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  • Writer's picturePeter McNeile

Thirty-five years at the top of his profession: Peslier bows out after 3,700 winners

For the modern jockey, race-riding is an attritional career. There's the constant battle against the scales, perpetual travel between training yards, home and far-flung racecourses, and a relentless schedule that affords little let-up, especially for those at the top of their profession.

The European racing model on turf, in which riders move day by day between different tracks, is even more taxing than in the States, where 30 day seasons at the same venue at least box travel to a manageable status.

So the career total of a big time rider like Olivier Peslier, who announced his retirement from competitive riding on Thursday at Teste-la-Buch, is not merely a remarkable set of statistics of winners vs mounts, but more a globe-trotting compendium of places visited. The statistics take some digesting: over 3,700 winners worldwide.

Four cravaches d'or in his home country have marked him out as a leader in his peer group in France, but he is one of a select group of top flight riders who have graced the world stage, winning in Japan, the USA and the Middle East in a career stretching more than 35 years. Only Lester, the irrepressible Frankie Dettori and Joe Mercer among recent riders have carried on past fifty.

Riding a first winner in March 1989, just 2 months after his 16th birthday, Peslier was born in Chateau-Gontier, horse country to those that don't know that part of western France. The market town is surrounded by provincial racecourses where riders can ply their trade, and graduate to the bigger metropolitan centres if they are good enough.

Peslier proved himself good enough to rise to the top, becoming first rider to Andre Fabre in the mid-nineties, allowing him the leg up on Group I winners like Helissio and Peintre Célèbre, both winners of the Arc. In total, Peslier rode four Arc winners, surpassed only by Dettori with six.

Championships in 1996, '97, '99 and 2000 proved the highlight at home, with winning volumes never matched once the focus on elite flat racing became more and more international. To be champion rider at home and riding continually abroad is virtually impossible nowadays.

Goldlikova brought Peslier to the attention of US spectators through a treble of wins in the Breeders Cup Mile, and no European rider's CV would be complete without at least one British Classic. Peslier was scooped up by Luca Cumani for High Rise in the 1998 Derby.

But a rider knows when their time is due. Despite riding 69 winners in 2021 from over 400 rides, the statistics had been on a downward trend for several years. Eighteen winners from 161 rides last year painted the writing on the wall.

Peslier won't be lost to the sport. He'll continue in a work rider role behind the scenes where his expertise will be much valued by a fresh generation of trainers.

One of the greats of his generation.

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