In 1940 the name Prix Jean Prat was given to two very long-established races, initially set up in 1858 under the name “Prix Biennal” and including one race for 3-year-olds and a second race for 4-year-olds. This often confusing scenario reigned until 1985 when the race for 4-year-olds and over was given the name Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (see entry for more info), with the race for 3-year-olds remaining the Prix Jean Prat.
The race was held at Longchamp from its outset until 1966, and subsequently from 1986-1994; moving to Chantilly from 1967-85 and from 1995 onwards. It was promoted to Group I status in 1985. Initially raced over 1 mile 2 furlongs until 1961, it was then reduced to 1 mile 1¼ furlongs until 1966, and to 1 mile 1 furlong from 1967-2004. In 2005 it was reduced to 1 mile (explanation below). The record time over 1 mile 1¼ furlongs at Longchamp was set at 1minute 51.3 seconds by Sillery in 1991; while over 1 mile 1 furlong at Chantilly the record has been held since 1982 by Melyno; and over 1 mile, 1’ 36’’ 10/100 in 2005 by Turtle Bowl. Taking 1961 as a starting point (as explained later on in the article), the Prix Jean Prat will be run for the 54th time in 2014.
Jean Prat (1847-1940).
This race honours the memory of a famous figure on the French racing scene, Jean Prat. Elected to the Société d'Encouragement committee in 1903, he took on the role of commissioner from 1906-09 and from 1919-20. Perhaps his greatest service to the Société d'Encouragement came during the First World War. Deprived of funds from race takings, the Société gratefully accepted Jean Prat’s offer to loan them the sums needed to finance the “trials” that the Société was committed to organise during the period of 1916-18. Prat’s loan came with an interest rate of just 5%, although the races were run “without spectators or bookmakers”.
“ The loss of its most senior member has deprived the Société d'Encouragement of one of its most respected advisors. [...] He was true to his word, a loyal friend, sincere and steadfast in his beliefs,” read the obituary notice published in the horse-racing journal La Veine on 6 January 1940.
The Marseilles-born industrialist, who owed his fortune to the famous Noilly-Prat vermouth, began his racing career in the South of France. He won his first race on 11 May 1868 at Angoulème with Adour. This horse went on to win a further five races at Avignon, Toulouse, Mont de Marsan and Bordeaux successively, winning twice in the space of three days at the latter course – the second (for gentleman-riders) while ridden by his owner. Prat’s first horse of real calibre was the filly Faisane, who in 1976 won four out of five races as a two-year-old. These victories came at Dieppe (Grand Critérium), Fontainebleau (Deuxième Critérium), Chantilly (Prix de la Salamandre) and Marseilles (Prix de la Ville). Having failed to win on any of her three run-outs as a three-year-old, Faisane hit the victory trail once more at four years of age, following up success at Chalon-sur-Saône by taking the Grand Prix de la Ville de Dieppe.
Once he had set-up his stable in the Paris area, initially in La Croix-Saint-Ouen, Jean Prat would see his colours (brown jersey with orange sleeves, white cap) go first past the post at the very highest level for half a century, often thanks to produce born in his stud farm at Lessard-le-Chêne near Lisieux. Chopine (Prix Greffulhe 1889), Nacelle (Omnium de 2 Ans 1895), Champignol (Prix Lupin, 2nd Prix du Jockey Club 1896), Chambertin born in 1894 (Prix Royal Oak, Prix du Cadran), Clairette (Omnium de 2 Ans 1899), Mirska (Oaks at Epsom 1912) and Cadet Roussel III (Prix des Sablons 1912) were his finest horses prior to the First World War. At the time of that conflict, Prat’s horse Montmartin proved himself to be the finest of the generation born in 1915 by winning the biggest races of the period. The following animals would also distinguish themselves: Galéjade (Poule d'Essai 1919), Macaroni (Prix du Président de la République 1933), Rénette (Prix d'Ispahan (1935, 1936), Sylvanire (2nd, Prix de Diane 1937) as well as two specimens acquired at public sale, Drap d'Or and Gaspillage, both of whom won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (1937, 1938). Jean Prat’s last great horse was Maurepas (also purchased as a yearling at public sale), who at two-years-old won the Prix La Flèche at Tremblay on 31 July 1939. After his owner’s passing on January 1940, Maurepas would continue racing under the ownership of the Vicomtesse Vigier, who inherited Jean Prat’s colours and breeding stock. Maurepas would develop into one of the finest horses of his generation, as would Magister, born at Lessard-le-Chêne in 1939, who took the honours at the 1942 Prix du Jockey Club and Grand Prix de Paris – two races that Prat had coveted above all.
A slice of history.
When it was held in the month of April, this race was part of a series of trials for the Prix du Jockey Club, with Little Duck (1884), Reluisant (1885), Sea Sick (1908) and Duplex (1934) all winning both events in the same year. A look at the list of winners also reveals three winners of the Grand Prix de Paris (old format, over 1mile 7 furlongs): Arreau (1896), Verdun (1909) and Souverain (1946), one English Derby winner in Durbar (1914) as well as the all-conquering Prestige (1906).
In 1961 the Prix Jean Prat underwent some serious changes. First of all it was pushed back to the last Sunday of May to tie in with the Prix du Jockey Club, before its distance of 1 mile 1 furlong became seen as an ideal stepping stone between the 1-mile Poule d’Essai and the Grand Prix de Paris, held at the end of June and whose distance had been reduced to 1 mile 2 furlongs in 1987. Four horses would go on to win the Jean Prat-Grand Prix double during this period, Risk Me (1987), Millkom (1994), Vespone (2003) and Bago (2004), none of whom had taken part in the Poule d’Essai beforehand.
As part of the 2005 reforms of race conditions and calendars, the Prix Jean Prat (1 mile 1 furlong) should have gone into direct competition with the new version of the Prix du Jockey Club, run over 1 mile 2½ furlongs. Because of this, it was decided to instead pit the Prix Jean Prat against the Poule d’Essai by setting its distance to 1 mile, doubling the prize money from 200 000 € to 400 000 € and moving the race back to the first Sunday of July – thus making it easier for horses that also competed in the Jockey Club to take part. Consequently, Lawman succeeded in winning both the Jockey Club and the Jean Prat in 2007. The Prix Jean Prat therefore gained in prestige, topping the bill on the race meeting held at Chantilly on the first Sunday of July.
Six of the finest sires in contemporary times are also inextricably linked with the Prix Jean Prat. Three winners: Riverman (1972), Baillamont (1985) and Priolo (1990); and three second-place finishers: Highest Honor (1986), Soviet Star (1987) and Kendor (1989).
Competitors from abroad are very fond of this race, and have recorded 16 wins since 1968, nine of which came in the last nineteen years. Thirteen of those came from England, two trained by Noël Murless (Lorenzaccio 1968 and Hill Run 1969), one by William Hern (Sharp Edge 1973), one by Guy Harwood (Young Generation 1979), one by Paul Kelleway (Risk Me 1987), one by Clive Brittain (Lapierre 1988), one by John Gosden (Torrential 1995), another by David Loder (Starborough 1997), one by Saeed Bin Suror (Almutawakel 1998), another by Barry Hills (Golden Snake 1999), one by John Dunlop (Olden Times 2001), one by Karl-R. Burke (Lord Shanakill 2009), and one by Richard-M. Hannon (Dick Turpin 2010). Ireland have also produced one winner thanks to Vincent O’Brien (Night Alert 1980). And finally a horse trained in Spain at the hands of Mauricio Delcher-Sanchez (Suances 2000). In 2011 and 2012, foreign runners were pipped to the post by horses trained by André Fabre and ridden by the young jockey Maxime Guyon, Mutual Trust and Aesop’s Fables. In 2013, another foreign runner triumphed, Havana Gold, who gave trainer Richard-M. Hannon his second win in the race.
The record of four victories is jointly held by Stavros Niarchos*: Cresta Rider (1981), Melyno (1982), Mendez (1984), Baillamont (1985) ; and Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum: Local Talent (1987), Kitwood (1992), Torrential (1995), Starborough (1997).
Next on the list are:
3 Marcel Boussac: Marveil (1949), Janus (1950) and Locris (1967).
3 Prince Karim Aga Khan: Jour et Nuit III (1964), Silver Shark (1966) and Maroun (1971).
2 Baron de Zuylen de Nyevelt: La Varende (1952) and Le Haar (1957).
2 Jean Stern: Fauchelevent (1955) and Incitatus (1956).
2 Baron Guy de Rothschild: Tang (1962) and Lightning (1977).
2 Daniel Wildenstein: Antipode (1974) and Earth Spirit (1976).
2 Robert Sangster: Dom Racine (1978) and Night Alert (1980).
2 Godolphin: Almutawakel (1998) and Aesop’s Fables (2012).
2 Ecurie Mister Ess: Vespone (2003) and Stormy River (2006).
* We can also associate Bago’s 2004 victory with the Niarchos family.
There have also been two cases of both halves of a couple enjoying Prix Jean Prat success, with R.B. Strassburger celebrating thanks to Le Tyrol in 1951 and his wife with Angers 1960. Also Madame Alec Head’s horse Sillery won in 1991, while her husband triumphed with Rouvres in 2002.
The record of five wins is currently jointly held by François Mathet with Jour et Nuit II (1964), Silver Shark (1966), Maroun (1971), Lightning (1977), Melyno (1982); and François Boutin with Speedy Dakota (1975), Cresta Rider (1981), Mendez (1984), Baillamont (1985), Priolo (1990).
Next up come:
4 André Fabre: Local Talent (1987), Kitwood (1992), Mutual Trust (2011) and Aesop’s Fables (2012).
3 Etienne Pollet: Peppermint (1954), Spy Well (1963) and Master Guy (1970).
3 Mme Christiane Head-Maarek: Sillery (1991), Le Triton (1996) and Rouvres (2002)
3 Nicolas Clément: Le Balafré (1993), Vespone (2003) and Stormy River (2006).
2 Henri Gleizes: Obélisque II (1945) and L'Impérial (1947).
2 Henri Delavaud: Souverain (1946) and Le Tyrol (1951).
2 René Pelat: Jocker (1948) and Launay (1958).
2 Charles Semblat: Marveil (1949) and Janus (1950).
2 Max Bonaventure: Fauchelevent (1955) and Incitatus (1956).
2 Noël Murless: Lorenzaccio (1968) and Hill Run (1969).
2 Angel Penna: Antipode (1974) and Earth Spirit (1976).
2 Richard-M. Hannon : Dick Turpin (2010) and Havana Gold (2013).
Yves Saint-Martin holds the record with six victories: Jour et Nuit II (1964), Silver Shark (1966), Melyno (1982), Antipode (1974), Earth Spirit (1976) and Ginger Brink (1983).
Following up behind are:
4 Roger Poincelet: Souverain (1946), Marveil (1949), Spy Well (1963) and Locris (1967).
4 Cash Asmussen: Mendez (1984), Baillamont (1985), Magical Wonder (1986) and Local Talent (1989).
3 Lester Piggott: Speedy Dakota (1975), Dom Racine (1978) and Night Alert (1980).
3 Olivier Peslier: Le Balafré (1993), Turtle Bowl (2005) and Lawman (2007).
3 Lanfranco Dettori: Torrential (1995), Starborough (1997) and Almutawakel (1998).
2 Jean Laumain: Puymirol (1942) and Laborde (1944).
2 Charles Bouillon: Dogat (1943) and Jocker (1948).
2 Maxime Garcia: La Varende (1952) and Bobar (1961).
2 Léon Flavien: Fauchelevent (1955) and Incitatus (1956).
2 Jean Massard: Launay (1958) and Esso (1965).
2 Alexander Barclay: Lorenzaccio (1968) and Hill Run (1969).
2 Freddy Head: Riverman (1972) and Le Triton (1996).
2 Steve Cauthen: Lapierre (1988) and Kitwood (1992).
2 Gérald Mossé: Priolo (1990) and Suances (2000).
2 Maxime Guyon: Mutual Trust (2011) and Aesop’s Fables (2012).
N.B. These statistics (owners, trainers and jockeys) only relate to this race since 1940, when it took the name Prix Jean Prat. A number of those listed previously appeared on the honours list for the Prix Biennal for 3-year-olds.