Delacour’s Five February Victories End Early Season Slump, Earning Him Tampa Bay Downs Trainer Of Month Honors – Horse Racing News

On a typical morning during the Tampa Bay Downs season in Oldsmar, Fla., trainer Arnaud Delacour observes his horses working out from a box seat across from the finish line, alert to any hiccups in the routine that may occur.

Smartphone – check. Binoculars – check. Stopwatch – check. And, in a nod to modern technology, a two-way radio that allows him to communicate with his exercise riders during a workout.

“I’m trying to say almost nothing” during the morning breezes, the Salt Rock Tavern Trainer of the Month said March 3 during the break between training sessions. “Just give them (the riders) their (furlong) times. … ’13 (seconds). Twelve and change. Let him pick it up. Great.’ It also helps them to get their timing right. It’s a question of practice. The more they do it, when they’re starting too fast, they can feel it.”

Delacour and his wife Leigh, a trainer from 2007-2013, employ four exercise riders, one of whom, Moises Nava, is also the assistant trainer. “They each have their fortes and strong points, and we try to adjust to find the best guy for each horse, or the other way around,” Delacour said.

In recent years at Tampa Bay Downs, few trainers have been as successful as Delacour in fitting the right horses to the right races. His skills were on full display two years ago, when he sent out 5-year-old mare Jehozacat to win the Wayward Lass Stakes on the dirt and, three weeks later, the Grade 3 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on the turf for owner Lael Stables.

With 20 graded-stakes victories to his credit, a 2016 Eclipse Award finalist in sprinter A. P. Indian – who won six consecutive stakes that year, including two Grade 1 races at Saratoga – and a classic-placed runner in 2015 Preakness third-place finisher Divining Rod, a Grade 3 winner who previously finished second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, Delacour is among the best trainers whose names rarely get mentioned by the industry’s media talking heads.

But even the normally unflappable product of Lisieux, France, grew a bit concerned when he failed to win a race from 19 starters from Jan. 8 through Feb. 12.

“For a trainer, for a jockey, for an owner, it’s always a concern when you’re not winning races. I’d be lying if I didn’t say so,” Delacour said. “But we keep doing what we do every day – train them, assess them, make sure they’re sound, happy and fit, and hopefully enter them in the right races. Usually, it works out.”

After breaking his mini-slump with two victories on Feb. 13, Delacour added two more on Feb. 20, including a thrilling nose victory on the turf by 5-year-old gelding Commence. A maiden special weight victory by 3-year-old filly Dawn on Feb. 27 clinched the deal – from dry spell to recognition as the Salt Rock Tavern Trainer of the Month in a span of nine racing days.

Of course, every horse progresses at a different pace, and it is Delacour’s responsibility to gauge where each best fits on a racing card. In a sport in which a 15-percent strike rate translates to success, such calculations take on added importance.

“With our young horses, not all of them are maiden special weight or allowance caliber,” Delacour said. “By the time we get them assessed fully, we’re more able to aim them a little better and put them in the right spots. It’s a great feeling to be able to take a young horse that doesn’t know anything, develop it step-by-step, point it in the right direction and eventually win a race.”

Delacour, who keeps about 30 horses at Tampa Bay Downs and 10 at Classic Mile in Ocala, shares his passion with Leigh. They race out of Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland during the summer.

The Delacours have three sons: Luca, 9; Julien, 7; and Alistair, who turns 4 on March 15. “We are trying to expose them to racing, and if they have the vibe for it, that’s great,” Delacour said. “But we’re not going to push them into it. That’s going to be up to them.”

Delacour and Lael Stables, owned and operated by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, have been a force on the graded-stakes scene, with victories by Jehozacat, Divining Rod, 2019 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes winner Hawksmoor, Magic Attitude – who won the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational in 2020 and the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Stakes in 2021 – and others. “Mark Grier is also a very good supporter of our operation,” said Delacour, who trained that owner’s Eons to a 2019 victory in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes and a runner-up finish in last year’s Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes.