Merci Olivier! No final winner for Olivier Peslier but the world of racing unites in saluting the end of a great career

Olivier Peslier bows out after riding for the final time at La Teste
Olivier Peslier bows out after riding for the final time at La Teste

For all his great victories over more than 30 years at the biggest racing cathedrals in the world, the two words that have been used over and over about Olivier Peslier in the 48 hours since he announced his intention to retire have been "simple" and "humble".

And so a combination of circumstances and maybe a little bit of his own wishes meant that, as the main meeting of the day was just getting under way at Longchamp, his extraordinary riding career came to a close in a lowly handicap at La Teste. 

Earlier in the day Peslier might have gone out with a final Group race winner but he had to settle for second in the Prix Dormane, a trial for the Purebred Arabian Derby at Chantilly in June. 

He was deprived of that success by his near-contemporary Ioritz Mendizabal, who said simply: "Olivier is the boss. He has a huge list of great victories in France and around the world. There won’t be another like him."

Before racing Peslier admitted his imminent retirement had yet to truly hit home. "It's wonderful, all the good wishes I've received but I’m not sure I’ve properly realised that it’s my last day," he said. 

"It’s a bit like when you win a major race, sometimes you don’t realise what has happened at the time. It might be later on that the tears come."

Speaking to French Racing channel Equidia, Peslier said: "I’ve no regrets whatsoever. I can look back on all the winners and the people I’ve ridden them for, on all the big races I’ve won in virtually every racing nation and achieved some extraordinary things. 

"I’ve been accompanied by some wonderful people and I’ve learned an awful lot. I learned the way the English ride on my very first travels and then I had an extraordinary time discovering racing in Japan. Those two countries are the most wonderful racing nations in the world."

Olivier Peslier: "I’ve won in virtually every racing nation and achieved some extraordinary things"
Olivier Peslier: "I’ve won in virtually every racing nation and achieved some extraordinary things"Credit: Edward Whitaker

Peslier also pointed to his increasing battle with the scales as having brought the issue of retirement more sharply into focus.

In a barely believable turn of events, a problem with the horse passport and identity chip for his intended mount at the end of the card, Top Glory, looked set to bring the curtain down on Peslier's extraordinary career, with the rules of racing leaving no option but for the stewards to declare the horse a non-runner.

It was left to another veteran, Fabrice Veron, who was feeling the effects of a fall at Le Mans earlier in the week, to stand himself down; coincidentally the only circumstance in which Peslier would be allowed to take another mount. 

Mana Sis was not equal to the historic task and the pair finished well adrift in tenth, but his very presence in the race avoided an awful sense of anticlimax, not least for the large crowd that had come to wish their 'Magic' Peslier well. 

The other jockeys formed a valedictory arch with their whips as Peslier walked into the paddock for his final ride, and when he returned from weighing in to be interviewed before the racing public, the emotions came much closer to breaking through. 

Urged to reconsider his decision by racecourse presenter Marine Costabadie, Peslier said with a trademark smile: "I hope the next time I am in the paddock it will be as an owner."

Told that the transmission was being taken live in the US and Japan, Peslier thanked his good friend Christophe Lemaire for staying up late to watch in Japan. Uttering Lemaire's weighing room nickname, "Totoche", finally the tears came. And so too did the waves of applause.

Read more like this:

'Like everyone, my turn has arrived' - four-time Arc-winning jockey Olivier Peslier to retire aged 51 on Thursday 

'I was that far clear - it was quite something' - Olivier Peslier provides a rundown of his four Arc-winning rides 

'He built bridges like no-one else' - Olivier Peslier's long-time British agent leads tributes on retirement of riding great 

'He's always been one of my best friends and he always will be' - Frankie Dettori pays tribute to retiring Olivier Peslier

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France correspondent

Published on inFrance

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