Boutin, a great trainer, finally loses a long fight

Francois Boutin, the outstanding racehorse trainer in France in the last 30 years, died yesterday in the American hospital in Paris. He was 58 and had been suffering from liver cancer. During a 31-year career, he won virtually every major prize in Flat racing and his success rate continued even after his illness had started to take its toll. In 1993, the year that he was diagnosed as having cancer, he trained the winners of three French Classics.

The chemotherapy treatment caused his distinctive silver-grey hair to fall out but he continued to go racing when well enough and was back at Churchill Downs last November to oversee the challenge of Hernando and East Of The Moon.

"As I have been so close to dying, I have probably attached myself even more to my horses," he said then. "I can't continue to go racing as regularly as before but I still try to be on the training track in the morning.

A farmer's son from Normandy, Boutin was an accomplished trotting-race driver and amateur rider who also competed in show-jumping and cross-country events.

After three years as assistant to Etienne Pollet, he set out on his own as private trainer to Marcel Boussac and within a few years of going public had clinched his first major success with La Lagune in the 1968 Oaks at Epsom.

His subsequent victories in France included every major prize with just three exceptions: the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, the Prix de l'Abbaye and the most important one of all, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Hernando, his final runner in the great race,was defeated by just a short neck last season.

More than any other French trainer until the recent arrival of Andre Fabre, Boutin attacked Britain's major prizes. His successes included the 2,000 Guineas twice, with Nonoalco in 1974 and Zino in 1982, and the 1,000 Guineas with Miesque in 1987. His great stayer Sagaro completed a hat-trick of victories in the Ascot Gold Cup between 1975 and 1977.

Perhaps his greatest achievements came in the United States. Winning any race on another continent is difficult enough, so Boutin's accomplishment in sending Miesque to win successive Breeders' Cup Miles in 1987 and 1988 is extraordinary.

America provided the location for another triumph when Arazi produced a devastating performance to come from last to first in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile of 1991. Sadly, he never recaptured that brilliance. After surgery to his knees, he won only one morerace and finished eighth in the 1992 Kentucky Derby.

Boutin, who had been a widower, leaves one son, Eric, and two daughters, Patricia and Nathalie, from his first marriage. He was remarried, to Princess Lucy Ruspoli, in 1989.

Obituary, page 18