The French Connection: Mickaelle Michel

December 8, 2022

Mickaelle Michel giving Secret Oath a work for D. Wayne Lukas. (Coady Photography)

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—French jockey and world traveler Mickaelle Michel is scheduled to make her Oaklawn debut in Friday’s seventh race, a $104,000 allowance sprint, aboard Backyard Money for maybe her biggest supporter, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Michel, 27, was previously based in Kentucky and has five victories since she began riding in the United States in late May at Churchill Downs.

“I’m freelance, but I rode a lot for Mr. Lukas before I came here,” Michel said. “I tried to meet every trainer at Churchill Downs. I knew he was one of the biggest trainers over there, so I just tried to speak with him and things went really good. We spoke a lot about what he had done and what I had done. He gave me few to breeze and some to ride and I showed him that I was really motivated and wanted to do something special.”

Among the horses Michel began working for Lukas was Secret Oath, the 2022 multiple Oaklawn stakes winner/Kentucky Oaks champion. Michel also began securing mounts for Lukas in the afternoon.

“She’s been riding for a few big trainers, so she’s got names needed behind her,” said Michel’s agent, Becky Esch.

Michel said she’s ridden in 12 countries, won races in eight and stakes in four. Her resume includes being France’s champion apprentice in 2018 and, in 2020, winning 30 races in Japan and a Group 2 event in Italy.

“Every track is different in every country,” Michel said. “I never rode on dirt before going to Japan. You don’t have a track like this in Europe, so I had to learn from that. I’ve learned a lot.”

Michel is named on three horses, all for Lukas, during the first three days of the Oaklawn meeting. Michel rode Backyard Money to a fourth-place finish in her last start, a first-level allowance sprint, Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs. 

Michel has had 96 mounts in the United States.

Finish Lines

Steve Asmussen enters the 2022-2023 meeting with 820 career victories in Hot Springs, 48 shy of surpassing the late Bob Holthus (867) as the winningest trainer in Oaklawn history. Asmussen, at some point during the Oaklawn meeting that ends May 6, also will become the first trainer to reach 10,000 career victories in North America. He entered Thursday with 9,957, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. … 

Stanley Roberts, the semi-retired/retired owner/trainer from Forrest City, Ark., is scheduled to send out Mo Wanna Go in Friday’s ninth race, which would mark his first starter since April 19, 2020, at Oaklawn. Roberts’ Oaklawn stable at the last two meetings was run by his daughter, trainer Sherry Rhea. Roberts has 957 career training victories, including 193 at Oaklawn. … 

There are 10 races Saturday, including the inaugural $150,000 Ring the Bell Stakes and the $150,000 Mistletoe Stakes. First post is 12:30 p.m. (Central). … Full siblings Will’s Secret (Mistletoe) and Ben Diesel (race 10 allowance), both for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, are among 113 horses entered Saturday. 

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