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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Doumen pays warm tribute to 'la grand dame' of French racing

The Marquesa de Moratalla has died, aged 87
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The father and son Doumen team, so closely associated with great horses owned by the Marquesa de Moratalla, have spoken about her in the fondest terms following her death at the age of 87.

Although a Classic-winning owner on the Flat, the Marquesa was best known for her top-class staying chasers, including the Francois Doumen-trained The Fellow, who after being beaten a short-head into second in the Cheltenham Gold Cups of 1991 and 1992, finally became an historic winner of the race in 1994.

In doing so, The Fellow also became the only horse other than Mandarin to win both the Gold Cup and its French equivalent, the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris.

That same Auteuil showpiece was claimed by the Marquesa – known as Sol to her friends – five times in eight years, with The Fellow's victory topped up by those of Ucello, Ubu (who had earlier twice won the French Champion Hurdle) and First Gold, also triumphant for the Marquesa in the 2000 King George VI Chase.

Francois Doumen leads in The Fellow and Adam Kondrat after the Marquesa captured the 1994 Cheltenham Gold Cup

"She was la grande dame des courses Francaises and probably the very last French owner of her kind," said Francois Doumen on Thursday.

"She represented France everywhere she went. Those red colours are now disappearing. She leaves a big gap and it's a big shock for me."

Paying a handsome tribute to the Spanish noblewoman, Doumen added: "She was a person who made you feel more like her friend than her trainer. She supported you in the bad moments as well as the good ones. She was also very humble.

"She used to follow her horses very closely. Of course, that is partly because she was a real horsewoman herself and used to take part in showjumping. She could judge everything. She also relished challenges. When I suggested running in England she absolutely loved the idea.

Full name Maria de la Soledad Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Marquesa de Moratalla

Born London, June 28, 1930

Family Father Antonio, Marques de Portago, Grandee of Spain. Mother Olga Leighton Mackey (daughter of Edward Leighton, widow of US financier Frank Mackey). Brother: Alfonso, Marques de Portago. Husband: Marques de Moratalla

Cheltenham Gold Cup winner The Fellow (1994)

Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris winners The Fellow (1991), Ucello (1993, 1994), Ubu (1995), First Gold (1998)

Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil winner Ubu (1992, 1993)

Prix du Jockey Club winner Hours After (1988)

Poule d'Essai des Poulains winner Tin Horse (2011)

King George VI Chase winners The Fellow (1991, 1992), Algan (1994), First Gold (2000)

Prix La Haye Jousselin winner The Fellow (1990), Ucello (1992), First Gold (2000)

Prix du President de la Republique winners Blacklock (1965), Algan (1993), Alt'Ela (1994)

Anniversary Hurdle & Tingle Creek Chase winner Sybillin (1990, 1993)

Prix Jacques le Marois winner The Wonder (1982)

Prix Ganay winner Corre Caminos (2006)

Prix Morny winner Charge D'Affaires (1997)

King's Stand Stakes winner Chineur (2005)

Cesarewitch & Coral Cup winner Trainglot (1990, 1996)

Compiled by John Randall

"No other horse trained in France has ever won the Gold Cup, so when The Fellow won she appreciated it so much. We had been beaten in the two previous years, so it made winning more special."

Doumen also recalled the friendship he and the Marquesa shared with the late Sir Peter O'Sullevan.

"She knew Sir Peter from long ago and introduced me to him," he said. "We had tremendous good fun together. We became three musketeers and were always in contact, including for her betting and sometimes mine as well.

"You mustn't forget she was an international bridge player, but she also very much liked to have a bet. She never missed out on having a good bet on The Fellow, that's for sure."

Thierry Doumen said: "It's a great loss and the racing world will be quite empty without her.

"She was the most amazing sportswoman you could ever have met. She was a huge supporter of her teams. Indeed, when I won the Grand Steeple-Chase for her I wasn't even 19 years old.

"She was more than just passionate about her horses. She needed a word with all her trainers and jockeys every day. She was also the best possible loser as well as a great winner. She was amazing."

Although the Marquesa had some talented horses trained in Britain by Jimmy Fitzgerald – including Sybillin and 1990 Cesarewitch winner Trainglot, who also landed a huge gamble in the 1996 Coral Cup – she was most closely associated with France, on whose soil her Tin Horse delivered a Classic success in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains just six years ago.

France-Galop president Edouard de Rothschild said: "She has been a major contributor to French racing and breeding. She will be missed by many of us."

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She also very much liked to have a bet. She never missed out on having a good bet on The Fellow, that's for sure
E.W. Terms
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