Frenchman cuts stylish figure on Australian tracks
THERE are trainers who are masters of the art of preparation and placement, who run their horses only where they can win.
Then there is Alain de Royer Dupre, whose record with his runners in Australia is phenomenal.
It is, admittedly, off a small base, as the Frenchman has only saddled up two gallopers here. The foremost is 2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain, who is second topweight in the Cup today, beneath Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup-winning compatriot Dunaden.
Alain de Royer Dupre, trainer of Melbourne Cup winner Americain. Photo: Getty Images
The other is the Herbert Power Handicap winner Shahwardi, who scored for the first time in three years when he saw off several Cups contenders to win at Caulfield last month. Alas for de Royer Dupre and connections, the gamble they took in not running the seven-year-old again did not pay off and he didn't squeeze into the Cup field.
While de Royer Dupre's attention over the weekend was focused on the mare Shareta, who ran fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita, he has been keeping an eye on events here.
Americain's terrific run for fourth in the Caulfield Cup gives de Royer Dupre a wonderful chance of adding to his strike-rate. With Damien Oliver replacing Frenchman Gerard Mosse in the saddle, the entry has been heavily backed and goes in with a favourite's chance.
Many trainers in Australia could go a lifetime and not win the races the Frenchman has, adding success in the Geelong Cup, the Moonee Valley Cup, the Zipping Classic and the Herbert Power to his Melbourne Cup victory.
His record would possibly be even better had Americain got going earlier in last year's Melbourne Cup, as he was flying at the finish when he was a close fourth behind Dunaden and Red Cadeaux.
In the post-race celebrations after Americain won the 2010 Cup - the first French-trained horse to do so - the native of Normandy cut a stylish figure as he beamed and took questions with a grace and charm that won admirers.
De Royer Dupre grew up on the Haras de Saint-Lo, a government-owned stud farm where his father eventually became director. The now 68-year-old began with jumpers, his first winner coming in a steeplechase in 1972.
He set up as a trainer in Normandy, and had successes for the Aga Khan and Baron Guy de Rothschild at provincial meetings before breaking into the upper echelon of French racing. He was established as the Aga's leading trainer at Chantilly following the death of his predecessor, Francois Mathet, in 1981.
Gerry Ryan, part-owner of Americain, has got to know de Royer Dupre over the years. His most defining characteristics, says Ryan, are his patience, calm and air of solitude.
''Alain is a very quiet man, he's very shy. I have raced horses in France with him before so I have known him for a few years,'' Ryan said.
''His sense of humour is quite dry but he was really overjoyed with the way the media and the public treated him after Americain won the Cup and he now has a soft spot for Australia.''
Ryan points to Shahwardi as evidence of the de Royer Dupre touch. ''That horse had not won for three years, but Alain has brought about huge improvement in him within a few starts after he came back to his stable,'' he said.
Americain, now a seven-year-old, remains a stallion and is typical of the type of horse that now dominates Australia's staying events - foreign-bred and either trained overseas or bought offshore to be trained locally.
''We don't have the staying horses here. We are starting to get a few more, but it's not easy,'' Ryan says. ''You have to sit and wait for four to five years for a horse to come through as a stayer and people want an immediate return.''