Alex Achard was all smiles and still fielding congratulations the morning of Oct. 13, four days after earning his first Grade 1 triumph aboard Bonne Chance Farm and Stud R D I’s In Love (BRZ) in the $750,000 Keeneland Turf Mile (G1).
The race was a “Win and You’re In” for the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) Presented by PDJF to be contested at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
The Breeders’ Cup will be something of a homecoming for Achard, who spent a winter in California as an exercise rider about 10 years ago before continuing his race riding career in his native France with side trips around Europe and to China.
With limited opportunities overseas, Achard opted to reboot his career in the U.S. in 2018. He chose Indiana Grand for its proximity to tracks in Kentucky and Ohio with chances to find mounts nearly every day. He rode 32 races without winning in his first season, but his work ethic began paying off the following year. Always willing to introduce himself to trainers and ride their horses wherever they are, Achard came upon In Love’s trainer, Paulo Lobo, at The Thoroughbred Center in north Lexington.
“When I moved here, I didn’t really know many people,” Achard said. “One day I was walking to the barns like I do pretty much every day. I guess a rider didn’t show up, and Paulo asked if I could breeze a horse and I said, ‘Sure.’ That’s how it (riding for Lobo) started.”
Lobo recognized Achard’s talent and willingness to travel and began hiring him for races. In his first try aboard In Love, Achard guided him to an allowance victory at Arlington Park. Next out, the team captured the listed TVG Stakes at Kentucky Downs in September in a prep for the Keeneland Turf Mile.
“Alex is a great jockey. I was watching him two years ago and he came to my barn asking to work some horses,” Lobo said after the Turf Mile. “We gave him some horses to work, some horses to ride. He’s been improving and he is a very good jockey. He knows very well how to put a horse in a comfortable place that a horse needs to be.”
Achard relished the energy of Keeneland’s opening weekend, and said he wasn’t nervous before the Keeneland Turf Mile.
“I was actually very confident before the race, but I didn’t tell anybody,” Achard said. “For some riders it can be a bit of pressure, but I don’t take it that way. I really enjoy it because it is really fun to see people. I just love it.”
Two days after the biggest win of his career, Achard was back at Indiana Grand, where he rode one winner from five mounts. He continues to receive the attention that began pouring in as soon as In Love crossed the finish line 1½ lengths in front.
“It was amazing because when the horse won at Kentucky Downs, that was huge,” he said. “We knew that was a big step to run against Grade 1 horses at Keeneland. I got a lot of calls from France and the United States to congratulate me, so that was cool.”