Legendary French trainer Criquette Head-Maarek remains humble about her amazing achievements.
Part of the Head racing dynasty, Head-Maarek is best known as the trainer of dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Treve.
She still remembers how it felt to become the first female trainer to win Europe’s most prestigious race.
“It’s fantastic to win,” Head-Maarek told AAP on Thursday.
Now retired after a 41-year training career that would be the envy of many, Head-Maarek won three Arcs.
She ended her career with 126 Group One wins.
Head-Maarek notes few trainers, even among the men, have that record.
But that is as close to boasting as the fourth-generation trainer gets.
She prefers to heap praise on her father Alec Head and grandfather William for sharing their racing wisdom with her.
“I’m not a proud person.
“I do my job the best I can.
“I’ve been listening to my father and my grandfather.
“They’ve helped me to be what I am today.I’m proud for them more than for me.”
Head-Maarek felt honoured to be invited to the Melbourne Cup carnival, and celebrated her 70th birthday on Tuesday watching Australia’s greatest race.
“When you’ve been a trainer for so many years like me, you love to see horses.”
It also gave her the chance to visit her former assistant Archie Alexander, who she proudly notes now trains in Ballarat.
Head-Maarek also caught up with jockey-trainer Michelle Payne, the first female rider to win the Melbourne Cup, at an event to celebrate women in sport on Oaks Day.
“Michelle Payne came and spent a few months with me when she was younger,” Head-Maarek recalled.
“She’s doing so well. I’m very proud of her also.”
She did not have any advice for Payne.
“You don’t give advice to anyone.
“She does what she does and she knows what she does.
“She’s a very good rider and I’m sure she’ll make a good trainer.”
Payne fondly recalls the time she spent travelling around Europe in 2009 where she worked for Head-Maarek, Luca Cumani and Aidan O’Brien, soaking up as much knowledge as she could from the three top trainers.
“Watching Criquette with her huge stable and achieving so much success, it was great to be a part of her team for a short time,” said Payne, who now juggles her riding commitments with training 15 horses.
Head-Maarek, the first female racehorse trainer in France, hopes more and more women embrace training.
“They do as well as men.
“It’s a question of horses.
“You have to find good owners to have good horses, and then good horses make good trainers and good jockeys.”