Alec Head, part of one of the great French racing dynasties, has died aged 97.
Head's father and grandfather were both successful jockeys-turned-trainers called William, with Head following in their footsteps by riding before taking out his licence and being crowned France's leading handler for four successive years between 1952 and 1955.
During his training career, Head sent out four Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winners in Nuccio (1952), Saint-Crespin (1959), Ivanjica (1976) and Gold River (1981) and also won the Derby at Epsom with Lavandin in 1956.
Head, along with his father and brother Peter, also established the Haras du Quesnay stud near Deauville, with such racings greats as Prudent, Le Fabuleux, Bon Mot, Astec, Chaparral, Riverqueen, Detroit, Bering, Ravinella, and dual Arc heroine Treve either bred or associated with the yard.
Head's family is steeped in racing, with both his son Freddy and daughter Criquette excelling in the sport.
Freddy Head was a six-times champion jockey in France and is a highly successful trainer, while Criquette stated out as assistant to her father before taking out her own licence in 1978.
She became the first woman to train an Arc winner the following year when Three Troikas - owned by her mother Ghislaine and ridden by her brother - triumphed at Longchamp, and expertly guided the career of Treve. Freddy Head's son Christopher is also now a trainer in Chantilly.
France Galop said Head was the “heir to a family tradition, but also a founder driven by exceptional vision and energy” and that his name was “known to all” in “the four corners” of the racing world, adding: “To his wife Ghislaine, to his children Freddy, Criquette, Patricia and Martine, France Galop sends its deepest condolences.”
Edouard de Rothschild, president of France Galop, said in a statement: “For nearly 100 years, Alec Head has marked the history of racing, first as a jockey, then as a trainer for the sport’s most prestigious owners, but also as a breeder of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners that were bred at his Haras de Quesnay in Normandy and as an owner of champions.
“We remember him for his pioneering spirit, his talent for exploring new projects, for being a man ahead of his time who always looked towards the future. He was incredibly daring and ambitious. His exceptional career has influenced several generations of racing professionals and enthusiasts.
“Alec Head inspired his children and grandchildren who today carry on the family tradition. To his family and to all those who loved and admired him, France Galop offers its sincere condolences.”