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Ron: Welcome to BloodHorse.com’s Talkin’ Horses online podcast. I am Ron Mitchell, the online managing editor and the moderator.
Today we are privileged to have Julien Leparoux, the 2009 Eclipse Award Winning Jockey as our guest.
I will not take your valuable time with a lengthy introduction since most of you are familiar with Julien. He is a native of France and won an Eclipse Award as Outstanding Apprentice in 2006.
In 2009, he won three Breeders’ Cup races and despite taking off most of the month of December to be with his family, he finished second among all North American jockeys by earnings just edged in that category on the last day of the year.
Ron: First of all, I first noticed you when you came here and were at Lone Star Park for the 2004 Breeders’ Cup. I believe you were an exercise rider for Patrick Biancone then.
Can you tell me just a little bit about Patrick, your relationship with him and you coming to this country then?
Julien: Well, Patrick asked me if I wanted a job, so I came to America in September 2003 actually, and I worked for Patrick for two years before I started to ride races. That was a great experience.
Ron: Certainly. And, do you stay in touch with Patrick today?
Julien: Yeah, yeah, I’m still keeping in touch. We still talk and I ride a little bit for him right now and everything is good between us.
Ron: The next question comes from Bernie Dickman – Since everybody in racing mispronounces your last name, would you please pronounce it correctly for us right here so we can get it right once and for all?
Julien: Well, my last name is Leparoux but it’s very difficult to say it for you guys but it’s okay.
Ron: Leparoux, is that correct?
Ron: The next question comes from someone who goes by the name of Bluegrass Cat – Congratulations on your Eclipse Award. In your acceptance speech, you inadvertently left out agent Steve Bass. I know you must have a great working relationship with Steve due to the success you’ve had. Could you tell us how you hooked up with him and did he approach you or was he recommended to you?
Julien: Actually, he was recommended to me by Brice Blanc, another French jockey. Yeah, I forgot to mention his name, but of course, he is the one behind me and we’ve got a great relationship. He’s a very great agent and so far, we have done good together.
Ron: And I guess when you’re up there on the podium accepting something like an Eclipse Award, things can be kind of hectic, you get a little nervous and so it’s understandable that you didn’t mention Steve but he’s probably forgiving you for that.
Julien: Oh yeah, of course. I mean right after the speech, actually, I went and talked with him and said, “Oh, I’m very sorry I forget you,” but he said, “Don’t worry about it.” He knows I was thinking about him and we had a good year and hopefully we can get a better year this year.
Ron: And that brings us to the next question from Lee Jay Smith – Do you rely on your agent as far as decisions on which races to ride in and do you discuss it together?
Julien: Well, it’s mostly his job to just put me on a horse he thinks is going to win. But sometimes, you get two or three horses in the same race and he would ask me which one I want to ride and which one I like him to ride better. But mostly, that’s his job to get me on the best one.
Ron: And I guess certainly in the bigger races when you have those kinds of decisions to make it takes a little bit more discussion between the two of you.
Julien: Yeah, exactly. Sometimes you’ve got two horses that kind of being the same grading and he just asks me which one I would ride.
Ron: Next question from Dave Gayheart – Who would be your choice to ride in this year’s Kentucky Derby? In other words, do you already have a horse that you’re on that you feel confident about for the Derby, or is it too early?
Julien: Well, it’s a little bit too early to say anything but – I mean, right now we’ve got American Lion. He’s from California and he’s going to run next weekend and I hope he’s a good one.
Ron: Next question from A.S. Bergman – If there was one race that you could go back and approach and/or ride differently, which race and which horse would it be? In other words, is there a big horse that you had that you like to take over again and do that race over with?
Julien: Well, I’m sure I’ve got a couple of those. I mean we all make mistakes and of course, I wish I can take back some rides I did. I don’t know… like in my mind right now maybe the Breeders’ Cup in 2006 with Asi Siempre. And then, I don’t know, I don’t know.
Ron: What happened in that race that you think you would like to do over?
Julien: I was disqualified from second and put back to fourth and I got in a lot of trouble, so maybe I should have won the race, too. And that was the Breeder’s Cup, so that was a big race. I mean, I make mistakes like everybody else, you know.
Ron: I guess something like that’s a pretty big learning experience for you, isn’t it?
Julien: Yes, I mean, that’s how you learn, when you make mistakes, that’s how you learn and why it’s very tough to make mistake like this because that’s on a big day, but also, that’s also how you learn to get better and that’s with experience.
Ron: This may be a little early to be asking this question, but from Linda – Who is the best horse that you have ridden so far, or can you say?
Julien: It’s very difficult, especially this year, but I’ve ridden a lot of good horses. Informed Decision --I would say her.
Ron: Paula wants to know – Have you ever considered riding for a season in Dubai and have you been approached with that opportunity?
Julien: I’ve never been approached about it. I would say yes and no. I would love to go to Dubai, but this time of the year that’s for American racing, you want to be here to try to plan for the Derby, so it’s yes and no. I would love to go there, but at the same time, you might have the better business over here.
Ron: Right, the spring season in the U.S. is certainly a very important time of the year, isn’t it?
Julien: Yes, it is.
Ron: Next question is from Paige – How does French racing compare to American racing?
Julien: I never rode in France, so I couldn’t really tell you what the difference. From what I’ve seen on TV, the races are just like going very slow, but they’re going so well. So it’s a little bit of a different style.
Ron: So it’s just a different style of what you have to do during the race to be able to get into position to win.
Julien: Yeah, exactly, they go pretty slow the first part of the race and then they finish the last three-eighths of the mile very fast. They can race with a little bit more faith. It is different racing.
Ron: And I guess, really, that applies to most European style racing, too, doesn’t it, and not just France?
Julien: Yeah, all of Europe.
Ron: And the second part of her question is – Why did you decide to come to the US to ride?
Julien: Well, just because I got the opportunity to come to work in the morning for Patrick Biancone, and I thought that would be a good job for me. So I just came here and I had just got out of school, so I mean, I didn’t have anything in France. And I was young too, so I just needed to travel and see around a little bit. I love it here, so I just decided to stay here and try to start riding here.
Ron: And certainly, I guess, as you say, you were young and wanted to see the world and wanted to see the U.S. and got a job as an exercise rider and one thing led to another.
Julien: Yeah, exactly. Everything came together after a couple of years.
Ron: Steve from St. Louis wants to know – Are you at all intrigued about returning to Europe to race during the summer and fall at some point?
Julien: As of right now, no. Like I said, love it here and I’m happy here, so I will just stay here. I mean, you never know; maybe when I get old or older I will maybe try to go and ride over there. But as for now, I want to stay here.
Ron: And a follow up question comes from Karen, which would not be as much about going over there for a full summer or fall, but what about – Would you like to have the opportunity to ride in the Arc de Triomphe and possibly win that someday?
Julien: Yeah, I would love to. Yeah, of course. I would love to go there and win, that’s for sure.
Ron: Next question comes from Lou G. – Julien, do you have a preference as to which surface you like to ride on – dirt, synthetic or grass? And what do you see the future of synthetic surfaces?
Julien: I just like any track as long as my horses like it. Synthetic is a good thing, but we need a couple more years to figure out all the tracks. I mean, I think it’s a good thing.
Ron: As far as your preferences – dirt, synthetic, or grass – does it matter to you? You seem to really have a real ability on turf.
Julien: Like I said, it’s all about the horses. It’s all about if your horse like the track and after that, like if I ride my horses on the grass and it likes the grass, people are going to say I’m a tough rider, but really, it’s the horses that make me look good like that. Like I said, it’s just about the horses.
Ron: Okay, that makes sense. I hear that a lot from a lot of jockeys and trainers that have a lot of success.
Chris Miller asks – What do you think are the most important qualities that help make a successful racehorse?
Julien: A good horse is usually very classy, nothing bothers him and he’s just very classy. It’s just the quality and that’s it.
Ron: Can you tell, when you're on a horse, either in the mornings, afternoons, the differences in the horse as far as their intelligence level and ability level?
Julien: Yes. Yes, of course. In the morning, when you breeze a horse, you can see if it’s a good one or not. Of course, it’s not the racing, so you can make mistakes. Some horses are very good in the morning and in the afternoon, when it’s time to race, he’s just bad as a race horse. But yeah, usually you can tell in the morning if he’s such a good horse or not.
Ron: As far as prepping yourself and learning about riding, did you watch film of other jockeys and watch other jockeys styles, or have you learned most of what you know just on your own by how you’ve gone out and ridden?
Julien: It’s just by your own, but I still look at the races. When I was an apprentice, I looked at the horses and how the big jockey was doing and I tried to learn from them, sure, but you mostly just do it on your own.
Ron: Were there any particular jockeys that you looked at their riding style and they had an influence on you – you tried to do what they did or is it just all of them put together?
Julien: It’s all together. I never really watched one but I watched all of them and just look at the good things they did and the bad things they did and learn from them.
Ron: The next question, from someone named Handel – Do you feel more pressure riding a favorite in a race versus a long shot? Do you ride the long shots any differently from the favorites?
Julien: I just ride every one the same. The longshot, sometime you want to maybe ride them a little bit like you want to finish well up there and see if you can win but try to (at least) get a little place. Like that, sometimes, that’s how you win with longshots.
Ron: Do you generally know the odds on your horse as you're going to post or is that a factor for you?
Julien: Yes. You know before the race you know. But, like I said, you got to just treat everyone the same, but sometimes with the longshot, you just want to ride them like to second or third just to be able to take a place, a show, and sometimes you win it.
Ron: The next question comes from Mindy C – You are riding a horse that I’ve been watching since his very first workout and he is my Derby horse. His name is American Lion. What can you tell me about him?
Julien: American Lion is a very talented horse. That’s the one I’m looking forward to ride this year too. I won two races with him and he still runs a little green, so if he gets better and if he improves from that race, he could be a nice horse – a very, very nice horse. I just can’t wait to ride him next weekend.
Ron: Okay. Good luck there.
Julien: Thank you.
Ron: The next question is from Steve Nick – My question is since you grew up in France, which is known for its rich food choices, how do you keep your weight down with your heritage of fine food from your country?
Julien: Well, actually, I’m a very lucky guy. I’m just natural very light and I just can eat anything I want and be okay with it. So, I’m just lucky.
Ron: Wow, you really are lucky. You burn it up then, I guess.
Julien: Yeah, I can eat anything I want any time during the day. I can eat two to three meals a day if I want. I’m very, very lucky for that.
Ron: Bill Feingold asked – How heated is the rivalry between you and Garrett Gomez?
Julien: No, it’s good. I mean me and Garrett are friends. You know, on the track, he is my competition but he’s just like every other jockey. He’s just competition in the race, but after that, he’s a very nice guy.
Ron: And certainly you guys were in the running for the leading earning title last year and he edged you out near the end, but you both just have a healthy respect for each other and are friendly until it gets on the racetrack.
Julien: Yeah, we do have a lot of respect for each other. He’s a good friend and actually when he wins races, I text him and say congratulations and he does the same when I win races. We’ve got a good relationship.
Ron: Now this question is about lead changes on horses during a race and it comes from Pam. It says – Do you think it is more important to allow the horse to decide on its own when to change leads or do you think the jockeys should make the decision and direct the horse to make it lead change?
Julien: As a jockey, you want to try to make him switch leads, but I do think that if you try and then he doesn’t want to change leads, I think you should leave him alone and just make him run on the wrong lead. You do want to try to a little bit to at least to make him succeed.
Ron: You try to do what you can but if the horse isn’t going to do it, then you don’t really persist with it, you just go ahead and let him.
Julien: Yeah, exactly. I mean that’s me though. That’s just me. I think you want to try but if really you can’t do it sometimes, you should… I just leave him alone and ride him on the wrong lead.
Ron: Next question is from Leonard Rizzie and it touches on something that we asked earlier, and if you think it’s too much just tell me and we’ll move on. Leonard Rizzie asked – Can you breeze race a thoroughbred one time and in your gut determine that it is a horse that can be a winner or do you need multiple exercises to come to a conclusion?
Julien: It depends on what kind of work the trainer wants you to do. Sometimes they want you to work a horse, it’s a nice horse, but they want to work him slow and sometimes they want to work him fast so that depends on how you work the horse. If you work him fast you can see what you’ve got and see if you can also at the wire when you’re finished. So it depends what kind of work you do.
Ron: Next question is – During your years in the states, which racetracks do you like the best, both as far as riding on them and then just being there?
Julien: Well, I have a couple of racetracks that I really love because it’s not really about the track, it’s just how people are, like Keeneland and Saratoga. It’s really fun to ride over there because every day they got people at the races and it’s just a good day when you get people at the races. It’s just fun to ride over there, yeah.
Ron: What about just cities where racetracks are located, do you go out quite a bit? What are some of your favorite cities where there are racetracks?
Julien: Saratoga is always nice, that meet for six weeks is very nice. I love Kentucky, so I would say that Churchill is a good place to be too.
Ron: In fact, you settled down in Kentucky, correct? You own a home now in Louisville?
Julien: Yes, I got a home in Louisville and it is very nice to be in Kentucky.
Ron: What are your goals for this year, 2010, after you won the Eclipse Award last year?
Julien: Well that’s going to be the test. I mean it is going to be probably the most difficult year for me just because I had the Eclipse so I’m now trying to do the same. I mean it’s still difficult to get on top, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more difficult to stay on top. So I’m just going to have to work hard and try to stay on top.
Ron: That’s quite a bit of pressure isn’t it?
Julien: Yeah, it is. I mean I don’t put myself in too much pressure. I just take everything day by day but of course, you know when you won the Eclipse award, the following year you want to do good too.
Ron: Listen Julien, I really appreciate your time and good luck out there. I hope you are able to repeat it as an Eclipse award winner.
Julien: Alright. Thank you very much.