Flavien Prat has impressed while riding full time in America for only about two years, spending most of his time on the Southern California circuit. He’s won on nearly 18% of his mounts this year and has racked up over $12 million in purse money, good for 11th in the country.
The 24-year-old Frenchman set a record in France as an apprentice rider, winning 62 races, before agent Derek Lawson convinced Prat to permanently shift his tack to the states after Prat was passed up to be the number-one rider for the Wertheimer stable.
“I told Flavien, ‘You don’t need to be number two for anyone. You can be number one. You just have to make the decision that you want to come to the United States and try it,’” Lawson told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. “He made that decision with his parents and I did everything I could [to help].”
The decision has paid off dividends for Prat, who’s landed such prestigious mounts as Lord Nelson, the recently-retired sprinter that gave Prat two Grade I stakes victories this year. Prat’s also ridden Hoppertunity, Taris, Avenge and Obviously, who secured Prat’s first Breeders’ Cup win in the Turf Sprint. Prat had an astonishing nine mounts in the 13 Breeders’ Cup races held last weekend.
“He’s got an unbelievable natural gift for getting a horse to settle and finish,” trainer Doug O’Neill told Del Mar media in 2015. “He’s pretty phenomenal…a great addition to the jockey colony. He’s got a great present and an even greater future.”
O’Neill continued, “It’s one thing to see a kid from France be good on horses going long on the grass. It’s still special but you kind of expect it from the way they race over in Europe. But to see the same individual doing what he does sprinting, and especially sprinting on the dirt; that’s a natural right there.”
Richard Mandella, another west coast-based trainer, has been especially supportive of Prat since he started coming to America in stops-and-starts in 2009.
“His record speaks for itself,” Mandella told Del Mar media. “Just a terrific, gifted rider. I can’t say enough about him, I think the world of him.”
There have been some bumps in the road for Prat in America though. On Sept. 17, 2015, he fell from a horse in a race at Los Alamitos and suffered five fractured vertebrae in his back and a punctured lung.
“It’s a tough job and part of the job,” Prat told the LA Times when asked about the incident.
Though he was given an estimated recovery time of six months, Prat was back riding at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, barely two months after his fall. He finished in second-place in the jockey standings at that meet, with 51 wins from 293 mounts.
The gifted Prat will be one to watch for on the west coast for years to come.
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