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The 7 Poules d’Essai not like the others from the ladies of Criquette Head

One of the events of the 2022 Poules d’Essai is the presence among the fillies of Coralie Pacaut, who will only be the second woman in history to ride in this classic. Before she tries to mark the history of this race, another woman put her mark on it. With 7 titles, “Criquette” Head is co-holder of the record of victories, with stories full of anecdotes. In partnership with France Galop.

Coralie Pacaut will be the 2nd woman in history to saddle up in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (aprh)

At 23, Coralie Pacaut is now one of the sure values ​​of the pelotons in France. The young woman from Val d’Oise works for one of the best coaches in the country, Jean Claude Rouget, who does not hesitate to trust him with excellent cartridges. The 2019 women’s golden whip will go down in history no matter what this Sunday, as she will saddle up in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches on Zeldafilly of Tony Parker and some jeffroy family with whom she has already won. She will become the second woman in history to mount the classic in question, after Jacqueline Freda in 1993. She finished 7th with Firm Friend, a mare trained in Italy. Coralie Pacaut will therefore have the opportunity to leave her mark on the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. Before her, another woman left an indelible mark on this race: Christiane Head-Maarek.

Coralie Pacaut with Zelda, her Sunday partner

In 2018, “Criquette” stopped training after 40 years of career at the highest level. Obviously, she has contributed enormously to the fact that women are better considered in the racing world. Former amateur rider, she learned the trade alongside her father Alec Head, before obtaining his coaching license in 1978. It was at the time a private license for his mother’s squad, before it went public in 1981. Criquette’s extraordinary career has above all marked by fillies, since 52 of his 79 Gr.1 victories in France and abroad have been won by fillies. She notably won her first Gr.1 with Sigy in 1978, a 2 year old who accomplished the feat of winning the Abbaye de Longchamp at the young age of 2 years.

But the Gr.1 race in which Criquette has had the most success is undoubtedly the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, in which she has won 7 titles. This makes her the co-record holder for the number of victories in the stroke race. Charles Semblatbut in front Francois Mathet, Jean-Claude Rouget… or his father Alec Head! Note that on Sunday, the English trainer Jane Chapple Hyam will have a runner in the classic for males and for the fillies. But this rather unprecedented candidacy of a woman jockey allows us to look in detail at Criquette’s 7 titles, which have their share of anecdotes!

Criquette Head-Maarek, great lady of racing and specialist in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches

1979: Three Troikas, the family mare of all records

Raised by South African building magnate Artur Pfaff, Three Troikas was bought for 41,000 Gns in Newmarket by Alec Head in 1977. Criquette was then 29 years old, and was very close to becoming a coach. Three Troikas is entrusted to him by his father, under the cassock of his mother Ghislaine, and will invariably be ridden by his brother Freddy. The latter is also the record holder for the number of successes in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches with 8 titles, including 4 for his sister. Winner of his maiden at 2 years old, then of the Prix Vanteaux for his comeback, Three Troikas takes off by 3 lengths in the Poule d’Essai, to offer a first classic to his young trainer.

Three Troikas with Freddy Head

Winner of the St Alary, then 2nd in the Diane beaten by PoopThree Troikas won the Prix Vermeille in the fall, then won the Arc by 3 lengths ahead of The Kid and the English champion troy. Criquette Head then made history, as she became the first woman to win the Arc de Triomphe, and still the only one to this day. She will win 2 other titles with Truce many years later. After a decent but somewhat disappointing 4-year-old year, Three Troikas will be sold to an American syndicate, and will become a good broodmare, without making great sparks.

Criquette and Freddy Head, the Poules d’Essai des Pouliches record holders, including 4 together

1985: Silvermine, classic ancestor of a great Quesnay strain

Here is another 100% family success in the Poule d’Essai of Silvermine, who wears the same colors as Three Troikas and is ridden by Freddy Head. In addition, it is a 100% Quesnay product, resulting from the meeting between Bellypha and DSevres. This mare, whose family has flourished with the Heads for several generations, is also known as the mother of Saint-Cyrien, Gr.1 winner at Criquette and become a jumping stallion. We owe him the phenomenal Cyrlight, and he is a sought after dam sire. The strain of Silvermine and consorts is still present in Quesnay after all this time. It is that of Silver Pointor Silver Pond. Sevres, like his daughter Silvermine, took part in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, but without success.


Silvermine has only won twice in her career: her maiden at 2, and the Hen. Placed in the best races, it reverses the fate in the classic by winning by 2 lengths. She is then placed in the Prix Lupin and Jean Prat, facing the males. At stud, she will give 11 winners out of 16 foals, including the winner of Jean Prat Sillery. Stallion at Quesnay and even shuttled to Australia at Widden Stud, he was crowned best European first production stallion in 1996. He died quite young, in 2001.

1986: Stolen Kiss, from Sangster to Micheline Leurson

A year after Silvermine, Criquette wins another Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, but this time for the famous silks of Robert Sangster. He transformed the thoroughbred industry with John Magnier and Vincent O’Brien, launching the Coolmore empire. Best French 2 year old, Stolen kiss won the Prix Robert Papin and the Prix de la Salamandre with Freddy Head, but will be ridden by Guy Guignard in the Chicken. Freddy Head finished 16th there for the Niarchos team. Baiser Volé wins by a neck, and will never win again after the Poule.

Criquette and Micheline Leurson, a story of friendship and horses, especially with the strain of Baiser Volé

Many years later, this family still brings great joy to a very close friend of Criquette, Micheline Leurson. A great amateur rider, a true racing legend, she has a miracle broodmare named Rock Harmony, who is a niece of Baiser Volé. 2nd in the group at Criquette under Micheline Leurson, she has almost only given good horses to the stud. The best, coachellolisted winner, was co-bred by the 2 friends, and comes from a former stallion from Quesnay, Dunkirk

1988: the legendary Ravinella

Ravinella is one of the 4 fillies in history to have done the “Guinées-Poule” double, with Recklessness, Miesque, and Special Duty. Raised in the USA by the Aland stable (Alec Head and Roland de Chambure), the daughter of Mr. Prospector arrives undefeated in 5 outings in the Pool, after winning the Cheveley Park Stakes (Gr.1) at 2 years old, and therefore the Guineas. She imposes herself there by a neckline ahead of a filly by Pascal Bary. At the end of the 3-year-old season, she was bought for $2.6M by the famous Allen Paulsonthe man of Cigar.

review Ravinella’s Guineas

She will win twice in the United States, and will place in Gr.1, without however reaching the expected level at the time of her purchase. At stud, his destiny will be totally opposed to his racing career. She is the mother of only one foal, Bodleiana son of Reference Point who will never see a racetrack…

1995: Matiara and the great female duels

She was also raised in the United States by Alec Head and Roland de Chambure, Matiara is a daughter of Bering, winner of the Jockey Club for Criquette. After winning the Prix de la Grotte, Matiara wins with Freddy Head by a nose in the Poule d’Essai. After a photo with a controversial development, she is ahead of another mare trained by a female trainer, in this case carling for Corine Barande Beard. The 2 fillies find themselves in the Diane, where Carling takes his revenge with a neck under the saddle of a very young Thierry Thulliez. Sent to the United States at the age of 4, Matiara won a Gr.1 there, before meeting a tragic end in the Beverly D Stakes. Victim of a fracture and then internal bleeding, she had to be euthanized after the race.

Matiara (red shirt), passing the post in the Diane against her eternal rival Carling

Meanwhile, his dam was sold for over $1.4M to Coolmore, in foal to Mr Prospector. This will give them the right Pyrus, but she will not produce any good racehorses thereafter. His last product born in 2007, a female of Galileo named Memories Of Youbecame the mother of Australian crack Unforgotten.

1997: Always Loyal, the sister of the famous Anabaa

Here is another symbol that the victory of Always Loyal in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. His mother Balbonellaraised by Maurice Rohaut-Legeris purchased during the career by the Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, who entrusts her to Criquette. She herself will be 4th in the Poule de Miesque. At stud, she will produce 5 foals, including 4 black-type winners. After Key Of Luckcomes the famous Anabaa. A problem foal, he is diagnosed with dog disease, and is thus given to the Head family by Sheikh Al Maktoum. He will become a formidable sprinter, one of the rare Frenchmen to have won against the English at home, then a top-notch stallion in Quesnay, notably sire of the great Goldikova.

Always Loyal wins the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches with Freddy Head

Her little sister Always Loyal arrives undefeated in 2 outings at the Poule d’Essai and wins by a head. This is Freddy Head’s latest success for his sister in the classic in question. At H haras, Always Loyal will be a minor breeding hen, producing winners but no black-type horses. She still represents a part of the Head family’s history, being the sister of a horse that changed their life as breeders.

2010: Special Duty, the queen of the green carpet

Trained for Khalid Abdullah by Criquette, Special Duty established herself as one of the best 2-year-olds of her generation, finishing 2nd in the Prix Morny, then winning the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket. Above all, it has the particularity of having won 2 classics on the green carpet two weeks apart! In the Guineas of Newmarket, she is slightly ahead of JAcqueline Quest passing the post, but it is demoted after an interminable investigation for having hampered its rival in the last meters of the race. 2 weeks later, Special Duty finished 2nd in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches… but no!.

Special Duty against Liliside in the 2010 Pool

beaten by Liliside for Francois Rohaut, Special Duty wins its 2nd green-carpet classic. Liliside is demoted to 6th place for hampering several competitors in the final wrap. After Imprudence, Miesque, and therefore Ravinella, Special Duty becomes only the 4th filly in history to do the “Guinées-Poule” double… without having really won the races! At stud, his first foal by Carpet, South Bankwill also be trained by Criquette, and placed Yacowlef (listed) as a debutant.

Cricket, great queen of hens


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