Criquette Head Visits KZN’s Summerhill Stud

Mick Goss and Criquette Head-Maarek. Image: Summerhill Stud
Mick Goss and Criquette Head-Maarek. Image: Summerhill Stud

Summerhill was fortunate enough to have a visit from one of the great women trainers of the modern age, Criquette Head- Maarek recently. She came with our good friends Xavier and Nathalie Bozo to visit the farm, see the stallions (Capetown Noir), and spend some time getting to know the students.

Criquette hails from the famous Head family. Her father Alec bought Haras de Quesnay and undertook massive restoration of the farm and its facilities. In 1959 he acquired their first stallion Lucky Dip, and the family built a formidable band of stallions:Green Dancer, Riverman, Sir Gaylord, Gay Mecene, Bellypha, Saint Cyrien, Bering, Highest Honor, Anabaa..These names would go on to light up the breeding and racing world over the next few decades. In 1961, the first Group 1 winner was born at Haras du Quesnay. His name was Le Fabuleux.

The family definitely all inherited champion genes, Criquette’s brother Freddy was champion jockey of France six times, and won the prestigious Prix de la Arc de Triomphe four times! Freddy rode some of the greatest horses of recent times, including Miesque in back-to-backs wins in the Breeders Cup Mile. Freddy also rode Anabaa, Machiavellian (sire of champion Summerhilll sire Kahal), as well as the great sire Lyphard.

Criquette started her career as an assistant trainer to her father Alec, before going off on her own in 1977. Her first major taste of success came in 1979 when she won the Arc with Three Troikas – ridden by brother Freddy and owned by her mother Ghislaine – a Head treble!

She was fortunate in being able to work with some great owners over the years: the Wertheimer brothers, Sheikh Maktoum, Juddmonte Farms and the legendary Prince Khalid Abdullah. 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.

However her greatest triumph was yet to come with one of Haras de Quesnay’s home breeds: a dark bay filly by Motivator out of Trevise, a daughter of Anabaa – her name was Treve, and she catapulted Criquette and her career as a trainer to new heights – going onto win six Group Ones, including back-to-back Arcs.

Retirement is something Criquette knew would eventually come, but she is philosophical about it “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”. Clearly she is not letting the grass grow under her feet, and with her brother Freddy now a successful trainer, the Head dynasty and its future is safe and secure!


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