Training legend Criquette Head-Maarek to retire next month
One of the great post-war training careers in European racing will come to an end on February 1 when Criquette Head-Maarek saddles her final runners.
The trainer of dual Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Treve, and some 60 Group 1 winners in France, revealed the news on Sunday.
Head-Maarek, 69, who won her first Arc with Three Troikas in 1979, just a year after sending out her first Pattern-race winner, said: "I'm going to retire. A lot of horses have gone from my yard already and all of my owners know.
"I was going to announce it at the end of the month, but a lot of people know now and so there's nothing to hide. I shall have runners on January 26, and again on February 1, but then that is it."
Reflecting on a career in which she proved especially gifted with fillies and sent out four winners of the 1,000 Guineas, plus seven of the French equivalent, she said: "I've been very lucky to train for some wonderful owners, like the Wertheimer brothers, Juddmonte Farms and Prince Khalid Abdullah, Maktoum Al Maktoum and obviously my dad [Alec Head].
"I've had fantastic owners from the start, and it's a blessing being able to train for those people. For 40 years I've been lucky to have fantastic horses throughout, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. It was a hard decision to make, but I'm nearly 70 and it's time to stop."
Head-Maarek won the 1,000 Guineas with Ma Biche (1983), Ravinella (1988), Hatoof (1992), Special Duty (2010), and both Ravinella and Special Duty completed the Newmarket/Longchamp Classic double. Remarkably, Special Duty gained both of those triumphs in the stewards' room.
Treve became her third Prix de Diane winner in 2013, following on from Harbour in 1982 and Egyptband in 2000.
Hatoof finished off her three-year-old season with a win in the EP Taylor Stakes in Canada and would go on to win the Champion Stakes at Newmarket the following October, before landing Arlington’s Beverly D Stakes at the age of five, Head-Maarek’s only Grade 1 success in the United States.
Her best colt was Bering, who was bred by her father and owned by her mother. Bering easily won the 1986 Prix du Jockey Club but was unlucky to have been a contemporary of the brilliant Dancing Brave. In an outstanding Arc that year he had the better of the likes of Triptych, Shardari, Darara and Shahrastani, but he was no match for Dancing Brave, who swept by late on the wide outside.
Head-Maarek continued training while being treated for cancer in 2005 but lost the patronage of two big supporters the following year, with the death of Hatoof’s owner Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum followed by a public rift with Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, which resulted in their horses being transferred to her brother Freddy’s care.
However, the very best was still to come in the shape of Treve, who beat the Japanese favourite Orfevre by a stunning five lengths when winning the 2013 Arc, when she was crowned joint-top in the World's Best Racehorse Rankings, then bounced back from three successive defeats to beat Flintshire easily by two lengths the following year.
She had won six times at Group 1 level when she was retired after her fourth to Golden Horn when bidding for an unprecedented Arc hat-trick.
Head-Maarek endured two quiet seasons following the retirement of Treve, and from a peak of almost 200 horses in training she has been operating on reduced numbers. However, even in the depths of a virus-blighted 2016 campaign she still managed to win the Lagardere with National Defense.
Retirement will not be easy, but Head-Maarek said: "I am 70 years old this year and one day you have to go and do something else. I always knew that one day I would have to stop. Life goes that way and has pushed me a little sooner than I thought. I'm retiring from training for personal reasons.
"I want to benefit from a little more time for myself. It's tough work and not easy, even if you have a fantastic life like I have. It's been a wonderful racing career and I've trained a lot of big-race winners.
"People perhaps don’t know but I've had a lot of Group 1 winners – more than most trainers."
CRIQUETTE HEAD-MAAREK CV
Name Mme Christiane Head-Maarek
Born November 6, 1948
Parents Alec and Ghislaine Head
Riding career Amateur rider (first winner Jamour, Fontainebleau, May 19, 1966)
First Pattern winner Sigy (1978 Prix d'Arenberg, Prix de l'Abbaye)
World champion (World's Best Racehorse Rankings) Treve (2013 joint)
European champion (International Classifications) Three Troikas (1979)
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winners Three Troikas (1979), Treve (2013, 2014)
Prix du Jockey Club winner Bering (1986)
Prix de Diane winners Harbour (1982), Egyptband (2000), Treve (2013)
Poule d'Essai des Poulains winners Green Tune (1994), American Post (2004)
Poule d'Essai des Pouliches winners Three Troikas (1979), Silvermine (1985), Baiser Vole (1986), Ravinella (1988), Matiara (1995), Always Loyal (1997), Special Duty (2010)
Prix Royal-Oak winner Agent Double (1984)
1,000 Guineas winners Ma Biche (1983), Ravinella (1988), Hatoof (1992), Special Duty (2010)
Prix Vermeille winners Three Troikas (1979), Treve (2013, 2015)
Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Treve (2015)
Champion Stakes winner Hatoof (1993)
Champion sprinter Anabaa (1996 July Cup)
Champion trainer in France 1986
Compiled by John Randall
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