Christophe Soumillon: The ten-time French champion jockey talks about Vadeni, Zarkava, the separation from the Aga Khan and many more! | Race News

There’s a self-confidence that radiates from Belgian star jockey Christophe Soumillon, and if you look at his gleaming CV, it’s not hard to see why.

A 10-time French champion jockey, Soumillon has been in the headlines for more than 20 years, having notably ridden Dalakhani, Zarkava, snow thunder, Dylan Thomas and Excelebration, to name a few.

And if you thought his exploits were limited to Flat play, you’d be wrong.

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Watch the full feature ‘Christophe Soumillon: Cavalier’ all this week on Sky Sports Racing

He won the French Hurdle Champion in 2010 on Mandala for trainer Jean-Paul Gallorini, in the footsteps of his father Jean-Marc Soumillon, himself a jumping jockey in Belgium.

But when you’re this good, you’re always likely to ruffle a few feathers, and Christophe himself would admit that he’s had his fair share of disagreements over the years, including one that led to a rift with the landlord. The Aga-Khan between 2010 and 2013.

“He’s probably one of the greatest sportsmen I’ve seen,” said Soumillon. Sky Sports Racing. “He can be great after the win, but it’s the same when you get beat. I learned so much from him.

“When you feel the confidence he has in you when you go out on the track, you want to give 200 per cent every time.

Christophe Soumillon waves to French Derby hero Vadeni at Chantilly
Soumillon waves to French Derby hero Vadeni at Chantilly

“I started to get a little frustrated over the years because sometimes with the coaches we didn’t agree on tactics or things like that.

“There was a time when we needed to see if we really liked each other that much at work. We had this little break for a few seasons but I knew I wanted to come back.

“What I’ve learned over the years is that every time you reach the top, then you come back down.

“What I love about sports is when people go through tough times, you see them fight.”

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Watch the full feature ‘Christophe Soumillon: Cavalier’ all this week on Sky Sports Racing

In a truly outstanding list of racehorses ridden by the 41-year-old, presumably sitting atop the tree is Zarkavaa star mare who went unbeaten in her seven-race career, winning five Group 1 races, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, arguably the biggest and best race in the world.

She gave Soumillon a feeling he admitted he had never had from a racehorse before, and he knew early on that he could ride something quite special.

“I knew straight away that he was a superstar, the day before the Prix Marcel Boussac,” he said. “We galloped and she did something on the straight that I had never felt before with a horse.

“His Highness [The Aga Khan] asked if we could go for the Marcel Boussac and I said, ‘No. We are not going to go there, we are going to win it”.

“It’s a part of me that probably feels like arrogance but it’s a self-confidence. When you’re feeling good, your horse is good and you’re the favorite in a race, why should you feel like you can be beaten?”

“I’m my own character, so when I’m not happy some people may say I’m arrogant or misbehaving, but when something’s wrong, I say so. You can’t give back everything. the happy world.

“When I make a mistake, the most important thing is to move on.”

“Frankie has always been my idol”

Although his father was a horse rider and it was revealed early on that he had considerable talent – a champion Belgian pony jockey at the age of nine – Soumillon was not always destined to become the world star. that he is today.

“There was a big discussion with my mother because she didn’t want me to become a jockey,” he said.

“I tried to become a chef and worked in a restaurant but a good friend of my father told me there was an opening in France and why not go there.

“I knew I was good at it [riding] and what really gave me the dream of becoming a world jockey was seeing Frankie Dettori on a poster winning the Arc on Lammtarra (1995). He’s always been my idol.”

His professional riding career meant a move from Belgium to France, spending time at the Chantilly riding school before joining Cedric Boutin as an apprentice jockey.

This move was not an instant success and he will admit he struggled with the change in his life, leaving the family home at the age of 15.

“It was difficult because I would go away for periods of about a month or two without seeing my family,” he said.

“I was lucky to arrive in a team with Cédric Boutin who was giving a young apprentice a chance.

“The hardest part was feeling happy without my family.”

Perfect Power ridden by jockey Christophe Soumillon winning the Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes
Perfect Power, ridden by Soumillon, winning the Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes

A move to legendary trainer André Fabre launched his career as second jockey behind Olivier Peslier, and he soon had a first Group One and Classic to his name with victory in the French 2000 Guineas on Vahorimix in 2001.

But arguably most notable was his deal at the end of that campaign, taking the place with the Aga Khan’s side following Gerard Mosse’s move to Hong Kong.

And it is in these colors that Soumillon quickly endowed himself with a superstar foal in Dalakhanifour-time Group 1 winner with just one defeat to his name.

Winner of the Criterium International in 2002 and the French Derby in 2003, Alain de Royer-Dupré’s star went to the Curragh for the Irish Derby as the heavy favorite.

Dalakhani and Christophe Soumillon are beaten in the Irish Derby
Dalakhani and Soumillon are beaten in the Irish Derby

But despite leaving the 4/7 favourite, Soumillon and Dalakhani were edged out by John Oxx’s Alamshar, ridden by Johnny Murtagh who he admitted rode a perfect race that day.

“With Dalakhani I was very lucky to find him so early, but with a bit more experience I think I probably would have been unbeaten with him,” Soumillon said.

“There’s always that bitter taste in my mouth when I think of the Irish Derby because that day I made a few little mistakes and was probably overconfident, while Johnny had a perfect race.

“It was a hammer blow to our head because I never thought we’d be beaten by him. He’s still one of the best horses I’ve ridden.”

Soumillon continues to land grand prix after grand prix around the world, most recently the French Derby and Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Vadeni for Jean-Claude Rouget.

This Sandown success was France’s first 10-stadia Group 1 win since 1960, but was not without controversy as Soumillon’s lively post-race celebrations and his accidental deflection into the inside runners were judged negligent by the stewards, receiving an eight-day ban for her exploits.

“Sometimes with the emotions when you cross the line, not everyone understands what you’re doing,” he added.

“I don’t want people to remember what I did after the line. It was an incredible moment for the history of French motor racing.

“Vadeni is a superstar now, a monster. On the track, he’s a machine.

“We can’t be much happier than we are now and that’s when you have to be most careful.”

Watch Christophe Soumillon: Rider all this week on Sky Sports Racing and watch Soumillon in action in Sunday’s Prix Morny.