Mention Arnaud Delacour’s name to a lot of Thoroughbred racing fans, and they’re likely to respond: “Oh, yeah, the guy who used to be an assistant for Christophe Clement.”
Bring up Leigh (Offutt) Delacour, and you’ll probably hear: “Sure, the woman who got her start with H. Graham Motion.”
Well, the time has passed for introductions to the French-bred trainer and his Annapolis, Md.-raised partner and wife to include references to those better-known conditioners with Triple Crown victories under their belts.
The Delacours appear to be on the verge of their own major accomplishments on the track. In last year’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita, in fact, then-5-year-old mare Ageless unleashed a strong stretch kick before flattening out slightly to finish fourth – beaten a half-length, a nose and a neck by the top three: Bobby’s Kitten, No Nay Never and Undrafted.
Only three months earlier at Woodbine in Toronto, Ageless provided Arnaud Delacour with his first graded-stakes victory, capturing the Grade III Royal North Stakes on the turf under Delacour’s main jockey, Luis Garcia.
Ageless, who could make her first start of 2015 in the Very One Stakes at Pimlico on May 16, the day of the Preakness, is one of a number of horses Delacour trains for the Lael Stables of Roy and Gretchen Jackson, best known as the breeders and owners of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.
Another Lael Stables runner in the Delacours’ barn is the 3-year-old colt Divining Rod, who finished second at Tampa Bay Downs in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes on Jan. 31 and third in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on March 7.
Divining Rod is being pointed toward the Preakness, the middle leg of the Triple Crown, by Delacour, who has been selected as the Zerillo’s Italian Grill Trainer of the Month.
Delacour is also high on the potential of the Jacksons’ homebred 3-year-old filly Pramedya, who broke her maiden in her career debut here on March 8 in a six-and-a-half furlong maiden special weight sprint, and Green Lantern Stables LLC’s 5-year-old gelding A.P. Indian, who won an allowance/optional claiming sprint here on Feb. 27 bin his first race under Delacour and first start in 13 months.
When Leigh Delacour entered the winner’s circle with sons Luca and Julien after 3-year-old filly Inside Out captured the eighth race at Tampa Bay Downs on Sunday, it offered a pleasant reminder that winning races is always a team effort.
Arnaud Delacour left Tampa Bay Downs the day after Inside Out’s victory for Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., with eight members of the couple’s 36-horse stable. While the others gradually make their way north, Leigh – who tied for 10th in the Oldsmar trainer standings two years ago – will handle the duties through the remainder of the meeting.
“It has always been a team operation, and we speak about everything,” said Arnaud, a native of Lisieux in the Normandy Region of France who has won with 18.8 percent of his starters locally (12-for-64). “And we couldn’t do anything without good support and without some loyal, supportive owners. The key for us is having good people to train for and being lucky enough that they let us place their horses and try to do the best by them.”
During the mornings, while the Delacours manage the operation and Leigh, a former jockey, gallops horses, Tampa Bay Downs Claims Clerk Brenda Jones takes care of Luca, 2 ½ years old, and Julien, 9 months. By adapting their schedules to the joys and challenges of starting a family, the Delacours are able to pursue success at the top levels of the sport.
Another Delacour runner who has made a positive impression here is 4-year-old gelding Special Envoy, who set a mile-and-an-eighth Tampa Bay Downs turf course record of 1:46.55 on March 18.
Special Envoy, who could return to action in the Henry S. Clark Stakes at Pimlico on April 18, is a homebred racing for Mr. & Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone, the owners of 1980 Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk, one of only three fillies to win the Run for the Roses.
Following the Keeneland meeting, the Delacours will ship some horses to Delaware Park while basing their training operation at Fair Hill Training center in Maryland, with its all-weather dirt track, Tapeta surface and turf course.
The Delacours love coming to Tampa Bay Downs each winter. They are as competitive as any operation at the track, while prepping their better horses for more lucrative opportunities down the road.
“Both the main track and the turf course at Tampa Bay Downs are good quality, and it’s a nice place to bring a horse along,” Arnaud said. “The atmosphere is laid-back, it is very family-oriented and there is always a good crowd of people who enjoy racing. It’s a great place to be.”
While working under Clement and Motion, the Delacours built a strong foundation for their own success. When Luca was born in August of 2012, they began planning for Arnaud to take over full-time conditioning duties.
Now the couple has taken full flight, with the potential to soar as high as their widely-known mentors.