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JustHorseRacing.com.au writer Michael McGill interviews jockey Thomas Huet. View the interview below.

 

Where in France were you born?

I was born in a little country town three hours south of Paris called Tulle in the Loire Valley. I lived there until I was sixteen years old and then moved up to Chantilly to the French Jockeys Academy.

 

Are you from a racing background?

Absolutely not. My Dad was a car salesman and my Mum used to work for the Community Department which is like the Council in Australia. I started riding ponies at the age of four and I just loved them.

 

Tell us about the Chantilly Jockey Academy, is that like an apprentice school we have in Australia?

Yes it is; you can start your apprenticeship at the age of fourteen however I started at sixteen. It is an apprentice school so you have a normal school with riding horses at school as well. You have a lot of things like a normal school such as mathematics and geography and then you are also going to the stables with the boss. So it is one month school, one month stable, one month school and so on doing it for two or three years.

When you work at the stable you work like a stable hand at the beginning so you are cleaning out boxes and riding horses in the morning. I did it for two years with my boss and started riding when I was seventeen and I stayed with him for another year as an employee. I told him when I lost my claim and was a senior jockey that I would be a freelance jockey.

 

Do you remember your first race ride?

Yes it was a race only for kids from the school with a senior jockey doing the pace making and you had to stay behind him and then pass him over the last four hundred metres and it was for my boss and I actually won.

The second one I fell off before the start. It was a bit of a naughty horse but I ended up finishing fourth. My first official race was probably six months later in a big meeting in winter in a place called Caine Se Meurt and I came about second or third last.

 

You rode over 450 winners in France. Why did you decide to move to Australia?

I had approximately 450 winners in France and probably 20 to 25 overseas as well including most of them in Europe and a few in Mauritius, Morocco, Germany and Italy. I always planned to travel early in my career and I went to Dubai when I was 21 years old for three months.

I always had the plan to move and learn something different and Australia was a little bit far away from France so I didn’t really have the opportunity at the time in terms of organisation during the winter. When I did move here I didn’t really have anything exciting for the winter so I just booked a ticket and came here.

I came with absolutely nothing and just sent an email to Gai Waterhouse and the office replied straight away; they probably do that to everyone but the reply came that I could come and work for them. So I started riding trackwork for her in January 2013 and after two weeks I had a chat with her and said that I was here to try and ride in races so could you please give me a hand.

The funny story is that when I went to the office; I am a good friend of Mark Newman but at the time I think he was a bit surprised at who I was. He said that you want to ride in races but have you ridden before. I said that I had ridden a few winners in France before and he asked how many, so when I said 450 he replied ok that should be enough haha.

We did the form for Racing NSW medical control and had a couple of trials then got my license in March or April 2013.

 

Was it a steep learning curve adjusting to the Australian style of racing?

It was a little bit hard but just a few things to do to follow the rules and I had an interview with the stewards and they wanted to know why I came here and why I wanted to ride. I said to them that I was coming here for a few months and wanted to have an experience and try something.

Initially I planed to stay for three months then pushed for six months and I had a lot of opportunities straight away so I thought I could try something a little bit better because I was not in that mood to say after six months that I had come to Australia and done six months and ridden twenty winners so now that I am here I should try something and put my name somewhere especially as the first real French jockey to come here. It was not to open the door to everyone it was just to say that if you want to then it is possible.

 

Who was your idol growing up and who has helped you the most?

I am good friends with a lot of older French jockeys rather than jockeys of my generation. People like Olivier Peslier for example is an international jockey who is a top rider and top person. I spent a lot of time with him. He was a jockey you looked up to as a kid and you would think that if I could just do 50% of what he does then it is good.

Thierry Jarnet was a good example of a big support as well. He won the Arc De Triomphe four times and twice with Treve. He was a lot older than me but he was a typical example of a professional person who would work from six o’clock in the morning until eight o’clock at night doing everything for his job.

I am not the type of person who says I want to follow this jockey or that one. I just pick little things from everyone and try to be my own name and own type of jockey.

 

Early on you broke your leg in a freak accident that must have been a tough time just after getting starting?

It was mid January in 2014. I had gone to Melbourne for Gai Waterhouse with Fiorente and did a bit of a mistake with myself. It was good to go to Melbourne however I lost a couple of good opportunities in Sydney. I came back to riding after the accident but by luck some things just happen.

I lost three months and couldn’t really move but it was good because it gave me the time to look forward and think about myself as to what I had done and what I wanted to do. I then came back with more determination to kick back again. Paul Perry was a great support at this stage.

 

You have a great combination with Paul Perry. How did that relationship start?

It started when I used to ride a lot for Gai Waterhouse at provincial meetings and she said to Paul that you should have a look at this jockey and maybe give him a hand. He started to give me a few rides right after my accident and we had good results straight away. I was riding two to three winners every Saturday. We built a good relationship together and the owners were happy and the trainer was happy.

 

Are you missing your French cuisine? Have you managed to find a decent French restaurant in Sydney?

Yes I have found some good French restaurants in Sydney. You can find everything here. And especially for a jockey it isn’t really a big deal.

 

How is your Aussie slang coming along?

It is a little bit hard at times.

 

What about a Barbie in the Arvo?

Barbeque and Afternoon are ok I know those ones.

 

What about Cobber?

What is Cobber. You got me on that one. I have a few Aussie friends that teach me a couple of things. I was in trouble when I came here to be honest. I had a little background of English but it was not that good. The first six months were pretty hard. I still feel a little bit uncomfortable sometimes especially in the stewards room because there are a lot of technical vocabulary and technical words. I am still learning.

 

You have now had 6 wins from 7 starts on Artistry for the Snowden stable including the Group 3 Strathyr Newmarket. Great partnership!

She has been a fantastic mare for me. It is a funny story because I rode her in the early starts and she was still a maiden and I won on her in Newcastle and the race after that I wasn’t working with Peter and Paul Snowden so they didn’t put me back on because they had the stable jockey Mitchell Bell.

After two more races without a winner they put me back on and I had three or four wins in a row. It is funny how you can connect with a horse. I am doing nothing special with her but I think it is a feeling that when I jump on her I feel safe and she feels safe as well. She will win a big race.

 

Thomas thank you for your time and best of luck in the future!

 
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