This race started out as a “Grand Prix” run at the Champ-de-Mars in 1807, during the first Empire. It is now considered the oldest of all French horseraces and has received successive name changes – a result of the varying political forces at play in the country. In 1834 it was named the Grand Prix Royal, then the Grand Prix National (1848), Grand Prix Impérial (1853) and Grand Prix de l’Empereur (1861), before in 1869 being given the name “Prix Gladiateur” in tribute to the French horse that was the first non-British runner to win the English Derby. The full results from the race are available dating all the way back to 1834, when the first volume of the Société d’Encouragement’s racing calendar was published.
The race was run at Champ-de-Mars from its outset until 1856, whereupon the Prix Gladiateur was transferred to the newly built hippodrome at Longchamp in time for the 1857 event. In fact, it has only been held away from those two venues on four occasions: at Chantilly in 1846 and 1906, and in Tremblay in 1942 and 1943. The race did not take place in 1870, from 1914 to 1918 and in 1939 and 1940.
Initially set at a distance of 2 ½ miles (two laps of the Champ-de-Mars track), the race distance was increased to 3 ¾ miles from 1857 to 1860 then to 3 miles 7 furlongs between 1861 and 1954. This distance was maintained for nearly a century and acquired mythical status, before being progressively reduced. Firstly it was cut to 3 miles from 1955 to 1976, then 2 ½ miles from 1977 to 1990 before finally dropping to 1 mile 7 ½ furlongs in 1991. Taking the year 1834 as a starting point, the Prix Gladiateur will be held for the 172nd time in 2012. Since 2008, the race has been sponsored, like the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, by Qatar, one of the seven small states making up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Gladiateur, a bay male bred from Monarque and Miss Gladiator (Gladiator), was born in 1862 at the stables in Dangu (Eure), property of Count Frédéric de Lagrange. He became a legend – his statue adorns the entrance to the Longchamp hippodrome – after winning the 1865 English Derby. England’s most famous race was first held in 1780 and in its 85-year history had never previously been won by a foreign horse. Gladiateur’s landmark victory, 50 years after the Battle of Waterloo, led to a number of facetious journalists to dub the French horse “The Avenger of Waterloo”.
The popular press were quick to leap on Gladiateur’s success. The following day’s copy of Le Petit Journal (a 201, 920 readership) led with the headline “Another victory over the English” and added “When our fighting men achieve a notable triumph over opposing foreign forces… we salute them! The whole of Paris lights up in celebration... Yesterday, France recorded a memorable victory over our English neighbours, but one which won’t affect the peace between the two nations.”
Shortly after his second birthday, following a trial run out at Royallieu (near Compiègne), Gladiateur was sent with a number of other promising young horses from the stable to Tom Jennings’ establishment in Newmarket to have the use of the turf-covered training tracks there. This was because in France at the time the only places available were sandy forest paths.
Gladiateur ran three times at the age of two. In October at Newmarket he finished first, third and out of the frame in the space of 13 days. He would unleash his full potential at three years of age, racking up nine victories and only failing to win his last race, the Cambridgeshire Handicap on 24 October at Newmarket. It should be noted that he was carrying the significant weight of 62.5 kilos (a three year-old has never carried this weight and won) and the race was over 9 furlongs – a little short for a horse not known for his sprinting ability. From May to October he was unstoppable, winning the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket (2 May); the English Derby at Epsom (31 May); the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp (11 June); the Drawing Room Stakes (26 July) and the Bentinck Memorial Stakes (27 July) at Goodwood; the St Leger (13 September) and Doncaster Stakes (15 September) at Doncaster; the Grand Prix du Prince Impérial (later the Prix Royal Oak, 24 September) at Longchamp; and the Newmarket Derby at Newmarket (13 October).
At four years-old, Gladiator continued to reign supreme, winning six races between April and October: the Derby Trial Stakes (4 April) and the Claret Stakes (5 April) at Newmarket; the Grand Prix de l'Impératrice (later the Prix Rainbow, 8 April) and La Coupe (15 April) at Longchamp; the Gold Cup (31 May) at Royal Ascot; and the Prix de l'Empereur (later the Prix Gladiateur, 7 October).
Record : 16 wins and one third place from 19 races.
As his racing career drew to a close, breeders from England and the USA attempted to buy Gladiateur, only for De Lagrange to refuse them all. He did however consent to loan his champion to William Blenkiron at Middle Park Stud farm for two years, for a fee of 75,000 Francs a year, while keeping three coverings for his own mares. So in 1867 and 1868 Gladiateur would perform two seasons of stud duties in England before returning to Dangu to do the same between 1869 and 1870. After the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, Gladiateur and the horses being trained by the Count were sent to England for their safety, before being sold over two auctions held at Tattersalls in London on 5 September 1870 and 20 February 1871. At the first of these sales Gladiateur was sold for 5,800 guineas to William Blenkiron who took him back to Middle Park Stud in Kent, where the champion would perform stud duties during 1871 and 1872. Blenkiron himself passed away at the end of 1872, which led to Middle Park Stud’s assets being liquidated. Gladiateur was subsequently sold for 7,000 guineas to two breeder friends, M. Harcourt and Captain Ray who took him to Dunmow Stud Farm in Essex where he stayed throughout 1873, 1874 and 1875. In July of 1875 he was once again put up for auction, Captain Ray paying 4,300 guineas for sole ownership. However, Gladiateur would not cover in 1876, having been euthanized in January of that year, as revealed in the obituary section for stallions published in the General Stud Book.
In fact, Gladiateur’s death caused barely a ripple on the surface of the sport. Over in England, leading race historians gave only fleeting mention to the champion horse’s passing at the age of 14, while the French press were similarly lacklustre in their coverage. This sorry state of affairs came about because Gladiateur turned out to be a disappointing sire, producing just one notable horse. Born in 1872, he was called Hero and belonged to Tom Jennings who also schooled him. On the 19 May 1874 he won at Newmarket with relative ease and continued to put in classy performances until the day when, during a canter, he broke one of his hind legs. Such were the high hopes that Jennings held in him that he did everything possible to try and save him. After a month of frustration he was forced to accept the truth: there was no way the injury could be healed. Hero had to be put down, much to Jennings’ chagrin, who claimed that “I think that he was as good as his father”.
Paling into comparison with Hero are Gladiateur’s only two sons to have won a race of any importance, Succès (Prix Hocquart, 1874) and Il Gladiatore (Ebor Handicap at the age of three in 1877). In fact the name Gladiateur only made it into the pedigree records thanks to his little-known offspring Lord Gough (born 1869, who would become the maternal grandsire of Bendigo and Kilwarlin, both reliable performers on the track and at stud), and a number of his fillies, of whom Fair Maid of Kent (dam of Kentish Fire who won the 1890 Irish Derby and Frigate, winner of the 1889 Grand National), and especially Keepsake, grand dam to Kasbah (Prix de Diane 1895) who was dam to Kizil Kourgan (Prix de Diane, Grand Prix de Paris), grand dam to Ksar (Prix du Jockey Club, two-time Arc de Triomphe winner) and great-grand dam of another Arc de Triomphe winner, Kantar. Also worthy of note is another son of Gladiateur born in 1868, Grandmaster, who enjoyed a successful career as a stallion after being exported to Australia as a yearling.
N.B. All this information has been taken from the Guy THIBAULT’s book L'épopée de Gladiateur (The epic tale of Gladiateur) published by U.N.I.C., 1990.
A slice of history.
Even before being given the name Prix Gladiateur in 1869, the race had earned quite a reputation, with five of its winners also taking the honours at the Prix du Jockey Club. These were: Frank (1837), Fitz Emilius (1846), Morok (1848), Monarque (1857) and Souvenir (1863). After the renaming in 1869, it would take nearly two decades for another Prix du Jockey Club winner to emerge victorious at the Prix Gladiateur. It was Upas who finally ended the drought in 1887, followed by Omnium II (1896) and Sea Sick (1909), the last horse to achieve that notable feat.
Another exceptional feature of the race was its distance. From 1857 to 1954 it was a stayer’s race run over 3 ¾ miles and then 3 miles 7 furlongs. The Prix Gladiateur was unique in French racing, and could be truly spectacular. That said, its length was so great that it had little importance in breeding terms.
It should be highlighted that in 1866 Gladiateur himself won the race that would go on to bear his name, while special mention must also go to ten horses that have won this race twice: Ténébreuse (1888, 1889), Aquarium (1893, 1894), Elf (1897, 1898), Amer Picon (1902, 1903), Fléchois (1922, 1923), Blue Butterfly (1947, 1949), Epsom Victory (1959, 1960), Kelbomec (1981, 1982), Balitou (1983, 1985) and Kasbah Bliss (2008, 2009).
The record of ten winners is held by Count Frédéric de Lagrange: Monarque (1857), Lysiscote (1860), Surprise (1861), Gladiateur (1866), Auguste (1868), Trocadero (1869), Nougat (1876), Verneuil (1878), Clémentine (1879) and Courtois (1880).
Next on the list come:
6 Paul Aumont: Mon Etoile (1862), Figaro II (1875), Mademoiselle de Senlis (1883), Ténébreuse (1888, 1889) and Mirabeau (1891).
5 Alexandre Aumont: Cavatine (1845), Fitz Emilius (1846), Hervine (1852), Echelle (1853) and Royal Quand Même (1854).
5 Jacques de Brémond: La Licorne (1895), Elf (1897, 1898), Mademoiselle de Longchamps (1901) and Maximum (1905).
4 Baron Edouard de Rothschild: Passebreul (1919), Nopal (1929), Bokbul (1936) and Trevisani (1937).
3 The Count de Cambis: Volante (1836), Nautilus (1840) and Gigès (1841).
3 Prince Marc de Beauvau: Jenny (1843), Prédestinée (1847) and Sérénade (1850).
3 Daniel Wildenstein*: Balitou (1983,1985) and Victoire Bleue (1991).
2 Lord Henry Seymour: Miss Annette (1835) and Frank (1837).
2 The Haras du Pin stud farm: Corisandre (1838) and Eylau (1839).
2 Mrs Latache de Fay: Festival (1855) and Ronzi (1856).
2 Baron Léon Nivière: Miss Cath (1858) and Tippler (1859).
2 Léon André: Don Carlos (1871) and Satory (1884).
2 Emile Deschamps: Aquarium (1893, 1894).
2 Evremond de Saint-Alary: Omnium II (1896) and Basse Pointe (1911).
2 The Marquis de Ganay: Amer Picon (1902, 1903).
2 Alexandre Aumont (grandson of the previously mentioned Alexandre Aumont): Vieux Paris (1904) and Cerfeuil (1925).
2 Edmond Veil-Picard: Clyde (1906) and Pierre Bénite (1910).
2 Henri Ternynck: Odol (1921) and Bouda (1928).
2 Mario Perrone: Fléchois (1922, 1923).
2 Mme William Head: Blue Butterfly (1947, 1949).
2 Mme Léon Volterra: Epsom Victory (1959, 1960).
2 Frank-Walter Burmann: Hunch (1962) and Forceful (1974).
2 Mme Jacques Barker: Kelbomec (1981, 1982).
2 le prince Karim Aga Khan: Tiraaz (1998) and Tajoun (1999).
2 Henri de Pracomtal: Kasbah Bliss (2008, 2009).
*We can also associate him with Ecurie Wildenstein’s success with Westerner in 2004.
The record of 13 wins is currently held by Tom Jennings: Hervine (1852), Echelle (1853), Royal Quand Même (1854), Monarque (1857), Lysiscote (1860), Surprise (1861), Gladiateur (1866), Auguste (1868), Trocadero (1869), Nougat (1876), Verneuil (1878), Clémentine (1879) and Courtois (1880).
Next up are:
10 Henry Jennings: Jenny (1843), Prédestinée (1847), Sérénade (1850), Miss Cath (1858), Tippler (1859), Noélie (1864), Ninon de Lenclos (1865), Don Carlos (1871), Christiania (1874) and Figaro II (1875).
7 Richard Count: Aquarium (1893, 1894), La Licorne (1895), Elf (1897, 1898), Mademoiselle de Longchamps (1901) and Maximum (1905).
5 Fred Carter: Bariolet (1882), Mademoiselle de Senlis (1883), Ténébreuse (1888, 1889) and Mirabeau (1891).
5 William Head: Filidor (1931), Blue Butterfly (1947, 1949), Vatelys (1950) and Hunch (1962).
4 Thomas Carter: Miss Annette (1835), Frank (1837), Drummer (1844) and Dulcamara (1849).
4 Thomas Hurst: Corisandre (1838), Eylau (1839), Cavatine (1845) and Fitz Emilius (1846).
4 François Mathet: Deux Points (1951), Xaret (1953) and Epsom Victory (1959, 1960).
4 Alain de Royer-Dupré: Silver Green (1986), Tiraaz (1998), Tajoun (1999) and Ivory Land (2012).
3 George Cunnington junior: Clyde (1906), Pierre Bénite (1910) and Soun (1927).
3 Elijah Cunnington: Odol (1921), Cerfeuil (1925) and Bouda (1928).
3 Pierre Pelat: Ysard (1952), Ranchiquito (1958) and Biliboy (1978).
3 Henri Van de Poële: Kistinie (1963), Campo Moro (1975) and Knight Templar (1976).
3 André Fabre: Victoire Bleue (1991), Reefscape (2005) and Ley Hunter (2011).
2 George Edwards: Nautilus (1840) and Gigès (1841).
2 J. Boldrick: Festival (1855) and Ronzi (1856).
2 George Cunnington: Primrose (1892) and Vieux Paris (1904).
2 William Barker: Amer Picon (1902, 1903).
2 Michel Pantall: Chambre de l'Edit (1912) and Philippe II (1913).
2 Henry Count: Fléchois (1922, 1923).
2 Maurice Adèle: Révérende II (1932) and Prince Oli (1934).
2 Lucien Robert: Bokbul (1936) and Trevisani (1937).
2 Noël Pelat: Woodcutter (1945) and Savoyard (1956).
2 Léon Gaumondy: Fil Rouge (1955) and Fantomas (1965).
2 Dominique Sartini: Romantisme (1957) and Taine (1961).
2 Jacques-Charles Cunnington: Kelbomec (1981, 1982).
2 Patrick Biancone: Balitou (1983,1985).
2 John-L. Dunlop: Orchestra Stall (1997, 2000).
2 Mark-S. Johnston: Yavana's Pace (2001) and Darasim (2003).
2 François Doumen: Kasbah Bliss (2008, 2009).
The record of five wins is held by Spreoty on Hervine (1852), Echelle (1853), Royal Quand Même (1854), Monarque (1857) and Mon Etoile (1862).
Next on the list are:
4 Thomas Robinson: Miss Annette (1835), Frank (1837), Corisandre (1838) and Eylau (1839).
4 Edgar Rolfe: Pourquoi (1881), Upas (1887), Ténébreuse (1888) and Omnium II (1896).
4 Edouard Watkins: Aquarium (1893), La Licorne (1895) and Elf (1897, 1898).
4 Albert Sharpe: Chambre de l'Edit (1912), Odol (1921), Cerfeuil (1925) and Bouda (1928).
4 Charles Bouillon: Nopal (1929), Bokbul (1936), Trevisani (1937) and L'Aligoté (1943).
4 Roger Poincelet: Monticola (1948), Xaret (1953), Hunch (1962) and Greyhound (1964).
4 Alfred Gibert: Samos III (1968), Faux Monnayeur (1970), Forceful (1974) and Anifa (1980).
3 Arthur Watkins: Lysiscote (1860), Noélie (1864) and Ninon de Lenclos (1865).
3 Alfred Carratt: Don Carlos (1871), Christiania (1874) and Figaro II (1875).
3 A.-E. Dodge: Clémentine (1879), Satory (1884) and Patriarche (1899).
3 George Stern: Amer Picon (1902), Vieux Paris (1904) and Basse Pointe (1911).
3 Jack Jennings: Fléchois (1922, 1923) and Voilà (1933).
3 Jean Massard: Ring Etoilé (1954), Pompon Rouge (1966) and Clairon (1969).
3 Maxime Garcia: Fil Rouge (1955) and Epsom Victory (1959, 1960).
3 Yves Saint-Martin: Marson (1979), Mister Jack (1984) and Silver Green (1986).
3 Thierry Jarnet: Victoire Bleue (1991), Miraculous (2002) and Varévées (2007).
3 Gérald Mossé: Tiraaz (1998), Tajoun (1999) and Gentoo (2010).
3 Thierry Thulliez: Orchestra Stall (2000) and Kasbah Bliss (2008, 2009).
2 Pavis: Volante (1836) and Nautilus (1840).
2 Pierre Prunet: Sérénade (1850) and Messine (1851).
2 E. Kitchener: Ronzi (1856) and Tippler (1859).
2 Charles Pratt: Surprise (1861) and Vertugadin (1867).
2 Matthew MacGee: Passebreul (1919) and Filidor (1931).
2 Guy Garner: Bachlyk (1920) and Tomy II (1926).
2 William Johnstone: Prince Oli (1934) and Dejazcomba (1935).
2 Georges Delaurie: Pretender (1938) and Rosette (1941).
2 Jacques Doyasbère: Marsyas (1944) and Deux Points (1951).
2 Paul Blanc: Blue Butterfly (1949) and Vatelys (1950).
2 Bernard Margueritte: Romantisme (1957) and Taine (1961).
2 Lester Piggott: Alciglide (1967) and John Cherry (1977).
2 Freddy Head: Hickleton (1972) and River Test (1990).
2 Alain Badel: Biliboy (1978) and L'Ile Tudy (1995).
2 Jean-Claude Desaint: Kelbomec (1981, 1982).
2 Thierry Jarnet: Victoire Bleue (1991) and Miraculous (2002).
2 Dominique Bœuf: Yaka (1987) and Le Miracle (2006).
2 Olivier Peslier: Always Aloof (1996) and Westerner (2004).
2 Joseph-K. Fanning: Yavana's Pace (2001) and Darasim (2003).