KENTUCKY DOWNS ENJOYS SOME FRENCH FLAVOR
The biggest racing day of the 2016 meet at Kentucky Downs had a distinctive French flavor about it. It was not because of the fries being served at the concession or the wine being doled out at the bar. Rather it was a trio of riders that dominated the money board throughout the day.
Kentucky Downs is the only European style Thoroughbred race course in the United States. With it’s up and down topography and obtuse shape, the Franklin, Kentucky track is a bit different for sure. But for three musketeers named Geroux, Leparoux, and Prat, the unique layout spelled success. On the day, these French-born riders won five of the ten races and finished in the top two in nine of the ten trips over the southern Kentucky turf. Included in those victories were the taking of three of the four stakes races that were worth a total of $1.5 million.
“We are very lucky and we have been riding good horses,” says Julian Leparoux who has recently returned from injury and rode Watchyourownbobber to victory in the More Than Ready Mile Stakes. “The horses were supposed to run good and they did. The others have been riding well all year and it was nice to get a stakes win at this track after being on the sidelines with injury.”
Leparoux is right about the success of his fellow musketeers. Florent Geroux has been near the top of the leaderboards all season as the “go-to” rider for hall of fame trainer Steve Asmussen and other top conditioners. On September 10, Geroux rode three winners and was second three times. The biggest race of the day, the $600,000 grade 3 Calumet Farms Kentucky Turf Cup, saw Geroux guide Da Big Hoss to the winner’s circle for the second consecutive year.
“You need to ride confident and that is what I did on Da Big Hoss,” says Geroux who pulled a late double by following the Turf Cup win with a triumph in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint. “When the horse likes the course it makes things so much easier and that happened for me in each of the last two races.”
Flavien Prat has also flexed his muscle across the country this year. After a highly successful Santa Anita meet, the native of Melun, France took the riding title at the 2016 summer Del Mar meet. Leaving the Seaside Oval with confidence, Prat took the first race on the card and then finished second in the following two in his second season of riding at Kentucky Downs.
“This is a nice track that is certainly different from any other in America,” says Prat. “I have been able to ride some great horses this year and that has been a big help in allowing me to reach one of my goals of being the top rider during a track meet. The turf is good here at Kentucky Downs and I enjoy riding here.”
Considering the “across the pond” layout of Kentucky Downs, it only seemed fitting that on the biggest day of racing in 2016, the theme turned out to be “Viva La France”!