Known as the Prix Rothschild since 2008, the race was formerly known as the Prix d'Astarté, which was created in 1929 with the aim of allowing fillies to compete with each other over the Classic mile distance rather than having to take on the colts over the same distance in the Prix Jacques Le Marois. The Prix d'Astarté is firmly linked to the straight track at Deauville, having left it only during the Second World War, when it was cancelled in 1940 and switched to Longchamp in 1941, 1942, 1944 and 1945, and to Tremblay in 1943. The distance has always been 1 mile and the record time of 1' 33'' 20/100 was set by Gay Style in 1974. Classed as a Group III race when the pattern race system was introduced in 1971, the Prix d'Astarté was elevated to Group II ranks in 1982 and then to the highest level, Group I, in 2004. In 2013, it will be run for the 84th time.
2007 saw the sad death of Baron Guy de Rothschild, who passed away on 12 June at the grand old age of 97. It is his memory, along with the active role played by his family in racing’s development, which France Galop has decided to honour by giving the Rothschild name to the former Prix d’Astarté.
The Rothschild family were instrumental in the creation of racing on both sides of the Channel, where the family’s blue and yellow silks soon earned a reputation among punters as determined competitors. In France, two of the four sons of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, Anthony (1810-1876) and Nathaniel (1812-1870), who had been members of the Jockey Club since 1834 and 1836, joined forces to create an establishment at Lamorlaye in 1838, which was run by Thomas Carter, previously Lord Seymour’s trainer. The first brace of victories came in Anthony’s name on 10 May 1840 at Champ-de-Mars, courtesy of Anatole and Vendredi. Soon, the two brothers began to enjoy some fine successes together: the Prix du Cadran in 1845 with Edwin, the Prix du Jockey Club in 1846 with Meudon, the Goodwood Cup in 1855 with Baroncino and on two occasions the Poule d’Essai, with Gustave in 1860 and Baronello in 1864. The majority of these horses were bred in the meadows of Ferrières, the family property in the Seine-et-Marne region.
On the death of Baron Nathaniel in 1870, the French stable was taken over by his cousins - who were also his brothers-in-law - Alphonse (1827-1905) and Gustave (1829-1911), who competed in partnership under the name of “Baron de Rothschild” and transferred the breeding operation to Touques in Normandy, where in 1875, they created the soon-to-be renowned Meautry stud farm. Intensifying their activities through the acquisition of brood mares in England, to where some were returned for covering, the two brothers would conquer all the Classic events, including two more Prix du Jockey Club with Kilt (1876) and Heaume (1890); a trio of Prix de Dianes courtesy of Brie (1878), Crinière (1889) and Brisk (1894); and a first Grand Prix de Paris won in 1898 by Le Roi Soleil (sired by Heaume), the top performer of his generation.
Also in 1898, the new yellow and blue circled jersey of Édouard de Rothschild (1868-1949), son of Baron Alphonse, emerged in dazzling style courtesy of Justitia in the Prix Morny at Deauville. Her young owner had spent 24,500 F at Deauville auctions on this daughter of Le Sancy and future dam of Reine Mab, who would go on to become Meautry’s key mare. This temporary jersey was abandoned by Baron Édouard when, upon the death of his father in May 1905, the partnership with his uncle Gustave was dissolved. Taken over by Baron Édouard, the family colours were soon flying high again at Longchamp, where Sans Souci II (son of Le Roi Soleil) triumphed in the Grand Prix de Paris in 1907 before becoming champion stallion in 1925. It was a policy of the intensive purchase of fillies that led the young baron, in the early part of the last century, to assemble one of the finest brood mare farms in Europe. Among the many newcomers was a granddaughter of Le Sancy, Viridiflora (1912), who herself became the grandmother of Brantôme, not only Baron Edouard’s best horse but also one of the three best thoroughbreds (along with Nearco and Pharis) seen in continental Europe between the wars. Brantôme was unable to contest the Jockey Club and the Grand Prix due to a cough, but he bounced back to clinch the Arc de Triomphe in 1934. Although he didn’t go unbeaten, he won eleven races in a row, was the best 2-year-old of his generation, and won over a mile (Poule d’Essai) at 3 years and over 2 miles 4 furlongs (Prix du Cadran) at 4. Another Grand Prix de Paris claimed by Crudité (1935), a second Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe won by Éclair au Chocolat (1938) and five Prix de Diane garnered by Quenouille (1919), Flowershop (1920), Perruche Bleue (1932), Vendange (1933) and Péniche (1935) proved to be the principal spoils accumulated by Baron Édouard before the Second World War. The Occupation then saw the dismantling of the stables and the deportation of certain breeders to Germany in 1940, including the great Brantôme, who fortunately rejoined the family stable in 1945 where, in 1946, he sired the last Classic winner born at Meautry under the reign of Baron Édouard, who passed away in late June of 1949.
During the final years of his life, Baron Édouard attempted to piece back together the breeding operation at Meautry and, in the autumn of 1949, his efforts earned the family silks, now taken over by his son Baron Guy, a spectacular comeback in the shape of a first Classic victory for his successor with Ciel Étoilé in the Prix Royal Oak and, the following year, in the Prix du Cadran. Indeed, 1950 proved to be a marvellous year, crowned by first place in the owners’ table thanks to a trio of top-notch 3-year-olds formed by the first two finishers in the Grand Prix de Paris, Vieux Manoir and Alizier, and by the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Ocarina. Three other champion owner titles were subsequently added to the blue and yellow colours’ roll of honour over a 25-year period marked by three peaks: in 1963, Exbury’s triumph in the Arc de Triomphe; in 1968, the successes of Luthier (Prix Lupin and Jacques Le Marois), a prelude to his four champion winners’ sire titles; and in 1977, the success of Crystal Palace in the Prix du Jockey Club, an event that had eluded the Rothschild family since Heaume’s win back in 1890. These successes were attributable to the revitalised maternal stock, as well as to the new blood provided by some judicious importing of brood mares. As a result, the Meautry stud was able to further lengthen its honours list with three more Prix de Diane triumphs delivered by Cerisoles (1957), Timandra (1960) and Hermières (1961), plus a Grand Prix de Paris treble provided by White Label (1964), Soleil Noir (1979) and Le Nain Jaune (1982).
Elected president of the breeders syndicate on 10 July 1975 – without having even stood – Baron Guy for seven years grappled with the difficult mission of defending the interests of a sector thrown into crisis by the “invasion” of foreign horses, the decline in French breeding and the weakness of the crop of the day. Despite cutting back heavily on his activity due to old age, Baron Guy de Rothschild continued to enter horses in races and registered one last victory in a group race in 2005 with his protégé Pinson, who prevailed in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano (Group II) at Deauville. He also had the satisfaction of seeing the baton taken up by his son Édouard, elected President of France Galop on 18 December 2003 and who, in 1986, had created his own stable from scratch. By the end of 2006, this fledgling operation had accumulated over one hundred and fifty victories, including two Group I races courtesy of Oczy Czarnie (Prix de la Salamandre 1988) and Indian Danehill (Prix Ganay 2000). After all, what's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh. Most recently, the “Rothschild Family” colours took the laurels in the 2011 Grand Prix de Paris with Méandre.
N.B. Extracts from the book Un autre regard sur les courses by Guy THIBAULT (Éditions du Castelet, Menton, 2007. E-mail: email@example.com).
A brief history
The name of Astarte, a mythological goddess of fertility, has often been made use of by racing bodies when naming their events.
The eighty-three winners of the Prix d’Astarté break down age-wise as follows: fifty-nine 3 year-olds, twenty 4 year-olds, two 5 year-olds and one 6 year-old.
Foreign visitors have won the Prix d'Astarté seven times. Four came from England: Mona Louise (1963, trained by R.E.G. Mason), Topsy (1979, trained by Harry Wragg), Ascension (2001, trained by Mick Channon), and Elusive Kate (2012, trained by John Gosden); one from Ireland Palinda (1964, trained by Vincent O'Brien); and two from Italy, Moon Ingraver (1980, Luigi Brogi) and Marbye (2004, Bruno Grizetti).
The Prix d'Astarté’s honours list includes the names of numerous fillies famous for their racing prowess or breeding produce. These include: in 1931 Célérina (Grand Prix de Deauville and dam of Pensbury), in 1932 Confidence (Grand Prix de Deauville), in 1933 Arpette (Prix Jacques Le Marois and grandmother of Pirette), in 1938 Tonnelle (2nd in the Arc de Triomphe), in 1947 Procureuse (Prix Vermeille), in 1958 Lilya (Prix du Moulin de Longchamp), in 1975 Infra Green (Prix Ganay), in 1977 Sanedtki (Prix du Moulin de Longchamp and Prix de la Forêt twice), in 1983 Luth Enchantée (Prix Jacques Le Marois), in 1984 Meis El Reem (2nd in 1,000 Guineas), in 1988 Gabina (Prix de la Forêt), in 1993 Ski Paradise (Prix du Moulin de Longchamp), in 1994 Hatoof (1,000 Guineas, Champion Stakes), in 2000 Lady of Chad (Prix Marcel Boussac), in 2003 Bright Sky (Prix de Diane), and in 2005 Divine Proportions (Poule d’Essai, Prix de Diane) 2006 Mandescha (Prix Vermeille), 2007 Darjina (Poule D’Essai, Prix du Moulin de Longchamp), 2008, 2009 and 2010 Goldikova (Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, Breeders’ Cup Mile, three times) and in 2012 Elusive Kate (Prix Marcel Boussac).
The record of four wins is held jointly by Teruya Yoshida: Shaanxi (1996), Lady of Chad (2000), Marbye (2004) and Elusive Kate (2012); and Wertheimer & Frère, thanks to Goldikova (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).
3 Edward Esmond: Tivoli (1929), Starlight (1930) and Rarity (1935).
3 Théodore P. Cozzika: Pamina (1936), Aziyadé (1937) and Marcalla (1951).
3 Marcel Boussac: Thiorba (1943), Laëlia (1944) and Salamis (1946).
3 Teruya Yoshida: Shaanxi (1996), Lady of Chad (2000) and Marbye (2004).
2 Pierre Wertheimer: Eleda (1934) and Djanet (1956).
2 François Dupré: Breloque (1960) and Tamouré (1965).
2 Jack Wimpfheimer: Action (1968) and Princess Arjumand (1973).
2 Baron Thierry de Zuylen: Zelinda (1969) and Leariva (1991).
2 Stavros Niarchos and the Niarchos Family: Hydro Calido (1992) and Divine Proportions (2005).
2 Princess Zahra Aga Khan: Mandesha (2006) and Darjina (2007).
The record of 5 wins is jointly held by John Cunnington senior: Otéro (1945), Procureuse (1947), Balle Nègre (1948), Action (1968), Princess Arjumand (1973); François Mathet: Lilya (1958), Breloque (1960), Tin Top (1961), Tamouré (1965), Kirmiz (1972); and David Smaga: Thorough (1982), Elle Seule (1986), Navratilovna (1989), Leariva (1991), Miss Berbère (1998).
4 André Fabre: Nashmeel (1987), Ski Paradise (1993), Smolensk (1995) and Daneskaya (1997).
4 Freddy Head: Goldikova (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).
3 Frank Carter: Tivoli (1929), Starlight (1930) and Rarity (1935).
3 Charles Semblat: Thiorba (1943), Laëlia (1944), Salamis (1946).
3 Alec Head: Dynastie (1953), Djanet (1956) and Careless Love (1957).
3 Olivier Douieb: Sanedtki (1977), Meis El Reem (1984) and Northern Aspen (1985).
2 Charles Cunnington: Pamina (1936) and Aziyadé (1937).
2 Richard Carver senior: Dixiana (1939) and Fontaine (1950).
2 Geoffroy Watson: Tanina (1955) and Zelinda (1969).
2 William Head: Carabella (1967) and Prudent Miss (1970).
2 Miguel Clément: Gay Style (1974) and Carolina Moon (1976).
2 François Boutin: Clear Picture (1978) and Hydro Calido (1992).
2 Elie Lellouche: Shaanxi (1996) and Bright Sky (2003).
2 Pascal Bary: Field of Hope (1999) and Divine Proportions (2005).
2 Alain de Royer-Dupré: Mandesha (2006) and Darjina (2007).
Freddy Head holds the record with six wins: Carabella (1967), Prudent Miss (1970), Thorough (1982), Northern Aspen (1985), Navratilovna (1985) and Hydro Calido (1992).
5 Yves Saint-Martin: Breloque (1960), Tamouré (1965), Cover Girl (1966), Gay Style (1974) and Carolina Moon (1976).
5 Alain Lequeux: Madame's Share (1971), Sanedtki (1977), Meis El Reem (1984), Elle Seule (1986) and Leariva (1991).
5 Olivier Peslier: Shaanxi (1996) and Goldikova (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).
2 Guy Garner: Tivoli (1929) and Starlight (1930).
2 William Johnstone: Eleda (1934) and Pamina (1936).
2 Fernand Rochetti: Aziyadé (1937) and Balle Nègre (1948).
2 André Rabbe: Picture (1942) and Laëlia (1944).
2 Paul Blanc: Fontaine (1950) and Tanina (1955).
2 Roger Poincelet: Marcalla (1951) and Dynastie (1953).
2 Jacky Taillard: Action (1958) and Infra Green (1975).
2 Jean-Claude Desaint: Princess Arjumand (1973) and Epsiba (1981).
2 Eric Legrix: Gabina (1988) and Lady Winner (1990).
2 Sylvain Guillot: Ski Paradise (1993) and Field of Hope (1999).
2 Dominique Bœuf: Miss Berbère (1998) and Bright Sky (2003).
2 Christophe Soumillon: Turtle Bow (2002) and Mandesha (2006).