Antoine Hamelin Q+A

Despite his burgeoning reputation, jockey Antoine Hamelin refuses to lose sight of his values and the ones he loves, among them his horse.

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French jockey Antoine Hamelin (L), ridding Saonois 17, crosses the finish line during the French Derby (Prix du Jockey Club) on June 3, 2012 at Chantilly

Your birthday is on 11 June, so winning the Prix du Jockey-Club was an early present for you.

Yes, I couldn’t have dreamed of a more beautiful gift.

How did you prepare for Sunday’s race and what made the difference?

I cleared my head by having a good rest the day before and getting to bed not too late. Above all I had a pretty good feeling before the race. I also think it was essential to keep a cool head. I know Saonois inside out and the sensations were good. I didn’t panic, unlike some of my colleagues and in spite of all the bumping and barging that went on in the race.

Do you have any weak points you need to iron out?

To me riding’s all about feel. If you’re under a lot of pressure, you’re going to make mistakes, and if you ask yourself too many questions, then you’re wasting time. As for my shortcomings, I don’t know if this is one but I don’t get tough with horses very often. I don’t like waving my whip around and more than anything else I don’t want to screw their heads off.

Tell us a little bit about your career?

I’ve been riding since I was eight or 10. I was an apprentice for three years with Mr de Roualle and then I had six months with Mr Boutin, who woke me up, so to speak. I also worked for Mr Guillochon, in the provinces. He really gave me confidence and that’s where I got 90% of my training. I can’t forget Mr Dupré either, or Jean-Pierre Gauvin of course, Saonois’ trainer.

Tell us about Saonois. What’s he like?

He’s a fighter and he’s got character, but you mustn’t get his back up. I fell in love with him straightaway and the Jockey-Club arouses so many emotions that there’s no other horse in my heart but him.

Among the jockeys you also have a special relationship with Olivier Peslier, don’t you?

He was my idol before becoming my friend. We chat before races and we also play paintball, which he’s also better at than I am. He takes part in competitions though.

What more would you like to achieve?

To win the Arc and a Group 1 overseas, like the Breeder’s Cup. Why not?

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