Behind the scenes of the gallopers at the Vignetta Racecourse in Ajaccio.

Outside of racing days, the Vignetta Racecourse is also a training center for gallopers from the Ajaccio region. Trucks pass by at dawn every morning. A place where competition and fun coexist to the rhythm of the hooves

The sun is about to rise on the top of the mountain, in trucks that have just arrived at the parking lot.Hippodrome Vignette. Vans hitched to trucks horses make trips to the track every day.

READ ALSO: Memories of horse racing in Ajaccio

Since 1979, Vignetta has lived in the rhythm of racehorses, when the new Ajaccio Racecourse was opened. Some famous names in the imperial city were associated with the place and the racing society: André Leonardi, François Pittiloni and, more recently, Raymond, then Gilles Leca and Jean-Paul Folacci succeeded each other as president and director. places.

The horses of the Leca cassock are trained by Santa Vanhove. The public trainer also oversees his own horses, as well as the horses guarded by Jacques Simongiovanni.

At 73, his main occupation in retirement is horses. Very often it is he who drives the truck in the morning, accompanied by his riders, he parks his team next to the coach’s team. Let’s go to the galloping morning.

As he helps prepare his horses for the racetrack, behind the wearer’s glasses still shines the childlike spark of those whose passion makes them dream. “She’s very sweet, she doesn’t move” – he says, holding a beautiful bay mare, and the rider puts a carpet and a saddle on his back. “I believe in her because she has a beautiful paper” he adds with pride and surprise.

Indeed, Intellissima, as she is called, was born in purple, Par Intello, a stallion owned by the Wertheimer brothers, owners of Chanel, and mother of Sinndar, the symbolic breeding stallion of His Highness the Aga Khan. Pedigree that makes you dream.

Dream at full speed

But on the track, the atmosphere and spirit are far from those big teams. Here the number is small, and the owners are unlikely to be content with looking after their proteges. In all simplicity and in all friendship.

The seven gallopers represent the red and black coat, the colors found on the van attached to the truck. Every morning a set of four, then a set of three. In red and black for Simongiovanni, in red and blue for Leka and Vanhov. In the yarn (red) is the color of passion.

Before entering the track, we talk about the last performances, correct what needs to be corrected, which horse should do the work (pushed canter), which simple hunting canter (canter at a slow pace). When the lot enters the track, five horses, the owner will place himself at the edge of the track, where the rest are watching their students already at work. He joins Jean-Paul Folacci. Together they sum up the results of the last races and discuss the next dates.

On the track, Folacci’s representative, Santo Rini, is one of the season’s top hopes in the gray and black jersey: “He won a very good race for his debut before finishing fifth and then stopped due to obstacles. I found out he was about to retire and thought it might be worth a try.” explains the owner.

The courage paid off, the horse easily won the new color in Prunelli in mid-April.

READ ALSO: On the hippodrome of Torbia, the distant echo of a gallop

Because what binds these men and women present every morning is the part of sleep that each horse brings. Whether the owner bought it, or, moreover, raised it, devoted so much time and money to the ultimate goal, passing the post in the lead.


It is said that for every horse running, there are five people, and in the small Corsican federation, the owners play their own role. That morning, Jacques Simongiovanni noticed his two horses working in “load to load”, that is, side by side. The 4-year-old red Palikao took second place for his comeback and the colt from home, Golden Trail, made a good impression on his debut at this racetrack.

When the job is done, the horses return to the truck. Their owner’s smile is worth all the comments on his protégé’s performance. Once the horses have arrived, the harness is removed and the horses walk on their hands while they recover. Their breathing is carefully studied, which is a valuable indicator of their physical condition.

Then it’s their stable comrades’ turn to get off the truck and head to the track. The trainer comes to give instructions on the work ahead. A young athlete who came to Corsica to win her first race, Sara Kallak has now settled here every morning, and on race days she rides with the students of Santa Vanhova. It was she who brought Palikao to the podium in her last performance, and she is also the one who provides the best chances for the team to various owners. Time to eat one of the croissants brought by Jacques Simongiovanni, the rider returns to the saddle.

A precious fixture, an old scrap metal table in the parking lot had been stolen a few days earlier. But in the world of racing, men or horses, you have to be tough and not give up. Qualities that Santa Vanjove undoubtedly possesses.

To solve this problem, the next day the trainer was there with a carpenter to assemble the fixture. “indestructible and unstolen”, made from pallets assembled into a ladder. Simple and effective. “This one, they can always try to board it!”, explains the professional, but annoyed that someone had the idea to steal “her” desk.

Effort, work and determination, values ​​shared by men, women and their horses.

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