An Interview with French Trainer Amanda Zetterholm
Amanda Zetterholm has been excitedly anticipating the future and the start of her and business partner Noel George's training venture in France under their own names.
Amanda was an amateur Flat jockey and rode winners in England, France and Italy. She has already passed the training exams. Noel, son to UK National Hunt trainer Tom, was an amateur jumps jockey and recently completed the same exams. Success has already gone their way with Il Est Français, who Tom George put under their care, winning the Grade 1 Champion 4-year-old Hurdle in November at Auteuil.
Amanda (third in from the left) celebrating their big winner
Amanda is Swedish born, where horseracing opportunities were sparse, so it was when she was studying in Australia and going to the Melbourne Cup, that this sport caught her imagination.
Amanda and Noel train at Avilly Saint Leonard, ten kilometres outside Chantilly, at the French Galop training centre. It's a beautiful location with tracks through the woods, oval gallops and jumping lanes where any type of racehorse can be trained up to ultimate fitness. Plus, there are all the other benefits of having racehorses trained in France, including the higher prize money, sunny weather, the cuisine and wine, visiting Paris on route...this country has so much to offer on top of its excellent racing. Amanda and Noel will undoubtably reap the rewards.
Which is your favourite racecourse? Auteuil – it’s the temple of racing in France.
Which is your favourite race meeting? The Cheltenham Festival is just magic for any nationality. It would be a peak for us to have runners and winners there.
What do you love about horse racing in France? I love it for so many reasons – the beautiful racecourses, the culture, the food, Paris – just everything. We've had badly handicapped horses come over from England and have done really well with them here. The high prize money is a big incentive too and is very lucrative for owners.
What are the perks about having a racehorse trained in France? There are many! It's financially better. For example, France Galop refunds the travelling expenses for runners that finish out of the prize money. There's a great programme for young horses, for the three and four-year-olds. By working alongside French breeders, we are able to source horses before they get really expensive and whilst they are still in the field.
What does French racing do better than its British and Irish counterparts? Prize money and the race programme for the youngsters. Furthermore, France Galop, which is like the BHA and Weatherby’s combined, has encouraged French racehorse ownership by making it easy for owners to open accounts. It is an amazing governing body who never fall short, even on maintaining the tracks and training centres.
Who is your racing hero? Jessica Harrington for being such a versatile trainer – she trains two-year-olds up to staying chases - and for being a woman in a male dominated environment.
Who is your favourite jockey? Christophe Pieux; fifteen times champion National Hunt jockey in France – by far the best jump jockey in French history. He was the equivalent of AP McCoy in British racing.
Is there a French-bred that you wish you could train? A Plus Tard.
Which is the one race, anywhere in the world, that you'd like to train the winner of? The Melbourne Cup. Flemington racecourse is where my love of racing started when I was studying there. Makybe Diva was an amazing winner of three Melbourne Cups.
One of the many beautifully maintained gallops at Avilly Saint Leonard.
*Many thanks to Old Gold Racing for the help in securing this interview. They published it first in their fabulous newsletter Racing Weekly. To sign up, go to https://mailchi.mp/2f6ba62d6182/racing-weekly-lead-capture