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Powerful purchasing partnership forged in a PMU bar in Lyon

Fabrice Petit and Marc Pimbonnet splash the cash in Deauville

Fabrice Petit (left) and Marc Pimbonnet at Arqana
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“It could be you” was the memorable tagline first employed by Camelot when launching the National Lottery in 1996.

It is more than possible, if you are reading this, that among the dreams that catchphrase inspired 20-plus years ago, was the chance to take on the big racing empires in bidding for the next Classic winner. 

Three years ago Fabrice Petit found himself with the means to indulge such dreams and has since enlisted trainer Marc Pimbonnet as his chief ally in the quest.

So it was that when one of only two Frankels catalogued in the Arqana October Yearling Sale was led into the ring on Tuesday, Pimbonnet and Petit were able to see off all-comers and snare the Haras de Saint-Pair consigned colt for €250,000.

Petit is naturally reticent to put himself in the limelight, though when not fielding questions from journalists he gives every impression of enjoying life on the other side of racing’s velvet rope, having been a keen punter.

Pimbonnet explains how their association came about, via an intermediary who was among the first owners to rally to his cause when he took out a licence in 1985.

“Bruno Tissot is the manager of the string, if you like,” says Pimbonnet. “He runs a PMU bar in Lyon and knew Monsieur Petit from there. When Monsieur Petit asked who he should talk to about getting into ownership, he put me forward.

“The choice came down to the fact that there was already a bond of friendship there, because I’ve known Bruno for 40 years and I would say Monsieur Petit and I have become friends in the three years since we started working together.”

Now the three are busy running up quite the score, having acquired six lots in the first two days of trading at a cost of more than €650,000.

“You never know with sales, there are horses that work out and horses that don’t,” says Pimbonnet. “Obviously we’re hopeful but everyone here could tell of a horse that made €500,000 and was no good. It’s not easy.

“I’ve been pretty successful I suppose in terms of buying during my career. This is the third year working with Monsieur Petit and the aim is always to turn up a horse that can prove to be out of the ordinary, to find a real crack performer. I’m lucky that Monsieur Petit has the means to pursue that aim and can maintain a string of between 10 and 15 horses.

The Frankel colt out of Pearly Shells bought for €250,000

“We don’t keep the horses into their fourth year if they are average, unless I think they can be very good in the jumping sphere.”

In addition to the Frankel, Pimbonnet signed for three more lots during Tuesday’s select session, with precocity being the common thread which carried through into buying Wednesday’s second most expensive lot, an Evasive filly knocked down for €115,000.

On Tuesday the same price secured a Dutch Art colt out of Poule d’Essai des Pouliches runner-up Baine.

“The dam’s side is very precocious going back to the Papin winner Balbonella,” said Pimbonnet. “We liked the colt and he moves well. I hope he will turn out to have the same sort of speed as his mother and he should be an early type.”

Petit’s part one shopping was balanced out with fillies by Poet's Voice and Olympic Glory.

Father's footsteps

Pimbonnet’s son Rudy has followed the family tradition and is a jockey, providing a key additional piece of input ahead of the €75,000 purchase of the Poets' Voice.

“She is from a very good Wertheimer family and seems to me like she will have speed. My son rode the dam, Charmeuse, when she was with Carlos Laffon-Parias and he certainly didn’t put me off seeking out her progeny. He advised me she had a lot of speed so let’s hope that’s the case with her daughter.”

Neither the newcomer Petit nor the vastly experienced Pimbonnet lack restraint when it is required, as evidence by the €65,000 acquisition of the Olympic Glory filly.

“She might be a bit slower to come to hand and will need a bit more time,” says Pimbonnet. “Among the fillies we liked there was one that went for €200,000 plus and a couple that made over €100,000 so she is from the third category.”


Which brings us back to the subject of the Frankel colt, who in addition to boasting a superstar sire is out of a Prix Vermeille winner in Pearly Shells.

On signing the docket Pimbonnet said: “The owner really wanted a Frankel at any price and I liked the colt, so that was it.”

At the time Petit followed up with one of his few public utterances during the course of the week.

Asked if he planned to add to his new purchase he said simply: “I’m not driving 800 kilometres to only buy one horse!”

Click here to read our guide to the US breeding stock sales - containing absorbing features and essential statistics

The owner really wanted a Frankel at any price and I liked the colt, so that was it
E.W. Terms
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