On a pretty quiet news day, I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a look at French racing, with Saint-Cloud hosting the prestigious Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris.
With £250,000 going to the winner, this is not only one of the most historic of races, but also an incredibly valuable one. Run on Bastille Day, it was established in 1863, and continued to be France’s leading Flat race until the birth of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 1920.
Three-year-old colts and fillies are eligible to run, and the roll of honour is an impressive one. Often seen as a pointer for the Arc, the last horse to complete the famous double was Rail Link back in 2006. Last year’s winner Erupt, went on to finish a creditable fifth in the Arc.
Flintshire took the event in 2013, though failed somewhat to build on that success during his three-year-old campaign. Only fourth in the Prix Niel followed by a midfield finish in the Arc behind the wonderful Treve, suggested he was unlikely to make an impact at the highest level. However, Khalid Abdullah’s colt certainly showed his true colours during the following campaign, with a sequence of runner-up finishes in Group 1 events, including chasing home Treve in the 2014 Arc. His season concluded with victory in the valuable Hong Kong Vase.
He continued to compete at the highest level as a five-year-old, again finishing runner-up in the Arc, this time getting the better of Treve, but failing to catch John Gosden’s Golden Horn. An outstanding racehorse for Andre Fabre, he is now based in America and trained by Chad Brown. He won his seasonal debut at Belmont Park in fine style.
It should come as no real surprise to see that Andre Fabre is the leading trainer for the Grand Prix de Paris with 13 victories. Fabre’s winners include the outstanding Subotica, who won the Arc as a four-year-old and the sensational colt Peintre Celebre. The latter won four of his five starts as a three-year-old, including the French Derby and the Arc.
Peintre Celebre’s victory in France’s most prestigious race was one of the most outstanding in living memory. The Arc of 1997 attracted its usual strong field, including 96 winner Helissio; the Arc runner-up and multiple Group 1 winner Pilsudski, and the outstanding King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes dual winner Swain. Despite such powerful opposition, Fabre’s colt swept to the front in the latter stages before destroying the field with a stunning turn of foot. He won by five lengths, smashing the track record by more than three seconds. Sadly, injury prevented him from running at four, and he was retired to stud.
Fabre has several entered for today’s Grand Prix de Paris, no doubt hoping to find one half as good as Peintre Celebre or Rail Link. The bookies see his Godolphin pair as the main challengers, with Cloth Of Stars looking to get his season back on track after a disappointing performance in the Epsom Derby. By Sea The Stars out of a Kingmambo mare, he certainly has the pedigree, and has four wins from his seven career starts. He was too keen at Epsom, having looked a major contender two furlongs out. He’ll probably be ridden with more restraint today, and remains a classy prospect.
Godolphin’s other entrant is the French Derby fourth Talismanic. His career stats of two wins from six starts probably points to his level of ability. He looks a solid sort, but it’s tough to get excited over his future prospects.
Fabre’s third contender is the outsider of the three according to the bookies, and is taking a huge step up in class. Maniaco runs in the famous Wertheimer silks, and is a colt by Galileo out of a classy mare Plumania. She was just short of top class, but was good enough to finish runner-up in two Prix Vermeilles, the second occasion chasing home the outstanding Midday. Maniaco is therefore an interesting contender as far as pedigree is concerned, and is the most unexposed runner in the race, having only had two career starts.
Fabre may fail to add to his 13 victories in one of France’s most historic and prestigious events. But he remains the ‘go to’ trainer for such high profile races, and a master at producing outstanding racehorses.