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NBA legend Parker spurred on by first racing classic success

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NBA legend Tony Parker said winning the French 1000 Guineas (Poule d’Essai des Pouliches) at Longchamp on Sunday gave him the “same burst of adrenaline” as when he won his four titles.

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The French sporting icon watched he said “calmly” as his Mikel Delzangles-trained filly Mangoustine denied bold front runner Cachet a Guineas double having won the English edition a fortnight ago.

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However the impact of the victory soon sunk in as he welcomed back his first classic winner after only a year’s involvement in the sport.

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“It is enormous this, it is like living a dream,” said Parker, who turns 40 on Tuesday.

“I have won a leg of the Triple Crown for the fillies (the French Oaks and the Arc de Triomphe being the other two) inside a year of getting involved.

“Some people own horses for 30 years and never enjoy these moments.

“I am going to enjoy this moment because you never know it may not happen again,” he added laughing.

Parker — whose horses run under the name Infinity Nine a nod to the number shirt he wore during his playing days — said winning this had given him as much pleasure as one of his NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs.

“I was calm as I always was during my playing days as the race unfolded, so were the others in my box,” he said.

“But when (Mangoustine’s jockey) Gerald Mosse came to challenge Cachet I got the same rush of adrenaline as I did during those championship games.

“I am as passionate about this sport as I was basketball.

“It is similar in ways because it is not just about me it is also about building a team.”

Parker — dressed in smart causal style in a beige suit with no tie — said it had always been on his radar to get involved in the ‘Sport of Kings.’

“I always said when I retired…I mean my sporting career, I would buy horses,” he said grinning.

“Living in Texas when I was playing I was surrounded by horses, there were ranches everywhere.

“It gave me the appetite to become involved.”

– ‘Equality in sport’ –

Parker has bought a stud farm in Normandy — with fellow French basketball star Nicolas Batum — the Haras de Quetieville.

“I always said I was in this for the long term,” he said.

“I am not the type to blow in for two to three years hence buying the stud was a statement of intent.

“I said all this when I presented my package to France Galop (French racing authorities) last year.

“For me it was not just about owning horses but also creating a breeding operation.

“We already have a mare there (Best Win his first winner) but Mangoustine is a good one in terms of the future when she retires!”

Parker’s other filly Zelda finished a creditable sixth under Coralie Pacaut, who was just the fourth woman jockey to ride in the race.

Parker had insisted to Zelda’s trainer Jean Claude Rouget that 24-year-old Pacaut, the 2019 champion female jockey, have the ride.

“She gave Zelda a great ride,” said Parker.

“I am passionate about equality in sport and anything I can do to promote it I will do.

“She is a very talented jockey and deserves every chance she can get.”

Parker will be unable to sport the chic relaxed look he wore at Longchamp should Mangoustine go to Royal Ascot in June — there top hat and tails will be his compulsory attire.

“That would ba amazing to have a runner there,” said Parker.

Parker was also instrumental in luring present Formula One championship leader Charles Leclerc into racing.

Leclerc, though, fell short in the French 2000 Guineas (Poule d’Essai des Poulains) as his runner Lassaut failed to find the acceleration worthy of his Ferrari-driving owner.

The laurels went to Modern Games trained by English 2000 Guineas winning handler Charlie Appleby.

Modern Games — the first winner of the race trained in England since Shamardal in 2005 — is likely to go for the French Derby in June.



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