Zipse: Flavien Prat is taking New York by storm

Zipse: Flavien Prat is taking New York by storm
Photo: Justin Manning / Eclipse Sportswire

Looking to hone his riding skills, Flavien Prat moved his tack full time from California to New York. If the first big Saturday of the year at Belmont Park is any indication, it’s a move that will catapult the native of France into the stratosphere as one of the best jockeys in the world.

After a pair of second-place finishes earlier in the card, including a head-bobbing loss in the Vagrancy (G3) to the heavily favored Bella Sophia, Prat concluded the afternoon with three consecutive wins.

In the Peter Pan (G3), he pushed along We the People to the early lead and coasted home the easiest kind of winner. In the Beaugay (G3) he waited patiently before unleashing a devastating stretch kick of Rougir on the Belmont turf. In the finale, an allowance sprint on the turf, he moved his 7.8-1 mount off the rail, split horses and got up in the final strides.

On an excellent card of racing, featuring America’s top riding colony, there was little doubt as to who was the best rider on this afternoon.

This type of success is nothing new for the 29-year-old. The champion apprentice jockey in France in 2009, he moved his tack to Southern California seven winters ago.

Stationed on the West Coast, Prat quickly became the top jockey at the important Santa Anita and Del Mar meets and became more dominant with each passing year.

In 2021, Prat won a career-best 246 races, which included a rousing Preakness victory aboard the unheralded Rombauer. His mounts earned a career-best $23,214,813. It was the first season in his career that he had more than 200 wins and had mounts who earned more than $20 million.

Still, there was no championship for Prat. The Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey has gone to a New York-based rider for 12 years running.

As much as he loved Southern California, he knew New York was the place to be if was going to prove himself as the best of the best. Not only does New York offer the best competition, it also provides the greatest opportunity for truly elite riders.

Prat already is becoming a regular rider for four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Chad Brown. It looks like the start of a beautiful friendship.

Last year he rode Domestic Spending to a pair of Grade 1 victories, and this year, he looks to be becoming the go-to rider for New York’s elite trainer.

It’s a partnership that almost earned Brown his elusive first Kentucky Derby winner with Zandon. After a rough first few strides out of the gate, Prat did a masterful job in guiding the big race’s third betting choice into a winning position at the head of the stretch before ultimately falling just short to Rich Strike and Epicenter.

With his youthful good looks and his prematurely graying hair, Prat is a bit of a dichotomy in appearance. On the track, he offers every quality you could want in a rider. Turf or dirt, sprinting or going long, on the lead or coming from well back, he has an innate talent to do best for his mount.

An excellent judge of pace, Prat is a natural who knows how to work in unison with the powerful Thoroughbred beneath him when the real riding begins.

As a regular rider for Brown, who has a stronger stable than ever, plus all the other top horsemen who will likely enjoy the skill and versatility of the Frenchman, Prat likely will get mounts that he never dreamed of before.

To date, his biggest wins have come with long shots. Country House was put up in the Kentucky Derby, and Storm the Court was resolute down the lane in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Both were ridden by Prat at near Rich Strike type of odds.

No longer a rider of only long shots in big races, he appears primed to be sitting on a steady diet of top horses in the nation’s biggest races.

Great French riders have ridden regularly in America before. Back in the day, there were Jean Cruget and Jean Luc Samyn, and more recently, Julien Leparoux and Florent Geroux. All talented and successful riders in their own right, but Prat might prove best of them all.

And as deep and talented as his new riding colony is in New York, Prat will fit in and be successful right away.

When I think of the best riders in the nation right now, names such as Irad Ortiz Jr., Joel Rosario, Johnny Velazquez, Jose Ortiz, Luis Saez and Tyler Gaffalione spring to mind. Flavien Prat not only belongs on the list, he might just be the best of them all.

Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to HRN, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing webcast HorseCenter, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars and is a Vox Populi committee member. He is a voter for racing's Hall of Fame, as well as a weekly NTRA poll voter. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

ZATT's Star of the Week
Nature Strip

Top Stories

The Brad Cox barn continues to have success with i...
Klaravich Stables’ Gerrymander gave four-time Ecli...
Two-time Grade 1 winner Jack Christopher  breezed...
Lady Rocket  went straight to the front and turned...
Westover , who finished third in the Group 1 Engli...