Alec Head, a racing giant has left us

Alec Head, a racing giant has left us

Son of William Head, Alec Head was initially an exceptional trainer, he who was at the same time the main trainer for Pierre Wertheimer and the Aga Khan at only 28 years old. Winner of 28 European classics and 4 Arc de Triomphe, Alec will buy the Haras du Quesnay in 1958, and will make it one of the largest breeding entities in France, releasing a number of cracks, including his latest marvel Trêve.

Alec Head at his home in Quesnay, with his latest jewel Trêve in photo ©Jean-Pierre Mauger

It is a very great gentleman of French races who left us on this Wednesday, June 22. Aged 97, Alec Head passed away today. Coming from a family of English origin, Alec Head is the grandson of William Head Senioran English jockey married to Henrietta Jenningsthe sister of Tom Jennings the trainer of the famous Gladiator, winner of the Epsom Derby. The couple will live in France in Compiègne and will have 3 children, including William George Henry Head, Alec’s father. In the 1920s, he set up as a trainer at Maisons-Laffitte, and won more than 1,200 victories on the flat and 700 over jumps. Born in 1924, Alec (Jacques-Alexandre being his birth name editor’s note.) Head followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a jockey at the age of 16, and notably won the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil for his father in the saddle on Vatelys in 1946.

Alec Head in the saddle on Vatelys at Auteuil ©APRH

From the age of 23, following a heavy fall, weight problems and by desire of his young wife Gislain (born Van de Poele) to see him do a less dangerous job, Alec decides to become a coach. We are therefore in 1947 when Alec settles in Mesnil-le-Roi in the courtyard of his father William. Success is not long in coming, and this in both disciplines. In fact, in his second year as a coach, he concluded at 7e rank in the national classification over jumps, and won his first Group on the flat with Admiral John in the Grand Prix du Printemps Gr.2 (now Prix Chaudenay). In 1950, after settling in Maisons-Laffitte, Alec took another step by winning his very first Gr.1, with Sanguine on the occasion of the Prix Morny.


Alec Head, next to the young Prince Karim Aga Khan then 23 years old

The year 1951 marked a new turning point in his career as a trainer, since he was entrusted with the horses of Peter Wertheimeras well as those of His Highness Aga Khan IIIthen those of his son the Prince Aly Khanthen his grandson Karim. It is moreover for the mythical green jacket with red shoulder pads that Alec won the first of his 4 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with Nuccio in 1952, he was only 28 years old! During the winter of 1954-55, Alec decided to leave Maisons-Laffitte to join Chantilly, leaving his stable to his father William. These years mark the peak of Alec Head who topped the list on the flat in 1954 with 88 wins, ahead of Francois Mathet, and in the top 6 over jumps. In total, he forged an impressive track record, being crowned 5 consecutive times at the top of the coaches’ list, and pinning no less than 24 European classics, including the 1956 Epsom Derby with lavender.

Alec Head at sales with Alain and Gérard Wertheimer

In 1958, a year before his victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with Saint Crespin, Alec decides to buy the Haras du Quesnay, not far from Deauville. This historic place whose castle dates from 1602, and transformed into a stud farm in 1904, belonged to an American Abraham Kingsley Macomber. During the war, the Quesnay had been requisitioned by the Germans who had transformed the boxes into a prison and repainted all the buildings black. It is therefore immense work that was necessary, but not enough to discourage Alec. A few years after this purchase, Alec gave birth to a first champion: The fabulous, who for the training of his father will win the Prix du Jockey Club. Since then, a number of exceptional horses have been born at stud, such as Ravinella, Bering, Detroit, Zelzal, For Fun and of course Truce.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visiting Haras du Quesnay in 1987

The Head family is a real dynasty that has marked French racing for more than a century. Her daughter Cricket will become the most successful female coach in France, winning many Group 1s, with her brother in the saddle freddie, six times golden crop and successful trainer thereafter. It is with Criquette that Alec will experience one of his greatest joys. In 2011, a filly born from the works of house stallion Motivator and Treviso is presented at the yearling sales but will not find a buyer, its name: Trêve. Everyone knows her, this filly will become one of the greatest in history, winning 6 Gr.1s including two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Thierry Jarnet and Alec Head posing with Trêve ©APRH


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