Racing: Peslier the man with power-steering job

The favourite's laziness will be outweighed by his rider's drive. Richard Edmondson reports
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THIS afternoon's French raider has outstanding ability, as well as ears, and is expected once again to show his class at Newmarket.

Olivier Peslier, Xaar's rider, has made progress like few others of his profession in recent years and can now be considered in the pan global class of Frankie Dettori and Michael Kinane (the two jockeys he admires most). Peslier is even accepted in Britain, inside whose shores French jockeys have been raising titters for longer than the Carry On movies.

Peslier is, if you like, the new Yves St Martin, a darling of the Parisian circuit who has shown that the produce is just as sweet when he travels overseas. The stonemason's son can count on the support of owners such as Khalid Abdullah and Daniel Wildenstein in his homeland, which necessarily gives him a conduit into the mighty squad prepared by Andre Fabre. Life is bliss.

But, like his namesake, Olivier wants more. He especially has his sights trained on a little contest we run here near a funfair. "I will come many times to England for the big races because I have had such good success there," he said this week. "I will come whenever my schedule lets me. I want to win more big races. Most of all I want to win the Epsom Derby."

If he is to win a Blue Riband next month, the great likelihood is that Peslier will do it aboard his mount in this afternoon's 2,000 Guineas, Xaar. For those who study pedigrees, success for Xaar is considered slightly on the improbable side of impossible. They point to the fact that Xaar's sire, Zafonic, was so intractable that it came as something of a surprise that he did not slow down by having a parachute unfurled from the back of his saddle.

This, however, ignores the differences between father and son. Xaar is such a somnolent creature that it seems if he ever fails a drugs test it will be because Mogadon has been located in his system. This characteristic drowsiness was such in the colt's trial race, the Craven Stakes, that Peslier thought the reviving buckets of water he was heaping from the saddle were not working quickly enough.

"Maybe Xaar will tell us a little bit more on Saturday about his stamina," he said. "Zafonic was a specialist over a mile but this horse is very lazy. Last time at Newmarket maybe everyone was tearing up their tickets, but he came good. I thought for a few moments I was just going to be second but then he got stronger. Much stronger."

Peslier believes the Derby test drive will be a victorious one this afternoon. His expectation is as large as the size of the field. "Around 20 horses is a nice number," he said. "It should be a good race. Good to soft ground is not bad, but softer is not so good. I would prefer good.

"I'm very much looking forward to the race because I'm riding a good horse. I'm just disappointed that Second Empire is not there or the horse that finished second to me last time [Gulland] so we can see Xaar as a true champion."

Peslier is certainly proving himself as a champion across the racing map. This winter he was waving his whip in Japan, where he enjoyed a working holiday (they race just at weekends). Unlike the rest of us, he returns from vacation with considerably more loot than when he started.

During his three months in the Land Of The Riding Sun, from the beginning of the year, Peslier rode 27 winners from 125 rides, including four Graded races. By the time it was time to stuff all the yen in the suitcase and return to his Chantilly home, Peslier was the leading jockey in the championship.

Those in the stands at Fuchu, like spectators throughout the racing world, will have noticed that the Frenchman does not appear the most aggressive of pilots. He has the neat seat that all his countrymen possess, a streamlined technique that does not seem compromised by his Prince Charles ears. Yet there is also power there, as anyone who saw Xaar being rousted along in the Craven will testify. Peslier's appears that beautiful blend of British and Irish force coupled with American and French style.

It would have been a sight to have relished aboard a horse to match Peslier's talents this season, but now Peintre Celebre is to entertain mares rather that turfistes following a tendon injury. "That was bad news because he was a very good horse, a champion," Peslier said of his staggering Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner. "It's not like he was Lammtarra and retired to stud after the Classics. I was so very happy when I knew he was going to run as a four-year-old because I thought he would win everything again." He won't now, but his jockey might.