Horseracing

Scroll
to explore
Élie Hennau
President of the Fegentri
A passion for racing was in his blood. His father, a trainer in Belgium, categorically refused to allow him to pursue the same profession as himself. But he was not about to let that hold him back. Élie Hennau embraced amateur riding at a very young age, allowing him to indulge his passion for a good gallop, while still keeping up with his studies and professional activities. We meet him now as the new President of the International Federation of Gentlemen and Lady Riders (FEGENTRI). He is an enlightened amateur and determined ambassador who passionately shares his vision of the Longines World FEGENTRI Championships and does not hesitate to say that this circuit has made him “ a different man ”.
His great-grandfather, who shares his name, paved the way by breeding English thoroughbred horses. His great-uncle created the Belgian PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain – a horse racing betting company). With one grandparent being a breeder, and another a veterinary surgeon, Élie Hennau found it difficult not to catch the horse bug. “I grew up on a racecourse in Sterrebeek. My greatest joy was to go every morning to watch horses train with my father in the rain, because in Belgium it rains all the time,” explains the new President of FEGENTRI.

You can feel his nostalgia when he talks about this profession that he would so love to have pursued himself. “For me, being a trainer was the best job in the world. It’s not just a job, it’s a passion. I ended up going to business school... but I have to admit, even now, when I’m in a meeting, I can’t help but think of the trainers on the side of the track, watching their horses galloping.”

Even before reaching the age of reason, the young Élie improvised timed races with his classmates and his Shetland pony. “We had only one pony, so we used a stretch of sand behind the racecourse and had races against the clock. The other boys – other sons of trainers and jockeys – were taller than me, and as I was the youngest and lightest in the group, I regularly won. Also, because I didn’t have enough strength to stop the pony, it came straight back to the stable.”

In an effort to please his father, the young Élie would try his hand at showjumping, but by his own admission, horse racing was his real passion. At the age of 16, he competed on the racecourse he grew up on for the first time. What started out as an attempt was immediately transformed into a first victory, achieved, in Élie’s words, on a course of “2400 metres, the classic distance, and in front of packed grandstands. It was a dream come true!” But with the dream came some sacrifices – the punishing regime that the rider had to maintain during his 15 years on the amateur circuit. “I am 1.79 metres tall. When I started riding, I weighed 58 kilograms. Within a short time, at 18 years old, I had stopped eating. I just didn’t eat. Nothing in the morning, nothing at lunchtime, and almost nothing in the evening.”
Élie won victory after victory. He began to make headway very quickly, including in France. From the age of 15, he spent all of his holidays in Chantilly at the home of the trainer Henri Van de Poële, who provided him with accommodation and took him to the races every afternoon. Although Élie’s father did not want to see him become a trainer, he had nothing against his son aiming for the highest level on the amateur circuit. “My father got me started, and then passed the baton to Mr. Van de Poële, along with Christiane Head-Maarek and Guy Henrot, to whom I also owe a lot.”

Later on, he combined his passion with his professional life and started racking up the riding miles. “I got up at four o’clock in the morning and jumped into my car,” he recalls. “The journey from Namur to Chantilly is a breeze when you’re young and motivated. I would arrive early enough to have time to ride three horses before leaving again.” For a while, Élie also rode his father’s horse. “My father had a rather difficult horse. I decided to ride it every morning before I left for work. After six months of run-outs, he won two races at Deauville.”

As a man straddling two countries, the rider has won the golden whip in his native countries three times. He was also chosen by the Royal Club des Gentlemen-Riders et des Cavalières de Belgique (Royal Club of Gentlemen and Lady Riders of Belgium) to represent his country at the Longines World FEGENTRI Championships.











“It’s an honour to do the FEGENTRI, and it’s also an amazing experience for young people, giving them a chance to travel the world,” says the man who wore the Belgian armband for 10 years. He racked up victories everywhere from Madagascar to the United States to Scandinavia. One of his most treasured memories is winning the Diamond Preis in Baden-Baden: “It’s the German amateur derby. I’ve been lucky enough to compete in it seven times, and win it five times,” says Élie. But he has also competed in the Moët & Chandon Silver Magnum in the UK, which takes place on the legendary Epsom Derby course. However, Élie Hennau almost missed his chance that day by showing up at the airport without his ID. “I had to take the next flight. I arrived in time to get weighed and saddle up against Ryan Moore,” he recalls. “Ryan’s father, Gary, trained two of the horses in the race. I was riding as the underdog, Ryan was the favourite...”

History will remember that Flying Eagle and Élie Hennau defeated Ryan Moore, who has since achieved legendary status among professionals, with two Longines World’s Best Jockey titles to his name already. Élie Hennau’s last race took place on the frozen lake of St. Moritz in 2005. The timing was perfect. “We were celebrating the 50th anniversary of FEGENTRI!” When Nathalie Bélinguier, the association’s outgoing President, encouraged him to take over, he hesitated. “And then I realised that FEGENTRI has given me so much. I have learned so much and met so many people. Now I have the opportunity to give something back. This circuit creates strong connections between people, it shapes people, and it is a carrier of values, strong values that we share with Longines. It is also important to remember that amateur racing creates jobs, both for volunteers and for those who choose to join the professionals later on.” Élie Hennau is well aware of the importance of his new position, and he knows that good communication will be vital from the outset. “The world has changed. The number of sporting events taking place has increased, and digital consumption has changed the game. Among the general public, the over-40 set generally knows what FEGENTRI is. But that is not necessarily the case for many young people.”

The women’s circuit, which was long lagging behind, has grown considerably – and the new President is delighted: “I think it’s great that there are more lady riders than ever before, but that is no reason to have fewer gentlemen’s races.” Therefore, “balance” and “bringing people together” are the two key concepts that Élie Hennau is focusing on. He regrets that the races of the men’s and women’s circuits do not take place at the same time more often. “For me, FEGENTRI is all about camaraderie and sharing, and not necessarily about keeping the lady and gentlemen riders separate. I would like to create more opportunities for both lady and gentlemen riders to meet in the same place, as they do in Deauville every summer,” he says. “We also need to reunite the family,” says the new President, who has made bringing the UK or Ireland back into the heart of the association one of his priorities. He concludes with optimism and humour regarding the likelihood of finding a solution soon: “We should be able to reverse this Brexit!” [Fanny Hubart-Salmon]
Longines presents its new "second screen" application
On the occasion of the Longines Grosser Preis von Berlin on August 14th, 2017, Longines launched its new horse racing application. Based on the Longines Positioning System technology, this innovative tool provides a live experience of horse races and real-time data.
In line with its historical passion for horses and long term expertise in timekeeping, Longines had the pleasure to present its new second screen application, which is using the Longines Positioning System. This technology developed by the Swiss watch brand provides instant data on the exact position of horses during a race, their ranking, the distance between horses and their speed.

The innovative second screen application provides a live experience of horse races and real-time accuracy, as it produces detailed statistics about horses, such as average speed or intermediate time to tablet users. It also allows the users to see the races in 3D on replay, providing additional data, essential to a younger audience, used to receive information anytime and anywhere.

During the Longines Grosser Preis von Berlin day, Longines gave the opportunity to horse racing enthusiasts to discover and test the application in a dedicated area.

Longines is the Official Partner, Official Timekeeper and Official Watch of the Hoppegarten Racecourse and is proud to have lent its name to the highlight race of the day, the Longines Grosser Preis von Berlin, which saw the victory of Dschingis Secret ridden by Adrie de Vries.
Download on the App Store
Mikaela Shiffrin
An ambassador devoted to elegance
Longines Ambassador of Elegance Mikaela Shiffrin graced the 2017 edition of the Prix de Diane Longines with her presence. This competition is one of the most renowned and glamorous horse racing events in the world. The Swiss watchmaking company Longines has been honoured to support the event for several years as Title Partner and Official Timekeeper. In addition to this equestrian rendezvous, the talented American ski racer also attended the festivities surrounding the official presentation of the new blue model for women of The Longines Master Collection, one of the flagship collections of the winged hourglass brand.
Aksel Lund Svindal A distinguished guest at Royal Ascot
This year, the Swiss watchmaking company Longines was pleased to welcome the Norwegian alpine ski racing champion Aksel Lund Svindal to Royal Ascot, the leading global horse racing event where top-level sport is masterfully combined with tradition, elegance and refinement. Longines, which celebrated last year the ten-year anniversary of its partnership with Ascot, is the Official Timekeeper, Official Watch and Official Partner of Royal Ascot. For this international competition, the talented Scandinavian skier and Longines Ambassador since 2007 was pleased to discover the exciting world of horse racing and to celebrate traditional British elegance alongside the winged hourglass brand.
Second Life : When humans come together to help racehorses in their new careers
The sport of horse racing is built for and through selection. “ You breed the best to the best and hope for the best, ” says the famous adage. The best on the track will become stallions and broodmares. What about those who don’t make it to the breeding shed ? For decades, many have been retrained to embark on a brand new career. More than ever, all around the world, the horse industry is coming together to promote and facilitate this transition.
The percentages vary slightly depending on countries but the statistics speak for themselves : Nine of ten racehorses are able to move on to a second career. “ Our extensive research show that 96 % of racehorses can be retrained for a second career after their racing days are over, ” explains Di Arbuthnot, Chief Executive for Retraining of Racehorses. “ So it is actually very small percentage of horses who cannot be retrained. ”

Retraining of Racehorses, also known by its acronym “ RoR ”, operates in the United Kingdom were it was created in 2000, before being granted charitable status two years later. To date, it has encouraged and overseen the retraining of 12,500 racehorses who found a new home and a new career. “ There is so much they can do within the equestrian world. Obviously, there’s showing, eventing, show jumping, polo and dressage, some just become happy hackers and companions. There are many other opportunities to have a happy active second career, ” continues Di Arbuthnot.

A key part of RoR’s action is education to help people when they acquire their horses providing an expert helpline, clinics and workshops to help retrain the horses. The RoR organise a nationwide league of events and competitions supported by a network of regional representatives to promote what Thoroughbreds can achieve at all levels of equestrian sport.

“ We found over the years that in polo, eventing and showing they can get to the very very top ! Maybe not quite so much in dressage and show jumping but they can do very well at a lower level. And a lot of people who are taking these horses are competing at what I call a more grass root level. ” she says. A very prominent contribution to the retraining effort is one of the very last foals bred by H.M. the Queen Mother. Barbers Shop won eight races in the colours of her H.M. Queen Elizabeth. Since retiring from racing, he has made a name for himself on the showing circuit.

“ Barber Shop has been wonderful for RoR. He has a wonderful temperament, and he’s done incredibly well, particularly at Royal Windsor. He somehow knows that’s his day, with Her Majesty obviously there to watch and she loves coming to watch him. She is very pro now that if her horses, if suitable, do have an active second career. ” For years, RoR and other organizations each worked on doing their part in their respective countries. The effort took a global turn in October 2015 with a conference held in Lexington, KY.

“ Representatives came from as far as Australia, Japan, Ireland, Great Britain, France and, of course, the USA, ” remembers Diana Cooper. She is the strategic advisor on charities for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum’s Godolphin who supported the symposium. The goals set by Sheikh Mohammed for his team are crystal clear : “ See what’s happening in other countries, see what’s not happening and fill in the space. ”

After three days of exchanging on experiences and best practices, “ we could feel an incredible momentum and sense of shared responsibility. That’s how the International Forum for Aftercare of Racehorses was born, ” Cooper says.



Longines and the FEI
Longines seized the opportunity of the celebration evening at the FEI Awards Ceremony - held on November 21 in Montevideo (Uruguay) - to announce its involvement with FEI Solidarity by giving its support to the “ FEI Solidarity Retraining of Racehorses in partnership with Longines ”. The objective is to educate riders and trainers to use proper techniques in order to retrain former racehorses to perform as sport horses in the disciplines of Dressage, Jumping, Eventing and Endurance. It is thus a way to give racehorses whose career is at a halt, a second chance in countries where they would otherwise not be given this chance. The Swiss watch brand is very proud to support this project, which is perfectly in line with its long-lasting commitment to the equestrian world.
The International Forum for Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) held a second gathering in July 2016 in Newmarket and a third in May 2017 in Washington, D.C. Held at the same time and in the same building as the 2017 Pan-American Conference, the 2017 IFAR conference was able to spread its message and recommendations to a wider audience of racing executives.

“ There is a common understanding that our passion for racing and breeding comes with a responsibility and that responsibility must extend to the lifetime care of former horses, ” says Cooper. “ Each country has to find a template that suits. IFAR is not about imposing a process. It is a network of likeminded people, ” she adds. Many outfits and individuals were working on rehoming before IFAR came along to offer an international focal point on the issue.

In America, the Jockey Club has developed its own Thoroughbred Incentive Program and has played an active role in setting up the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which accredits and supports rehoming and retraining programs including events such as the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover. The event held each October at the Kentucky Horse Park is restricted to ex-racehorses who have been retrained for less than ten months. 100,000 USD prize money is distributed in ten categories including barrel racing, competitive trails and working ranch.

But not all retrained racehorses are meant to compete. Some find a new vocation in helping others. Thoroughbreds are known for their sensitive and intelligent nature. They are incredibly versatile and caring. Equine assisted therapy programs around the world use thoroughbreds in various mental health and educational programs, from youth at risk to veterans struggling with PTSD. These initiatives, developed and tested, have a long period of time. What is new is the incredible momentum now striking a chord on a global scale and encouraging the creation of new entities, notably in Japan and in France.

In August 2016, Au-Delà des Pistes, a French non-profit association held its first public event at Deauville racecourse, treating the public with a parade of champions and demonstrations of retrained thoroughbreds in their new activities. Leading the parade was crowd favourite, Cirrus des Aigles, ridden by Charlie, the daughter of champion jockey Christophe Soumillon. Cirrus is a gelding and cannot play a part in producing tomorrow’s champion. He proved, however, to be a great ambassador.

Communication is key to successful rehoming efforts. Most professionals with racehorses retiring do not know who might be interested other than connections in their own circle, while equestrians looking for a horse may know that a thoroughbred somewhere would be the answer. “ Our job is to build bridges ”, summarize Nemone Routh and Lisa-Jane Graffard, respectively, secretary general and treasurer for Au-Delà des Pistes.

In addition to the more traditional second careers, the French organization also identified great potential in Polo and Horseball. Retraining a racehorse into an efficient polo pony can take up to two years. As Au-Delà des Pistes found out from French polo officials, investing the time and effort makes sense, especially for players who are starting out may not have the means to fly to Argentina and ship back the ready-to-play ponies.
Horse-Ball is the last sport in which many would think to find thoroughbreds. There is contact in this sport which at first look seems to blend handball and rugby, all on horseback. Yet, 98 % of horses who played in this year’s French Nationals were retrained thoroughbreds. One of the best in Europe right now is related to the 2017 Epsom Derby winner, Wings of Eagles. Generalissime was donated for retraining by his breeder Aliette Forien, who accepted to act as President of Au-Delà des Pistes aims at facilitating those efforts by setting protocols, endorsing structures which meet its standards, helping manage and track the retrained horses.

“ Traceability is another cornerstone for success, ” insists Dr. Eliot Forbes. The chairman of Racing Australia’s national Retirement of Racehorses Committee, his team and the regional jurisdictions worked on introducing and clarifying new rules on traceability from the time of foal is born to the retirement. Collecting data along the way, the Australians came to the same conclusion as the English studies. Analysis of 17,000 forms filled by owners of retiring Thoroughbreds showed that more than 98 % started a new career in breeding, equestrian sports or as a leisure horse.

Retraining is the best possible response to activist groups claiming the racing industry does not care about the welfare of its horses and, therefore, “ The availability and attractiveness of Thoroughbreds in Equine communities is […] of paramount importance, ” concluded Dr. Forbes in his Washington presentation.

Initiatives are developing around the world to showcase the opportunities. When the National Center for Horseracing and Sporting Art was redesigned at Palace House Newmaket, a yard was dedicated to retired racehorses. The yard represents a unique meet-and-greet opportunity and a great promotional tool.

“ This is very much a shop window for RoR, ” says Di Arbuthnot. “ It's lovely for the general public who can come visit these wonderful horses, some of which are being retrained, others are just great names of racing. ”

Her Majesty the Queen attended the official inauguration of the Newmarket complex and so did her beloved Barbers Shop. All played their part in spreading the message aptly summed up by Di Arbuthnot : “ There is a life for these horses after the races. ”

As for the continuation of the momentum ? Diana Cooper is not worried. “ The doors are open now and they are not about to close anytime soon, ” she said. [Fanny Hubart-Salmon]
To be the first one must dare
The great adventure of the first South American trained horse to run at Ascot
The story of Sixties Song, the first South American trained horse to run in a European Group 1 race, began long before he was born. It started, as many stories do, around a dinner table one late evening in June, following another successful international Royal Ascot meeting.
Indeed, in 2012, the Longines World’s Best Racehorse and Champion Sprinter Black Caviar had travelled all the way from Australia to take on Europe’s finest short distance specialists in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, where she prevailed in front of the Queen and her many fans who had made the journey to watch her stamp her class on the closing Group 1 race of the meeting. Black Caviar was not the only international raider who was triumphant that year though, as only a few days earlier, Little Bridge had done Hong Kong proud thanks to his emphatic win in the King’s Stand Stakes.

Once more, Ascot had succeeded in attracting the world’s best horses, or so it seemed. Yet as the Argentine Malbec made its way around the dinner table, there was no denying, while most of the major racing nations over the years had become regulars at the Berkshire track, there remained one final frontier and that was South America.

Going back through the history books, it proved indeed impossible to find a representative from that vast piece of land on the other side of the Atlantic, which had been built on horseback and which today boasts one of the highest birth rates of thoroughbred foals in the world. Naturally, many Argentine, Brazilian and Chilean bred horses have run in European races, but none of them were locally trained, but had rather joined a yard in France or England to further their career.

Getting a South American trained horse to come over especially for one of the prestigious races at Royal Ascot or for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which is run a month after the Royal meeting, hence became the next big challenge for the forever innovative and forward-thinking Ascot team. And what a challenge it turned out to be.

The timing of this new challenge though was perfect, as horses from South America had recently been integrated within the Longines Rankings, which provided a logical starting point in the quest of finding the best South American race horse. However, the top five best horses in South American are not necessarily all trained in say Argentina, or Brazil. They could also be from Uruguay, Peru or Chile.

At first glance, the situation seemed a logistical nightmare, as it would take a tremendous amount of time to travel from country to country in order to meet with the different trainers and owners. Luckily though, once a year, all those good horses come together in the Longines Gran Premio Latinoamericano, where they run for the title of the best middle-distance horse in South America. The Group 1 race, which takes place in March, would provide the Ascot team with the perfect opportunity to meet the connections in one place.

In theory, it all looked easy. Fly to South America, meet the owners and trainers, convince them that taking on Europe’s best horses at Royal Ascot or the King George VI is a fabulous idea, sort out little issues like quarantine, then persuade them to fly their multimillion equine hero for more than 13 hours to the other side of the Atlantic, not only into a different time but also into a different climate zone, run the race, have a glass of Malbec and sit back and enjoy. That was the theory. In practice, it was a whole different story.
Traditionally, in South America, a good horse might run in one of the neighbouring countries, but most of the time, if it showed any talent, it would be immediately be sold to the United States.
First of all, it quickly became clear that in order to move things forward in South America, local knowledge and connections were indispensable. A partnership with LARC (Latin American Racing Channel), just as enthusiastic and committed as Ascot, was hence formed and would prove instrumental in the successful procuring of the first South American runner at Ascot.

The other issue, which proved much more difficult to overcome, was the obvious reluctance to try something that had never been done before. Horse racing, rich in history, has a long tradition of proven formulas, which are not easily changed. After all, it is not that long ago that racing on a Sunday in England was deemed unacceptable. And a female jockey riding at Royal Ascot or even in any other race ? Never.

Traditionally, in South America, a good horse might run in one of the neighbouring countries, but most of the time, if it showed any talent, it would be immediately be sold to the United States. Hence, travelling to Europe, where racecourses are not just left, but also right handed, where horses have to gallop uphill and downhill and where tracks are not plainly round or oval shaped, but can be more of a triangle or just a straight line, seemed a ridiculous idea. Yet, from that very first venture into South America in 2015, there was some considerable interest in the proposal and had the Peruvian trained Longines Gran Premio Latinoamericano winner Liberal not suffered an injury in the spring, he could have been the first horse to make it into the history books of the European Turf. As it was, the seeds had been well and truly sown and even before the running of the 2017 Longines Gran Premio Latinoamericano, contact was made with Sixties Song’s connections who had expressed the desire to embark on this daring new adventure that would secure them a page in the history books, regardless of the result. A condition was that the three-year-old Sixties Song needed to beat his opponents in the Longines Gran Premio Latinoamericano, which he duly did with several lengths to spare. Once it was decided that Sixties Song would indeed take up the challenge and come to the UK for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, an organisation worthy of running the next presidential election kicked in. First, Sixties Song was moved from the San Isidro racecourse to Palermo, where he went into quarantine and where he learned to run right handed. Then a cargo plane that was not going via Dakar and Frankfurt, but directly to the UK had to be found. The costs of a direct flight were astronomical, but the benefits of a thirteen hour flight compared with a twenty-four hour flight were undeniable.

Then a month before the King George VI, trainer Alfredo Gaitan and his son Lucas travelled to England to find the perfect accommodation for Sixties Song. After visiting various training centres, they decided on Abington Place in Newmarket where horses like Black Caviar had already been based. After having walked the course at Ascot one hot morning in June, connections decided to opt for a local jockey rather than his usual Argentine partner. This required some further organisation, but in the end, everything was in place, ready for the big day.

A week before the King George VI, Sixties Song arrived in Newmarket and to the surprise of everyone, he had travelled remarkably well. In fact, he was in great form, eating and drinking and taking the new environment in his stride, as if he had flown across the Atlantic all his life. Everything was going well and everyone was in high spirits. That is until the weather changed.

On the day of the race, the ground had turned soft at Ascot and although Sixties Song tried valiantly to follow a fabulous field composed of Europe’s best horses, there was no doubt, after galloping on the dry and fast tracks in Argentina, he did not think much of the mud that was flying into his face. In the end, his jockey abandoned any idea of trying to engage him in the final battle and let him finish the race in his own stride.

It was not the fairy tale ending everyone had hoped for, but connections agreed that it had been a great adventure and that Sixties Song was bound to win many more races in the future. However, come what may, Sixties Song will always have his place in the history of the turf as the first South American trained horse run at Ascot. And as his trainer said : “ If you don’t dare, you can’t win. We couldn’t do anything about the weather, but at least we tried. This is something we will never forget and I am proud that we will forever be the first in history. Not many people in this world can say that ! ” True, Sixties Song did not win, but he dared and for that he will always be remembered. [Liz Price]
Summary
Magazines