Rossi Aims To Seal Best Season With BC Win

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Frederic Rossi | Scoop Dyga

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For several centuries, Chantilly has been considered the heartland of the French racing industry and the hub for the country's major trainers. But in recent years, a number of names have proved that it is possible to dine at racing's top table while maintaining the bulk of your stable away from the Paris region.

Currently leading the trainers' list and set to be crowned champion for the third time is Jean-Claude Rouget, whose main stable is in Pau but who also has a fairly major satellite operation farther north in Deauville. He leads the Chantilly duo of Andre Fabre and Francis Graffard, and in fourth, after a breakthrough season, is Marseille-based Frederic Rossi.

Rossi is a familiar name in the French provinces, where the trainer's father Henri carved a hugely successful niche in the saddle, mopping up the major provincial races in which the Parisian jockeys would rarely be sighted. Henri turned his hand to training and was followed in this profession by Frederic and his brother Jacques, who now no longer trains but has in turn been followed by his two sons Charley and Cedric.

For Frederic, this strange year following racing's spring shutdown could hardly have started in better fashion when Dream And Do (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) became her trainer's first Group 1 and Classic winner in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches. The season has ended pretty well, too, with juvenile Sealiway (Fr) (Galiway {GB}) posting one of the most impressive performances of the Arc meeting in winning the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere by eight lengths. In a year of firsts, Rossi will next week make his Breeders' Cup debut as Sealiway attempts to round off his year in style in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

He says, “Sealiway left France on 30 October and it's very exciting for us to have our first runner in America at the Breeders' Cup. It could be the perfect end to what has so far been a very good year.”

That very good year could have been an extraordinary one had Alkuin (Ire) (Maxios {GB}) not been run down close home by Princess Zoe (Ger) (Jukebox Jury {Ire}) in the G1 Prix du Cadran 24 hours before Sealiway's memorable triumph. As it was, the meeting will long be remembered by the extended Rossi family as Frederic's nephews Charley and Cedric saddled the winner and the third in the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac, Tiger Tanaka (Ire) (Clodovil {Ire}) and Rougir (Fr) (Territories {Ire}). The latter followed up that performance with victory in the G3 Prix des Reservoirs at Deauville on Oct. 20.

“It has been a bit of a strange year because it was the year of Covid, so for most people it has been a bad year but for me it has actually been very good,” says Rossi, who, like his nephews is based at Calas training centre near Marseille in the south of France. “I knew I had a good 2-year-old last year when Dream And Do won the Prix Miesque, and she went through the winter perfectly and managed to confirm how good she was in the Guineas.”

Only Rouget has trained more winners this year than Rossi, whose tally at the time of writing was 95. It is a figure all the more remarkable given that the 52-year-old has had something of a stop-start career since he took out his training licence in 1992. For ten years he was employed as a private trainer for one of France's leading owner-breeders, Jean-Claude Seroul, and, though that arrangement ceased in 2017, Rossi currently trains three horses for Seroul.

“I started again four years ago with four horses and I now also have a team of about 25 at a satellite stable in Chantilly,” says Rossi, who has raced 144 different horses this season. “I received a few new horses, like Alkuin, and the 2-year-olds came in and they were a good bunch.”

He continues, “When you start working as a trainer you dream of having runners at the Arc meeting. It was an unbelievable day. To have Charley winning with Tiger Tanaka and Cedric being third, as well as Alkuin being second in the Cadran. It was just amazing.”

Dream And Do was sold privately to Katsumi Yoshida's Northern Farm not long after her Classic success and is no longer with Rossi. Sealiway has swiftly taken her place as stable star and races for a partnership of two of Rossi's major patrons, the colt's breeder Guy Pariente, who also stands Sealiway's sire Galiway at his Haras de Colleville, and the Chehboub family's Haras de la Gousserie, which has 13 horses in training with Rossi.

The trainer says, “When I worked for Jean-Claude Seroul I had very good horses in training and that gave me great experience in learning how to travel horses. Then when I got new owners and the Calas training centre was improved it was a huge help. We used to have 30 yearlings in training every year and now we have 50 and the quality has also gone up. Haras de la Gousserie have started to invest and sent me better horses and the timing was perfect.”

Rossi continues, “But all of us [who train in the south] have to thank Jean-Claude Rouget for showing us what was possible. He made us think bigger. In the old days when you were in Marseille or the west you didn't move from there unless you had a really good horse, and then it was likely that the horse would be sold. Now it doesn't matter where you are based. You can train in Calas or in Chantilly and go to places like Royal Ascot.”

The trainer now pays a weekly visit to his smaller team in Chantilly, where he once served as assistant trainer to John Hammond.

“This is the second year I have had horses there and I go up on Wednesday evening and then watch them at exercise on Thursday morning,” he explains. “I send up the horses who I feel are better suited to the Parisian programme and the only way that works is to have someone you really trust. Juando Chavarrias runs the yard there and he works so well with me.”

In Sealiway, Rossi is of course entitled to dream of further Classic success in 2021, but first there is one final important engagement this year in Kentucky.

He says of his first Breeders' Cup challenger, “To begin with Sealiway was regarded as a fast horse, a six-furlong horse, but then I realised that was maybe not the case, so we went to the Prix Roland Chambure and he got a bit lost over seven. Though he's fast he needs some time to find his momentum. As he has matured he has got better with his early speed but he still needs time to work his way into a race.”

Sealiway, who won one of the first 2-year-old races of the season in France when racing resumed on May 12, has now triumphed in four of his six starts, with all his wins coming on ground ranging between good to soft and heavy, as it was at ParisLongchamp for Arc weekend.

Rossi continues, “It looks like the ground at Keeneland could be softer than usual. The soft ground at Longchamp may have helped him a bit but perhaps not as much as one might think. He has been maturing all season and he peaked at that time.”

The trainer is also unconcerned about Sealiway stepping up to a mile for the first time at the Breeders' Cup.

“Next year we will probably start him in the Prix de Fontainebleau before the Guineas, but I think he will stay farther so I wouldn't rule out the [Prix du] Jockey Club,” he says. “But first we will see what happens at the Breeders' Cup. This is a great way to end this year we are very excited about going to America.”

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