Alain de Royer-Dupre bids for perfect farewell

One of the great training careers of the modern era will officially come to an end on 31 December when Alain de Royer-Dupre heads into retirement, the winner of more than 70 G1s around the world, including 19 French Classics.

The man who will be forever identified with the careers of a stellar trio in Dalakhani , Pride and Zarkava, will send out Ebaiyra on Sunday (12 December) in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).

All three of the aforementioned champions signed off with a valedictory success – Pride herself at Sha Tin in December, 2006 – and should Ebaiyra do the same then there could be no more fitting end for Royer-Dupre’s own journey, 49 years after he saddled his first winner.

“We have the older Japanese horse Glory Vase who is obviously pretty good and I don’t know how we measure up, but if Ebaiyra runs well it will be very satisfying,” says Royer-Dupre, who turned 77 in September. “It will put a full stop on my career and it’s a great way to go out. It’s possible she could be my final runner.”

For the last four decades Royer-Dupre has served as principal trainer to H H the Aga Khan and it is those famous emerald green silks that Christophe Soumillon will carry aboard Ebaiyra, who her handler hopes has rebounded from a mid-season blip and whose best form puts her right in the mix with Glory Vase, Pyledriver and Mogul among the international challengers for the HK$20 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.

“She ran poorly at Deauville in August and so I preferred to ease off on her at that stage,” says Royer-Dupre. “We hoped to run in the G1 Prix de l’Opera (2000m) but she hadn’t come back to herself by then so we waited,” he said.

“Now she seems in much better form so this is a good target for her. She is fresh and well and it is a case of how she takes the trip. She didn’t eat up very well when she first arrived but she has adapted well during the week.”

Seasoned work-watchers during LONGINES HKIR week are well used to the idea that many of the French visitors do their morning tours of Sha Tin in a leisurely low gear, and Royer-Dupre’s horses have never excited the clockers in the run-up to the big day.

The four-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor has been no different this week, lobbing around the sand in a relaxed manner, just as her half-sister Edisa did in 2019 before finishing fifth in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), six years after their dam Ebiyza was sixth in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.

Ebaiyra’s work at Chantilly Racecourse last month was much smarter as she dropped two work companions on her way up the all-weather, while Royer-Dupre also gave her a blow on the revered Les Aigles turf gallop in the days before she left.

“We’ve had plenty of horses run well in Hong Kong on top of the two winners, they regularly run up to form,” he says.

“My experience is that you work them normally before they travel and then only very lightly once they arrive. You want to give them the minimum, just to freshen them up, without looking for another proper piece of work. It’s not worth trying to find out before the day.

Royer-Dupre adds: “If she can run up to the form she showed in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1, 2400m) or even improve slightly, that would be ideal.

“She would have benefited from a prep run but she is a filly with plenty of experience, it’s not like she’s a young horse.

“On her French form Ebaiyra has shown herself a better horse than both her dam Ebiyza and her sister Edisa.”

Golden memories of Pride and Daryakana

Royer-Dupre’s record in Hong Kong stands comparison with allcomers, with two wins and seven placed efforts from his 21 runners at the LONGINES HKIR meeting.

Pride arrived in 2006 as arguably the form turf horse in the world, having split Rail Link and Deep Impact in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) before dominating her rivals 13 days later in the G1 Champion Stakes at Newmarket.

She also arrived back in Hong Kong with a score to settle, having failed by a neck to reel in Vengeance Of Rain in the Hong Kong Cup 12 months earlier under Soumillon.

With Christophe Lemaire in the plate most were expecting another hold up ride before unleashing her trademark turn of foot but, as Royer-Dupre recalls, the plan almost went awry.

“The mare had remained in very good shape after her runs in the Arc and the Champion Stakes,” he says. “She was a bit unlucky in the Arc and got there just too late whereas in Hong Kong it was the opposite problem and she hit the front too soon.”

Lemaire rode to beat Vengeance Of Rain once again but David Ferraris’s champion was not in quite the same form and suddenly hunter became hunted, as Yutaka Take took dead aim with Admire Moon in one of the most memorable Cup finished in LONGINES HKIR history.

Royer-Dupre says: “The horse she was following didn’t take her deep enough into the race and she was left out in front for Admire Moon to run at. In another few strides we’d have been beaten.

“It was a case of going from one extreme to the other which can happen. I think we were a bit lucky to win.”

There was much less pressure on Royer-Dupre and Gerald Mosse three years later when Daryakana arrived for the 2009 Vase, unbeaten in four starts and a G2 winner at Longchamp on her most recent outing.

Mosse’s white gloves had Daryakana on a loose rein at the very rear of the field and, after angling his filly wide at the top of the straight, they still had 11 horses to pass at the 400 metre mark.

Royer-Dupre says: “Daryakana was very impressive. Turning into the straight she had a lot of ground to make up but Gerald Mosse knows Hong Kong very well and she finished in magnificent style.

“She was very backward and hadn’t seen the track before July of that year and so the advantage was that she was very much still on the upgrade.”

Daryakana was the daughter of a French Oaks winner and went on to be a fabulous broodmare for H H Aga Khan, producing G1 winner Dariyan, himself third in the 2015 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.

Pride has also been represented at the meeting, with her son One Foot In Heaven filling third spot in the 2016 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.

Ebaiyra doesn’t lack for family history at Sha Tin, while preparations will have been timed to the minute by her meticulous trainer one last time.

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