Alban de Mieulle – A Horsereporter Interview ~
French Trainer, Alban de Mieulle, was delighted with Umm Qarn’s victories during the 2013 Qatar International Race Days, February 26-28.
Over the three days of racing at the Qatar Equestrian Club in Doha, Umm Qarn won 6 out of the 10 Arabian races. On the last day of racing de Mieulle was in the spotlight after winning the coveted GR 1 HH The Emir’s Sword with Umm Qarn’s rising star, Tabarak(Nizam x Altesse D’Aroco by Manganate). This win made it six in a row for the 5-year-old grey stallion. The earlier win of the Gr 1 HH The Emir Trophy for Thoroughbreds with Very Nice Name was the cherry on top of the desert for de Mieulle.
“It has been quite a rewarding day for Umm Qarn and I am pleased with the way our horses won today,” said de Mieulle after the races. “It makes me even more happy as we had winners from three of our stallions; Nizam, Majd Al Arab, and Amer.”
The previous day, the de Mieulle trained 4-year-old Muntasar (Majd Al Arab x Danie du Cassou), half-brother to Dahess (sire, Amer), won the QR 500,000 Gr 1 Qatar International Trophy under David Bouland.
On the Opening Day of the three-day Festival, it was again Umm Qarn in the winner’s circle with Fouladh (Amer x Jaljalah) in the Gr 2 GCC Bred Gulf Cup, that brought home the largest portion of the QR 500,000 ($137,000) prize. This was Fouladh’s seventh victory in eight starts, all under the guidance of Umm Qarn jockey, David Bouland. It was also the second year that Fouladh, now five, had won this prize.
De Mieulle is currently ranked in the top 10 of Arabian Racing trainers worldwide and has been the top ranked trainer in Qatar for many seasons. He trains both Arabian and Thoroughbreds at Umm Qarn’s farms in Doha and in France.
Owned by the Gulf state’s former prime minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani, Umm Qarn is a model of a working race horse farm, and the heartbeat of many of the winners in the region. The stallions at stud include race champions: Amer, Nizam, Majd Al Arab and General in France, and Mugadir and Khattaf in Qatar.
De Mieulle could hardly have chosen another career, as he was inoculated with horses a birth.
“I grew up with horses. My father was an owner/trainer,” de Mieulle told Horsereporter recently in Qatar. “He was, at the time, the leading owner in Western France. We had good mares . Of course, my life was with the horses.”
At 18, de Mieulle started working summers for his uncle, Bertrand de Tarragon, at his Haras de Maulepaire farm. Another uncle had a Horse Club (Club Hippique) and trained race jump horses (steeplechase).
Following what was surely his ultimate calling, de Mieulle became a trainer in France. “In 1995, I had a family program in Bordeaux,” he said. He trained Thoroughbreds and also jump racing, “but I never trained Arabs,” he concluded.
Val Bunting, then manager of Umm Qarn, picked up the story here:
“Umm Qarn was looking for a trainer to work in Qatar. I first searched for one in UK but with no success. I suggested to HH that we look at the possibility of a French trainer. I asked Jean Pierre Totain, but he did not want to move away from France to train. He suggested his friend, Alban de Mieulle. I arranged to meet Alban in Longchamp, Umm Qarn had an Anglo Arab running there in a listed race.”
“Alban had never trained Arabs before, however in France there are many Arabian races, all on the same card as the Thoroughbreds. He was therefore not a stranger to seeing them on the track. I have an instinct when I meet people and my first impressions are usually right. He came across as very professional and serious about his work. And he had a good sense of humour, which is important when dealing with horses, especially Arabians, as they soon get the measure of us humans. He also came recommended by Jean Pierre Totain, who I highly respected as a trainer, and – he was available to start immediately. I am really pleased that it has worked out so well for him, and especially for Umm Qarn.”
De Mieulle continued:
“At the time, I had no idea who was Sheikh Abdulla bin Khalifa Al Thani.” After reporting his meeting to Totain, he admitted: “I have one problem. Where is Qatar? Jean Pierre said to me, “Well, I don’t know, really,” he laughed.
De Mieulle took the job and flew to his new job on the Arabian Gulf.
“I started my first horse, Sarki D’Espiens (Tidjani x Saida by Gosse de Bearn), a colt purchased by Bunting from Totain as a yearling.”
“The morning before my first race, Sheikh Abdulla called me and asked me what I thought about this race. ‘I don’t know,’ I replied, ‘but if this horse does not win, I should not stay.’ He replied, ‘okay’”.
The colt did win, and by ten lengths. “That first season I won 98% of the races,” said de Mieulle with a smile.
Later, Umm Qarn brought on Thoroughbreds as well, but de Mieulle had grown to know and love the Arab horse. “I know Thoroughbreds, but it is nice to train Arabs. For me, I feel Arab horses are sharper, smarter.” He searched for the right word in English; “They are sensitive, they feel. A Thoroughbred will go if you say to go. The Arab horse will ask, ‘why’? I am lucky to have the best horses to train for Sheikh Abdulla.”
A typical year
The racing season in Qatar starts about October 20, and ends about the 10th of May each year. From December to February the top racing includes the Heir Apparent Trophy and Sword Races, the GR 1, HH The Emir’s Sword, and the GR1 International Trophy.
After the season closes in Doha and the temperatures rise to 113F (45C), de Mieulle takes a selection of top horses and moves to the Chantilly facility in France. In the cooler green climate, the horses train and prepare for the European season. Another French farm is used to raise and train 3 year olds in France and ready them for the track.
Of the many horses he has trained, which exceptional horses stand out for de Mieulle?
Al Dahma (Amer x Al Hanoof), he recalls as “a fantastic filly”. At the age of 4, she won 6 of her 9 races. After a great season, at the age of 5 she was found to have a pastern fracture. “You could see the line break on the ex-ray,” said de Mieulle. “The Veterinarians told us there was no chance she would recover for racing.”
“We kept her in her box for six months. At that time, Sheikh Abdulla asked what we might do with her. We bandaged her legs and started her back to work. She made an amazing recovery and won the HH The Emirs Sword two years in a row (2009 and 2010).”
He also remembers General (Amer x Al Hanoof) as a special horse. General won the 2000m Arabian World Cup at the Longchamps Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2009 and 2010, setting the record time of 2:11:20 that remains today. His career total was €937,163,46 prize money. “He had a kick finish,” said de Mieulle. “He also had a very nice character.”
He also speaks fondly of Dahess. “He won everywhere – Turkey, Dubai, France, England. He traveled very well. This was due, as I know, to the Amer blood which gives a quiet character.”
De Mieulle is the Umm Qarn Manager and Trainer in Europe and Qatar, which means he looks after all aspects of the farm – selection of horses, breeding, training, and all small pieces in between.