WEDNESDAY: April 5, 2023: RAIN, rain, go away!
Hawkesbury trainer Marc Chevalier is praying for fine and warmer weather this week to help ensure a more suitable track for his stayer Torrens in Saturday’s $2m Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Royal Randwick on Day 2 of The Championships.
Three times Randwick winner Torrens might be one of the rank outsiders at $81, but his trainer is confident he can turn around last Saturday’s unplaced run in the Chairman’s Quality (2600m) there if he gets the right conditions.
Chevalier has booked Alysha Collett, who will also partner one of the favorites Short Shorts in the $500,000 Provincial-Midway Championship Final (1400m), for Torrens and will ride him at his 51.5kg.
“Our regular jockey Josh Parr rode Torrens 0.5kg over at 57kg in the Chairman’s and thus isn’t able to get anywhere near the horse’s weight in the Cup,” Chevalier said.
“I’ve always wanted to have Alysha ride one of our horses, and this is the perfect opportunity.”
Chevalier set the six-year-old son of Cox Plate winner Adelaide for the Cup after he won the Listed Christmas Cup (2400m) at Randwick on December 10; the stallion’s third win from as many starts over that distance at headquarters.
Torrens had his third start this campaign when 11th to Cup rival Surefire in the Chairman’s on a ‘Heavy 8’ track, and Chevalier was quick to excuse the performance.
“We had the horse ready to run well, but Josh said he was never comfortable in the ground,” Chevalier said.
“Most of his wins have been on good tracks and he has won on a ‘Soft 5’, but has failed twice in the heavy.
“I’m checking the weather forecast every five minutes, and praying we got good weather later in the week.
“Torrens can definitely run a lot better if the track is on his side. I’m surprised he is regarded as a 100-1 chance; he is better than some of the other horses above him in the market.”
A maiden Group 1 success in a time-honored race such as the Sydney Cup would be a massive boost for French expat Chevalier, who has been training for not quite two years.
He and his wife Charlotte moved north from Melbourne in May 2021 to set up the Hawkesbury stable.
And whilst a lot of racing folk might not know a lot about him, rest assured he is no racing fly by nighter.
Chevalier has had a thorough grounding in many facets of the industry, and though it has long been an ambition of his to train, he didn’t rush into taking out his licence until he felt he was ready.
“I rode at pony clubs and did show jumping in France when I was young, but really fell in love with the thoroughbred when I was 16,” he explained.
“I rode them work for a trainer on the beach at Normandy for a couple of weeks. Their speed and beautiful action got me.”
Subsequently, whilst working at Shadwell Stud in the UK, a meeting with the Aga Khan’s manager Georges Rimaud led to him making his way to Australia – and eventually embarking on his training career.
“Georges offered me a job back in France as a break-in rider at the Aga Khan’s farm at Normandy,” Chevalier said.
“I was there for two seasons, and knowing I wanted to train, Georges recommended I go to Australia.
“As they had connections with Arrowfield Stud in the Hunter Valley by sending a few mares there, Georges arranged a job for me with Paul Messara as a trackwork rider.
“I was at their training centre at Scone for six months and wanting to do some more travelling to learn as much as I could, also worked at Turangga Farm in the Segenhoe Valley and then Rich Hill Stud in New Zealand.”
Chevalier found his way back to Arrowfield for another two and a half years as a foreman at the fillies’ barn (when international winning mare Ortensia was there).
When Arrowfield boss John Messara persuaded son Paul to take over management of the stud and focus less on training, Chevalier joined Gary Moore when he returned from overseas to train at Rosehill Gardens.
“I spent three years with Gary as an assistant trainer, and life was never boring,” he quipped.
“During my time there, Gary won the 2016 Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes in Perth with Takedown, and I was a finalist in the 2015-16 Sydney Strapper Of The Year Award.”
Furthering his experience to become a trainer, Chevalier ventured south and joined Melbourne Cup legend Lloyd Williams and son Nick at Macedon Lodge for 18 months before taking on an assistant training role with another Melbourne Cup winner, Danny O’Brien, at Flemington.
“I learnt so much from Danny,” Chevalier said. “He was great to work for and didn’t hold anything back; always prepared to share his knowledge.”
Satisfied he was finally ready to take on his new training venture, Chevalier never had any doubt about starting off in New South Wales.
“It was always my preference,” he said. “The prizemoney is fantastic, and I learned the Midway Handicaps were about to be introduced in Sydney on Saturdays.
“Hawkesbury is a really nice place to train. It’s been a slow process but we’re slowly building up our stable.”
Rather aptly, Chevalier’s breakthrough winner was Tri Nations at Bathurst in January last year.
He has since won another three races (Torrens being the highlight last December as his first metropolitan triumph, and Pitavago was his latest at Taree in late January), along with 12 placegetters.
Chevalier got Torrens to train out of the blue when he took a call from the horse’s Singapore owner Vincent Balasubramaniam.
“Vincent apparently had decided to look for a new trainer and considered the French the best at training stayers, and that’s the reason I got the horse,” he said.
“He wants Torrens to go to stud when his racing career is over.
“I have never met Vincent in person, and only once on a visio meeting.
“At this stage I don’t think he is coming over for Saturday’s race, but no doubt will be watching closely.”
Chevalier will be at Randwick of course to saddle Torrens. What a story it will be if the personable Frenchman can take a quantum leap in his career by clinching his first Group 1 in a feature race with so much tradition, first run in 1866!
. Chris Waller’s Hawkesbury treble today lifted him to within five wins from front-runner James Cummings in the trainers’ premiership.
Whilst Cummings landed the opening event with Zardozi ($3.50) to claim his 16th winner of the season, Waller required a successful protest in the stewards’ room to post his third winner to move to 11.
James McDonald rode $1.90 favorite Olentia in the Pioneer Services Benchmark 68 Handicap (1300m), and stewards agreed with him that interference from first past the post Shadows Of Love ($5.50) near 150m out had cost his mount victory.
Waller’s earlier winners were Beautiful Heart (Joao Moreira) in the Richmond Club Maiden Handicap (1600m), and Pretty Amazing (Zac Lloyd) in the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1600m).
Lloyd and Tyler Schiller remained level in the apprentices’ premiership on seven wins after the latter squared up by landing the closing event, The Lawn Shed Benchmark 72 Handicap (1300m), on $3.70 co-favorite Queen Yuna for Anthony Cummings.