Christophe Soumillon, the 10-time French champion jockey who was banned last week for elbowing a competitor off his horse, has been ditched by Aga Khan Studs as the fallout continues over the controversy at Saint-Cloud.
Princess Zahra Aga Khan had said at Longchamp on Saturday, after Soumillon had won the Prix Daniel Wildenstein on Erevann, that the jockey’s actions had been ‘reprehensible’ and that his position would be discussed on Monday.
A statement put out by her father’s studs today, after that meeting, said it had ‘taken the decision to cease their retainer with Christophe Soumillon with immediate effect.’
The repercussions from the incident started last Friday when Soumillon elbowed Rossa Ryan off Captain Wierzba, which resulted in a 60-day ban from France Galop.
However, Tuesday's statement also made it pretty clear that finishing second on Vadeni, after which Soumillon went to weigh in in tears, to Alpinista in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe on Sunday is unlikely to be his last ride in the famous green silks with red epaulettes.
“From this week onwards,” it added, “Soumillon may still ride in the Aga Khan silks on occasion at the discretion of the French trainers and the Aga Khan Studs team. No jockey would be retained in France for the foreseeable future.”
And so one of the most enduring partnerships in French racing - Soumillon has ridden for the Aga Khan between 2002 and 2009 and 2014 to the present - has come to an end - formally, if nothing else.
Soumillon told the Racing Post: “I am, of course, very disappointed to lose my retainer with the Aga Khan Studs but am immensely proud and honoured to have held such a highly esteemed position for so long and wish them continued success. I realise I have bridges to rebuild, am determined to show commitment and desire to those owners and trainers that wish to engage my services.”
Soumillon, 41, has won countless big races on Aga Khan horses including both his Arcs on Dalakhani and Zarkava. He is one of a handful of French jockeys considered truly world class and though he is set to miss a number of big international meetings this autumn including Champions Day, the breeders’ Cup and Japan Cup, one imagines, he will bounce back from this.
He is not the only high profile jockey to lose their contracts with owners this year; David Egan (Prince Faisal), Andrea Atzeni (Sheikh Mohammed Obaid) and Rossa Ryan (Amo Racing) have all gone their separate ways in the last few months while Frankie Dettori had a ‘sabbatical’ from John Gosden.