Author: Howard Wright

FOR CARNIVAL read kaleidoscope. That will certainly be the case if the trimmings surrounding Pevensey Bay, winner of the Cape Verdi on last week’s opening day of the series at Meydan, are repeated over the next couple of months.

Named after a beach near the resort of Eastbourne on Britain’s south coast, close by where owners Julia and Jon Aisbitt live, the 6yo mare has the cosmopolitan background that the Dubai World Cup Carnival craves. Foaled in Germany, she is by the British-bred stallion Footstepsinthesand, who stands in Ireland, out of a French-bred mare who failed to win and whose dam never made it to the racecourse.

What’s more, Pevensey Bay is trained in France by Hiroo Shimizu, a native of Japan who arrived in Europe in 2010 to learn the racing game and took out his first training licence seven years later. When Pevensey Bay led close home to beat Sweden’s Ascot Brass by three-quarters of a length, Shimizu was able to claim his first winner in the UAE.

The same cannot be said about her rider, Olivier Peslier, who celebrated his 49th birthday just two days before the Cape Verdi and is one of only two jockeys still riding who competed at the inaugural Dubai World Cup meeting in 1996, Frankie Dettori being the other.

For reasons associated with contractual arrangements in another part of the Gulf and more recently the limitations of travel under Covid-19 restrictions, Peslier had not ridden in the UAE for three years before he checked in at Meydan last Friday.

More than that, his prior appearances had been so severely curtailed that his last winner in the country was in November 2015, when Kalino became the inaugural victor in Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown, then the world’s richest race for Purebred Arabians.

Yet overall Peslier has a sound record in the UAE, and his expertise on Arabians means he is arguably still the world’s premier exponent of the dual codes. Certainly, whenever he travels to Britain to ride at one of the top Arabian fixtures, it is time to take notice.

The same applies to his appearances in the Dubai Kahayla Classic, or its previous guises, where following its inauguration in 1996 as the Dubai Arabian Classic, he missed the first three runnings but has since had 15 rides and won three times, the most recent ride in 2018 being his last on the biggest stage in the UAE.

Peslier’s most recent Kahayla Classic success, and his latest victory on World Cup night, came for Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Rabbah De Carrere in 2014, which took his career total at the meeting to five winners from 57 rides.

The remaining two wins were gained on Thoroughbreds, the first in 1996 on Tereshkova for Saeed bin Suroor in the Listed Nad Al Sheba Mile, which has since morphed into the Godolphin Mile, and the second in 2012 on the great Cirrus Des Aigles in the Dubai Sheema Classic. It was only natural that Peslier, who rode his first winner in 1989, should be among the array of top jockeys who graced the first Dubai World Cup meeting in 1996.

After all, he has been champion in France four times. Those heady days are behind him, but he remains in demand, and 2021 represented something of a renaissance in his fortunes, for his 69 wins in France represented his highest tally since 2013, while they included 20 at Listed level or above, with the Group 1 Prix Vermeille on Teona for Roger Varian the peak.

With trainer and Dubai regular Francis- Henri Graffard among Peslier’s more consistent employers, there’s every chance that Pevensey Bay is not the last of his Meydan winners.

HOWARD WRIGHT