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Dettori and Hughes lead praise for retiring trainer Head-Maarek

Criquette Head-Maarek with Treve the day the dual Arc winning filly was retired
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Personalities from across the racing spectrum united on Monday to pay tribute to Criquette Head-Maarek, who will saddle her final runner at Chantilly on February 1.

Richard Hughes described Head-Maarek as "a great horsewoman", while Frankie Dettori called her "a master of her profession".

Khalid Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe was also unsparing in his praise and Al Shaqab's Harry Herbert summed Head-Maarek up as "a lovely person and a brilliant trainer".

Hughes won the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on American Post when retained by Abdullah and was aboard again the following spring when Head-Maarek sent the colt out to land the French Guineas, the Poule d'Essai des Poulains.

"She was a great horsewoman," said Hughes. "I didn’t work them in the mornings so when I came racing her instructions would always be the same - 'Be where you are happy and the horse is comfortable, regardless of where you are drawn'. You were to ride the horse and not the race."

Head-Maarek came close to filling one of the few missing pieces on her glittering CV the following month when American Post was sent to Epsom.

American Post and Richard Hughes streak to success in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere
Hughes said: "We really fancied American Post in the Derby but he didn’t stay, having been last off the bridle. He was brilliant round there and I thought if I just keep sitting where I was, I would win. But he just ran out of petrol. He wasn’t an easy horse by any means and she did brilliantly with him."

Abdullah and Juddmonte have been among Head-Maarek's longest-serving supporters and Grimthorpe recalled their best days.

"Prince Khalid’s association with the Head family goes back well over 30 years and Criquette started training for Juddmonte in the early 1980s and we have enjoyed great success." he said.

"Special Duty was champion two-year-old filly and, I know the stewards helped her not once but twice in the Guineas, but she was a very smart filly.

"I always think American Post winning the Poule d’Essai des Poulains was a big moment because it completed the set of homebred French Classic winners for Juddmonte, so that was very important."

Grimthorpe said that Head-Maarek's patience was a key aspect of her success for Juddmonte, which ran to nearly 250 race wins and 11 Group 1 successes. 

Teddy Grimthorpe: "It was a very close and happy association"

"It was a deeper relationship than even the bare facts would suggest and it was a very close and happy association," he added. "Alec Head and Prince Khalid were great friends back in the early days and that has continued, principally through Criquette, over the last 30 or so years." 

When the 69-year-old Head-Maarek brings an end to her 40-year career, she will arguably be remembered most fondly for her handling of dual Arc heroine Treve. 

Herbert formed a close working relationship with Head-Maarek once he was appointed as racing adviser to Treve's owner Sheikh Joaan Al Thani, although the association goes back much further.

"My dad was best friends with her dad so I’ve known the Head family for as long as I can remember," said Herbert. "I began dealing with her professionally the last two years with Treve and it was an incredibly spoiling experience and a joy."

Criquette Head-Maarek and Harry Herbert on Les Aigles to watch Treve work

Dettori rode the daughter of Motivator to land the 2013 Prix Vermeille before suffering a heartbreaking injury just three days before the Arc.

The following season he rode her in the Prix Ganay and Prince of Wales's Stakes before Head-Maarek demanded Jarnet replace him, a decision all parties agreed was solely taken in the interest of Treve herself.

"She has been training for 40 years and has won everything there is to be won," said Dettori. "Treve was a super mare to win two Arcs, which is a great achievement. She is a master of her profession." 

If you are interested in this, you should read:

Training legend Criquette Head-Maarek to retire next month

The glittering stars who lit up Criquette Head-Maarek's long and dazzling career

Head-Maarek was unbelievably generous with her time but had a fierce will to win 

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It was a deeper relationship than even the bare facts would suggest and it was a very close and happy association
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