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Forca Barza! Mickael keen to slay opponents with his Talismanic

Author: Duane Fonseca


At the moment of crossing the winning post in the 2012 running of the Dubai World Cup, Mickael Barzalona celebrated in the manner he always did. He stood up erect in the irons and with more than a bit of chutzpah wielded his whip like a swordsman and punched the air above him even as his rank outsider of a ride, Monterosso continued to carry him over the line in the world’s richest race. It wasn’t the first time Barzalona had celebrated with such theatricality.

The French rider had indulged in something perhaps even more elaborate and for that matter cavalier when he claimed his first Group One winner in the Epsom Derby of 2011 aboard the Andre Fabre-trained Pour Moi. At Epsom, it was his confidence that stood out more than anything else as Pour Moi had come from behind to poke his head in front of the rest, right on the line, while Barzalona celebrated as if he was at least a length clear. Nowadays, things are a bit different for the 26yo.

Call it an act borne out of maturity or merely his decision to heed advice from those around, that include connections, but Barzalona has ditched that rather precarious celebratory style of his for something more orthodox, like a pump of his fists while still astride. “I don’t think I’ll be doing anything like that anymore. At that moment when winning those races I think I was a bit too happy. But I think I’ve done enough and I think I need to be a bit more quiet now,” said Barzalona. “Some people liked it, some did not, so I’ve decided to stay quiet now. I have some very nice people around me so that helps me stay grounded.”

While he might have managed to suppress his emotions, his stock is something that continues to rise. And if that Epsom Derby success aboard Pour Moi sprang him into the consciousness of the racing fraternity, his victory in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf with Talismanic, another horse trained by Godolphin’s legendary French trainer Andre Fabre, has further enhanced his status among the elite riders of our day. “Last year was definitely one of the best of my career so far,” said the softly spoken Barzalona who has definitely mellowed down and needs to be coaxed to offer spiel. “When you are young you don’t realise what is happening sometimes and you think everything is easy but now I have really started to appreciate things with the Breeders’ Cup win and I am really very, very happy now to be winning Group One races, perhaps more appreciative than I was before.

“I enjoyed a very good season in France too and finished fourth in the Jockeys’ Championship with 110 winners. We had plenty of winners for Godolphin and that’s what you want really. Apart from big horses like Talismanic, we have some really nice horses in training; there is one called Wootton, trained by Henri-Alex Pantall who is progressing really well and is my big hope. He won his first two starts impressively and we know how good the trainer is with such horses.” It was the legendary French handler, Fabre, who moulded Barzalona and turned him into one of the world’s top riders and it was Fabre who urged he spend his winters riding in Dubai. He splits his time riding for both up and coming Fazza Racing Stables’ Emirati trainer Salem bin Ghadayer and Godolphin. “I have been here a lot because I never wanted to spend the winter in France.

I asked Andre Fabre where to go and he suggested I come here and I am very happy that I have been riding here all along,” said Barzalona. “I have always enjoyed this place. It really suits me and I have a lot of support from local trainers as well. I’ve been following Bin Ghadayer’s yard since November and December and I hope things keep going well for them until the end of the Carnival. “After a brilliant season in France I came here for the Carnival and we always have the same ambitions: to win the biggest races possible and to honour our partnership with Sheikh Mohammed as best as we can. Hopefully we will have the same results as last year.” His 32 rides this year in the UAE have already produced six winners, including two wins on the opening night of the Dubai World Cup Carnival aboard Heavy Metal and Frankyfourfingers in the 1600m Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge R1 and a handicap over 1900m respectively.

Both were trained by Salem bin Ghadayer. He is likely to ride the Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum-owned Heavy Metal in the Firebreak Stakes on 17 February, while Fabre’s winner at the Breeders’ Cup, Talismanic, and Cloth Of Stars, who followed up his Group 1 Prix Ganay success with a runners-up finish in the Group 1 Arc de Triomphe, are his probable rides at the World Cup meeting. “At the moment things are yet to be confirmed, but the plan has always been for our two French horses Talismanic to run in the Dubai World Cup and Cloth Of Stars to feature in the Sheema Classic so at the moment those are my horses to ride for the World Cup day with probably a few local horses,” said Barzalona who has had 59 winners in Dubai so far since he started spending a bit of his time here from the 2009/10 season.

“Talismanic won a very strong Breeders’ Cup Turf race and his objective had always been the Breeders’ Cup so Andre made sure he was 200% fit for this race and he went very well for us and won a great race. If he comes and likes the dirt here then he will run very well. He is a very hungry horse that is easy to ride and he always tries his very best. “Cloth Of Stars is a horse with just a few runs last year. He is a more difficult horse and he can be very keen and we have done a lot of work with him and he is aimed at the Sheema Classic. If they run well then we have a big chance in both races.” Barzalona has 12 Group One wins under his belt and is looking to add to his tally before leaving the Emirates. But he cannot pick one race above the others as his most memorable success.

“All those big wins are memorable and it would be difficult for me to pick any one that stands out because I liked the English Derby as well as the Dubai World Cup win so it’s just difficult to choose,” he said. “What really matters is I am in a good place at the moment riding for Sheikh Mohammed and other trainers and things are going very well.”

May they long continue!

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22 Mar 2018
Issue Number: Issue 641
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