, the 2000 Guineas on Cockney Rebel 10 years ago and a personal favourite of mine, the brilliant filly Banks Hill winning the Coronation Stakes in 2001. Looking at his record, among the other big races he has on his record, are two Japan Cups, an Irish Derby and a German Derby.

And then there is the other amazing horse with whom Peslier was synonymous that has to be mentioned. The brilliant Goldikova. The filly, in his retained Wertheimer colours, kept turning up and usually winning at so many of the big days, including the 2010 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot and 3 successive Breeders Cup Miles. I was lucky enough to be at Churchill Downs in 2010 when she made history and won the race for the third time, coming with a storming run down the stretch. As Trevor Denman said she was a “true champ”.

So happy birthday Olivier. No doubt a few more big prizes await, and they’ll be delivered with the style and panache that we’ve been used to now for so many years.

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