The day The Fellow's near-miss turned trainer into eff Doumen
Former Cheltenham boss Edward Gillespie on Friday recalled the day Francois Doumen let rip with a stream of expletives after The Fellow suffered Gold Cup defeat as he paid a fond tribute to the retiring trainer.
Gillespie, the former racecourse managing director, described multiple big race winner Doumen as a pathfinder who revived French involvement at the Festival with little support from his home jurisdiction.
"We got pretty close from Nupsala onwards," said Gillespie. "I used to go to Auteuil so I got to know him and his adverseness to everything Auteuil stood for.
"He didn't like the ground there and he saw opportunity in coming to race in Britain where the ground was less soft.
"He was given absolutely no support from the French authorities to the extent that they never even wished him luck when he ran in the Gold Cup.
"He was a pathfinder without any home support. The French authorities were only really interested in top horses running in France.
"We had happy and interesting times, not least when The Fellow got beat a short head by Garrison Savannah. He had been magnanimous and charmingly Gallic in the winners' enclosure in congratulating the winners.
"When I went up to see him afterwards in the wooden box in the old stands, he shut the door behind me and stamped the floor and exploded with expletives.
"It was just a magic moment when a guy actually behaved as somebody beaten a short head should behave."
Doumen, 77, excelled at Flat and jumps but is best remembered in Britain and Ireland for the exploits of crack jumpers such as Baracouda, First Gold and, most memorably, The Fellow, who became the first French-trained winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup on his fourth attempt in 1994.
He was a close friend of Sir Peter O'Sullevan and his success brought him to the attention of JP McManus as well as the Queen Mother.
"The Queen Mother was fascinated the way he travelled over young horses," said Gillespie. "The Fellow was six years old when he ran in his first Gold Cup. For our generation this was quite a game changer and it became the vanguard of a lot of horses coming from France."
Among Doumen's staff at the time was trainer Ian Williams, who was assistant to the Frenchman for four years.
He said: "Not only do I have a huge amount of respect for Francois but I am also very grateful for the tutelage and help he has given me in my career. His horses have spoken for him.
"He was always searching for new opportunities and there was nowhere his abilities were more widely shown than in jump racing in this country from winning Triumph Hurdles to Gold Cups with limited runners.
"He was not just a master trainer, he is an all round good bloke. He sourced his horses from foals and yearlings and in the latter years he bred a lot of his good Flat horses. He could do anything."