She is the female face of horse racing. At 34, Camille Levesque has established herself as an essential jockey in the most prestigious mounted trotting races. Coming from a dynasty of champions (her father, grandfather and great-grandfather), the young woman has logically followed the family line and is preparing to run this Sunday, Champions Day 2022. at the Hippodrome de Vincennes.
Horseback riding, Camille has been immersed in it since her earliest childhood. Daughter of a renowned trainer (Pierre) and an air hostess, the eldest of the family began riding ponies after school. “I rode in an equestrian club, I had my pony (Adrienne), we did pony races between trainers in the region,” she recalls amused. A studious student, she pursued a classic course and started a business school, once she had her baccalaureate. “When you’re a trainer’s daughter, you have the opportunity to continue your studies while racing the horses in the stable. It’s a big advantage. Because for the Levesques, horseback riding is at the heart of the family business. His great-grandfather (Henri) laid the foundations of this heritage by creating his own stable in the 1930s. He would subsequently achieve numerous successes, including the prestigious Prix de Cornulier or Prix d’Amérique, and so many places of honor. Under his leadership, the family stable was among the top five in France in the 1960s!
A double-edged heritage. Because as the young mother explains, “at the beginning, it’s an asset because we have the chance to ride good horses, but quickly, it becomes a disadvantage because we are much more expected and therefore much more critical “. Dubbed a “daughter of” when she started out, Camille has since proven herself with 203 wins in 1,285 career races. This season, it is already 11 successes in 42 starts. “Today I take it as a positive, because I’m lucky to have my father and brother’s stable near my house. So I ride horses that a freelancer wouldn’t ride. »
And in 2019, it’s the consecration. Camille won the Prix de l’Île-de-France (group race 1) with Dexter Fromentro. “It was the apotheosis!” I told myself that I didn’t want to end my career without having won Group 1. It was a huge relief. A feat that she will succeed in reproducing during the same year, with Granvillaise-Bleue, the mare with which she will start at the start of the Vincennes racecourse this Sunday. The couple has already won a race in March and regularly appears on the podiums.
Between the family stable in Beuzeville-la-Bastille (Manche), where her father and brother take care of horse training, and Beuvron-en-Auge (Calvados) where she is based with her husband, near the stud farm, Camille Levesque has developed a keen sense of organization. Especially since she became the mother of a little Margot in 2020. While for high-level sportswomen, motherhood is often synonymous with the end of a career, Camille’s was synonymous with renewal. “I’m enjoying my best years professionally because I’m competing less and only purposefully. Before, I ran maybe 160 times a year, only to end up earning less than in 2021 when I only ran 90 times”. A sacrifice on which she is not about to come back. “I want to enjoy my daughter, especially since I’m lucky to have the family stable behind me which allowed me to make this choice. “A winning bet, since back on horseback two months after the birth of Margot, Camille has continued to chain successes (25 victories last year).
In an eminently male horse racing world, the young woman also had to fight to find her place. “Obviously it’s more difficult when you’re a woman, because it’s a profession that has always been very macho. Nevertheless, the jockey recognizes an unprecedented development in the field. “Girls have a growing place and this is reflected in schools, where there are almost as many female apprentices as their male counterparts. It’s a good thing that the discipline is becoming more democratic. However, the passage from apprentice to the professional world is not obvious and often reserves some surprises for those who embark on the adventure. “It is above all a question of weight. As apprentices, women are favored because they are light. But at the professional level, we have to add lead, because we don’t make the recommended weight. But trainers don’t like to put dead weight on the horse’s back and that’s what puts us at a huge disadvantage. »
Ambitious, Camille Levesque has chosen to set no limits. “My ultimate goal is to win the Prix de Cornulier – the most prestigious event in the discipline of mounted trotting. “Laureate of twenty-five races last year, the young mother “would be delighted” to maintain this rhythm of victories. One of the few female jockeys to face her male counterparts in the most beautiful mounted races will still have an opportunity to shine this weekend at the Paris Vincennes racecourse where she will set off at the start of the Prix de Normandie and of the President of the Republic Prize.