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Trail-blazing French trainer Criquette Head-Maarek has announced she is to retire after a career spanning more than 40 years.

Head-Maarek says the time is right to call it a day and she will saddle her last runners on February 1.

She will still be involved in the sport and plans to devote more time to the family stud, Haras du Quesnay in Deauville.

“I’ve got some runners on Friday and I’ve got runners on the 1st of February and then I will stop,” Head Maarek told Press Association Sport.

“I am 70 years old. It was a tough decision to take, because it is always tough when you decide to change.

“It is a big change for me. I have been training since 1977, so 41 years.”

Born into the Head racing dynasty that began with her great-grandfather, she was assistant to her father Alec before starting off on her own in 1977.

She quickly made a name for herself, becoming the first female to saddle the winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s most prestigious race, in 1979 with Three Troikas, ridden by her brother, Freddy and owned by her mother, Ghislaine.

Over the following years she won the French 1000 Guineas seven times, the French Oaks three times and the 2000 Guineas and Derby.

But her finest moments came with Treve, dual winner of the Arc.

“As a trainer and being a woman I’ve had a fantastic life,” she said.

“I was very lucky with fillies, because in those days I used to train for breeders and they used to send me their fillies.

“I was happy to train a lot of horses at one time. I used to have 200 until 2005.

“When you have big breeders as owners, that is important for a trainer because every year you have lots of yearlings coming in, about 100.

“I’m going to spend more time there (the stud) now. I love breeding.”

Treve is the horse she will forever be remembered for with the first of the filly’s Group One wins coming in the French Oaks (Prix de Diane) in 2013.

The first of her two Arc victories came that October and she struck again the following year. Her attempt at a hat-trick on her final career start in 2015 failed, but she was not disgraced when fourth to Golden Horn.

“Treve was a blessing for me, because she was bred by my dad, so that was something to win the Arc,” Head Maarek said.

She had much success in England, including the Champion Stakes with Hatoof in 1993, the July Cup in 1996 with Anabaa and the Cheveley Park Stakes on four occasions.

“I won lots of races in England. I was very lucky there,” she said.

“I really have had a fantastic life training. I have been blessed. Good horses make good trainers and I’ve had a lot of good horses in my yard.”

 
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