As described here at TRC previously, France is blessed with a 'golden generation' of jockeys. Yet ironically the four highest-placed Frenchmen in the world rankings do not ply their trade in their homeland. That number has been reduced to three now that one of them, world #15 Julien Leparoux, has become an American.
Christophe Lemaire, currently ranked #7, is based in Japan, and Florent Geroux (#13) and Flavien Prat (#21) ride in the United States, as does Leparoux, who became a U.S. citizen on Wednesday in a ceremony in Louisville, Kentucky.
“It was a goal since I came here (in the U.S.). I’m proud of it. I’m proud to be an American,” said the 34-year-old two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey.
The rider of Tepin and Classic Empire was accompanied at the ceremony by wife Shea, son Mitchell and newborn son Vinn. “I was proud to have my family with me. It was special for sure," he said.
Born in Senlis in Oise, Northern France, Leparoux grew up in a racing family and worked for his father, Robert, a jockey-turned-trainer in Chantilly, before venturing to the United States in January 2003 to exercise horses for another Frenchman, Patrick Biancone, trainer of All Along and Triptych.
Leparoux embarked on his riding career in 2005 before making his way to Kentucky, where he enjoyed a sensational 2006 season, during which he rode a national-best 403 winners and gained an Eclipse Award as the top apprentice.
Leparoux, who has won numerous titles in Kentucky, was honored with an Eclipse in 2009 to become only the fourth jockey to win American racing’s highest honor as an apprentice and as a journeyman.
“I always felt at home here. Now it is official,” he said.
He has ridden nearly 2500 winners, including champions Tepin (he was on her when she won the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2016), Classic Empire, Forever Together and Informed Decision.
He is currently riding at Gulfstream Park in Florida. He has won many stakes during Gulfstream’s Championship Meet for the past several years, the highlight his winning ride aboard Dialed In in the 2011 Florida Derby.
The successes of Leparoux, Geroux and Prat mean that three of the current top eight U.S.-based jockeys in the world rankings hail from France.
Ironically, the standings for France-based riders include just one Frenchman in the top three. Highest-ranked is world #8 Christophe Soumillon, who is Belgian, and third is #39 Cristian Demuro, who is Italian. The lone Frenchman is Mickael Barzalona (#31), who was seen at his best yesterday when guiding Heavy Metal to a comprehensive defeat of Godolphin's Thunder Snow in the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 at Meydan (see video below).