By Jessie Oswald
The calendar will show that Rodolphe Brisset passed the one-year mark as a trainer on April 1st, but he’s quickly making a name for himself with the success of Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip. Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Racing, the win put the Distorted Humor colt on the list for consideration for the spring classics and gave his young trainer his first graded stakes win.
“Winning that race was very rewarding and emotional, but you have to make sure you keep your feet on the ground, enjoy it for a day or two and then regroup and try to get another one,” said the humble Brisset.
Delve deeper into his record over his first year as a trainer and it becomes apparent that come the first Saturday in May, Brisset will have plenty to cheer about should either Justify or Noble Indy get their nose down in front on the wire.
Brisset may be most recognized as a former assistant trainer for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, but the French native has been working with and riding horses for much of his 34 years. Growing up in the countryside of Tours, France, Brisset and his sister spent weekends at the family vacation home about 30 miles from his parents’ restaurant and down the road from a horse ranch. With no family connection to horses, it was at the ranch that Brisset picked up the horse-riding bug, beginning lessons at age five. He took naturally to riding and progressed quickly.
“I think I was born to be on the racehorse,” Brisset joked from his base at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky. “It’s really something that feels very natural for me. I’m more comfortable on the horse than on my feet.”
As Brisset’s aptitude for horses grew, he competed in cross-country and dressage and was at the ranch most every day, even helping break their young horses. By age 10 he was riding in France’s popular pony races. At 12, representatives from the esteemed AFASEC School in Chantilly, France, approached the pre-teen after his win in a pony race that was sandwiched between races on Chantilly’s regular racing card. His future was set. Brisset enrolled in the school at age 14 and attended for two years before riding his first professional race as a jockey at age 16, the earliest he could be licensed. But with his body still growing, a career as a jockey would not last long.
“It was fun,” recalled Brisset. “But from 18 to 21, it was tough, between the weight and maybe I started to mature and realize that I was not very good as a jockey, I just started to think about something else.”
With his dreams of being a jockey coming to an end, Brisset looked for other opportunities in the industry. Though he couldn’t ride in the afternoon races, his nearly 20 years of experience riding and working with horses made him an excellent exercise rider and horseman. Recognized for his talents on and off the racetrack, Brisset was offered a job with one of France’s leading trainers, Alain de Royer-Dupré, where he learned how to make the transition from jockey to assistant trainer.
“It was a big change for me,” said Brisset. “He’s a very detail-oriented person. He’s the one that gave me that passion about getting your horse ready to the point that you get the best out of them for the start. I started to get on some of the horses that were difficult in the morning and we tried to fix them. The turn for me between being a jockey and trainer. I spent time with him and it really made me realize that this was something maybe I would be, an assistant trainer, and, maybe at some point, train.”
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