Edouard Monfort: 'Willie Mullins Taught Me That Horses Can Take A Lot Of Work'

Edouard Monfort: the French trainer cut his teeth with Willie Mullins in 2015 | Scoop Dyga

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No trainer in Ireland has farmed France for top-class talent quite like Willie Mullins has in recent times. Superstars Hurricane Fly (Ire), Douvan (Fr), Un De Sceaux (Fr), Vroum Vroum Mag (Fr) and Benie Des Dieux (Fr) are all a product of that hugely successful resource. 

It seems as though not one week goes by where Mullins fails to unleash a leading French prospect, which was evident at Clonmel on Tuesday when Ireland's dominant National Hunt trainer sent out Night And Day (GB) and Gaelic Warrior (Ger) to record emphatic successes and harden their claims for festival honours respectively. 

So where do all these winners come from? Mullins's long-standing and trusty ally Harold Kirk is responsible for a lot of Closutton's jumping stars while Pierre Boulard plays an integral role in France. 

But the tapestry of talent that makes its way to Mullins runs much deeper than Kirk and Boulard alone, with many trainers in France blooding talent in the hope that the major jumps trainers in Britain and Ireland come in with a blank cheque for the next big jumping star the country has to offer. 

“During my experience in Ireland, I made good friends–like Niall Kelly, Sonny Carey and Paddy Mullins,” – Edouard Monfort.

That includes Edouard Monfort, a former employee of Mullins, who now trains a string of 70 horses in his native France and recently sold smart prospects Tekao (Fr) and Parmenion (GB) to the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history. 

Monfort spent the 2015/16 National Hunt season with Mullins, which was the same campaign that Annie Power (Ire) came off the substitutes' bench to land the Champion Hurdle, and he revealed that the relationships forged during his time working for the 16-time Champion National Hunt trainer in Ireland burns bright to this day. 

Monfort explained, “Willie is a really good man. He's very simple and you can talk with him. He's always the same. Of all my experiences in racing, I base my style on Willie.”

He added, “During my experience in Ireland, I made good friends–like Niall Kelly, Sonny Carey and Paddy Mullins. This is why I like coming to the Irish sales. It is easier for me to get information on these horses with all of my contacts. I have lots of clients from England and Ireland. 

“It's important to sell the right horses because it's easy to sell the bad horses. It's important for the future and for business to keep good contacts which is why I was confident to sell Tekao and Parmenion to Willie. I was pretty sure that they would be good jumps horses for him.”

Tekao (right): Monfort's graduate could be a leading Triumph Hurdle contender for Mullins and JP McManus | Racingfotos.com

At 34 years old, Monfort has built up a solid string. Indeed, he was destined to go down this route, being a son of Patrick Monfort, a successful trainer in France. 

But a trip to Mullins's base for that winter in 2015 had the biggest influence on Monfort, according to the man himself, who revealed that he has adopted the many things that he learned from the trainer to his own operation in France. 

Monfort said, “I was born into horses as my father was a trainer. I went to engineers' school during my career as an amateur rider where I rode for 12 years on the Flat and over jumps in France. When I finished my career as an amateur, I targeted becoming a trainer and spent a jumps season with Willie, a year with Andre Fabre and another year with Jean-Claude Rouget. 

“Working with Willie and seeing how he manages all of the horses that he has in his yard was a great experience. I wanted to go to Willie because I really like jumps racing and I wanted to get experience with a top jumps trainer. I learned from Willie that a horse can work a lot. They can work hard before they run. I also learned that you can take your time with some horses. Some of Willie's horses, he takes it step by step with them, and they could be in the yard for a few months without having a race. When they do race, they come back stronger.”

He added, “Sometimes I manage my young horses so that they can work hard for two or three months before getting a rest and after that, they come back and they feel that bit stronger. I was based with Willie when he had that very good mare, Annie Power. I also rode in one race for him. I think it was a gift from Willie to me!”

Now it's Monfort's turn to supply the ammunition to Mullins and the early signs are promising. Tekao won on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown over Christmas for Mullins in the famous green and gold hoops of JP McManus while Parmenion is also held in decent regard.

On the duo, Monfort said, “Tekao was bred by his owner. He has a good pedigree and we took our time with him. He won very well on debut on the Flat but, from the very beginning, he looked more like a jumps horse, which is why he was sold. 

“I hope he is a very good hurdles horse. I saw him winning at Leopardstown and I thought he was a good winner because he was a little bit keen but he kept going all the way from the last to the winning post. I am confident he will be a very good horse for Willie and the team.”

He added, “Parmenion does not have a lot of experience but I really loved this horse when I used to train him. To compare him and Tekao, I would have to say that I would nearly prefer Parmenion from when he was a 3-year-old. I hope that he can be a very good horse. He has a German pedigree and I just think that all he needs is time.”

So why has Mullins returned to France time and time again in search of his next festival star? According to Monfort, one of the key reasons behind the success of the French-breds on racecourses in Britain and Ireland cannot be attributed to the excellent stallions who stand in the country alone, but also the deep pool of quality jumps mares that are available to breeders.

He said, “For a long time, the French breeding for jumps horses has been very good. We've got excellent mares in France for this. I think that is why we are having a lot of success in England and Ireland with our French-bred horses, because our mares here are so good. The breeders have worked very hard in keeping the right stallions in France for jumps racing. We have top jumps stallions in France but we are a little bit light on the Flat. We don't have the same level of stallions standing here compared to the jumps.”

Monfort admits that buying the raw material has become harder but a series of big-money sales, to Flat and National Hunt handlers, has been a huge help.

“It's very important for business to sell some of the horses. We know that the prize-money in France is very good but, if you want to make money, you have to sell these horses. That's why it's important to be able to showcase these horses and be able to sell them. 

“When I think a horse could be a selling prospect, we manage him with a view towards that and we take our time. Most of the time, they don't run until they are three years old if their future lies over jumps.”

He added, “We also sell horses to Australia or America. It just depends on the profile of the horse. The market has been very strong lately which has made it harder for us to buy the right horses. But, you know, when you start selling these good horses it makes it easier to buy the next ones because you've got the wallet!”

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