Racing: Post the bearer of Head's Derby dreams

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It was pouring down here yesterday, quite appropriate for the start of the Criquette season. France's foremost woman trainer studied the contours of the Surrey Downs as she also cast her mind back to her family's involvement in the Blue Riband, the wrestle with the twin impostors.

It was pouring down here yesterday, quite appropriate for the start of the Criquette season. France's foremost woman trainer studied the contours of the Surrey Downs as she also cast her mind back to her family's involvement in the Blue Riband, the wrestle with the twin impostors.

By certificate known as Christiane, but Criquette by popular voice, Mme Head-Maarek is the third generation of her family to make a considerable niche in racing. Grandfather Willie and father Alec were both jockeys then trainers and their immediate ancestor was an Englishman who ventured from London to Paris to start what Criquette refers to as "the Head Mafia".

"I'm almost half English," she said. "And I am lucky to be by a good stallion out of a good broodmare."

Criquette's father is already on the Blue Riband scroll. Lavandin captured the 1956 Derby for the trainer Alec Head. Less kind among the scriptures is the treatment of Criquette's brother, Freddie, the former jockey. Gypsy mothers still frighten their children with the tale of Freddie's nightmare on helm street, when he took an alarming course on Lyphard during the 1972 Derby.

"I don't think the British press have always been very fair to my brother," Criquette says. "Lyphard was a rig and he was hurting. He had a trapped testicle which was pinching him." A balls up of some description then.

Mme Head has had travails of her own at Epsom. In 1981, Shergar's year, she quite fancied the chances of Mydian, but it was not a fantasy which survived even to Tattenham Corner. "Last time I came here my horse never went into the stalls. I was upset because this is my dream. It's the dream of a French trainer to come and have a runner in the Derby. You cannot find these horses. They come to you."

At the beginning of last season a dream-maker came swaying persuasively into Head's yard in Chantilly. Rather spookily he was a son of Bering, the best colt Criquette has ever trained, a French Derby winner his handler would rather have tested around the Epsom switchback. The young horse's name was American Post.

"As soon as he he arrived in my yard I wanted to think of him as a Derby horse," Head says. "In my mind was the thought to come here."

Four victories on, the dream is becoming more vivid by the run. American Post collected two Group One wins at the tail of his first season, including planting the tricolor at Doncaster after the Racing Post Trophy.

American Post, who has already collected the Listed Prix Omnium at Saint-Cloud this season, continues his story at Longchamp on Sunday before aiming for the French 2,000 Guineas, one of the few significant Classics to elude his owner, Khalid Abdullah. If his paper and physical form stand that preparation, the Blue Riband will be the conquest. Criquette will be back at Epsom, on 5 June.

"American Post has given a bit of trouble at the stalls, but when he ran at Doncaster we had a carrot at the ready which worked and we'll keep that trick up our sleeves when he runs next," Head said. "He always gallops with his head a bit high and he does need to concentrate, but that is up to the jockey. He has won on all types of ground and if it was very fast on Derby day I wouldn't put that down as an excuse if he was beaten.

"We're not there yet, but every time he's had a race he's improved. He's got a very tough character. He's a very strong horse with the fighting spirit of Bering. He's got everything in his mind to come here and run a big race."

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