The Prix Niel was the name given in 1972 to the Prix de Chantilly, a race open to three-year-olds and over and run over approximately 1 mile 7 furlongs at the start of September at Longchamp. Created in 1952 the original race distance was 1½ miles. In 1955 it became a trial for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, entry being restricted to three-year-olds only. The race was given its new name in honour of the 11th president of the Société d'Encouragement. The distance has changed frequently over the years: 1½ miles in 1952; 1m 3½f in 1953 and 1954, 1½m from 1955 to 1959; 1¼m in 1960; 1½m from 1961 to 1965, 1m 2½f in 1966 and 1967, 1m 3f from 1968 to 1978; and 1½m from 1979 onwards. The Prix Niel has left Longchamp on two occasions, switching to Chantilly in 1964 and 1965, and it was granted Group Il status in 1988. Record time over 1½m: 2' 26'' 40/100 by Sinndar in 2000. Taking 1952 as the year the race was first run, under its previous guise as the Prix de Chantilly, the Prix Niel will be contested for the 62nd time in 2013. Since 2008, the race has been sponsored – like the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – by Qatar, one of the seven emirates which make up the UAE.
Comte Gaston Niel (1880 - 1970).
The youngest son of Marshal Niel, minister of war in the Second Empire and the son of General Niel, Comte Gaston Niel followed in the family tradition by joining the armed forces. In a brief but brilliant career he reached the rank of cavalry major before leaving the army at the conclusion of the First World War. Comte Niel raced regularly during his spell in the military, and although he was too heavily built to ride flat races, he was a passionately enthusiastic competitor in a number of other disciplines, such as eventing, point-to-point races, war horse championships and, above all, steeplechasing, most notably winning a number of gentlemen jockey races at Auteuil.
Voted onto the board of the Societe d'Encouragement in 1933, he was appointed a deputy steward two years later and then a steward from 1937 to1948, going on to hold the position of head steward on two separate occasions, from 1949 to 1953 and from 1958 to 1965.
Appointed president of the French Horse Racing Federation in 1949, Comte Gaston then succeeded the late Baron Foy as president of the Societe d'Encouragement on 11 June 1954. He held the post for the next five years until he was bestowed the title of honorary president upon his eightieth birthday in December 1959.
Comte Neil was the president of French racing for 17 years in all, up until 1965. He was also the only person ever to hold the posts of president and head steward of the Societe d'Encouragement and president of the French Horse Racing Federation at the same time, positions he held simultaneously in 1958 and 1959.
For more than 30 years his sole concern was to serve the general interests of horse racing, and he never wavered in this commitment, even in his often-problematic dealings with government authorities. A wise, honest and benevolent man, Comte Niel died on 18 October 1970 at the age of 90.
Preparation for the Arc de Triomphe.
A total of 11 horses have completed the Niel-Arc de Triomphe double: Sica Boy (1954), Puissant Chef (1960), Vaguely Noble (1968), Trempolino (1987), Carnegie (1994), Helissio (1996), Sagamix (1998), Montjeu (1999), Sinndar (2000), Dalakhani (2003) and Hurricane Run (2005). Two other Prix Niel winners have gone on to win the Arc de Triomphe as four-year-olds, namely Sagace (1984) and Subotica (1992).
Another 12 winners of the Prix Niel have claimed second and third-place finishes in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: Le Mesnil (1963, second), Sigebert (as a 5yo, 1966, second), Hard to Beat (as a 4yo, 1973, second), Youth (1976, third), Crystal Palace (1977, third), Le Marmot (1979, second), Sagace (as a 5yo, 1985, second), Bering (1986, second), Epervier Bleu (1990, second), Hernando (as a 4yo, 1994, second), Sulamani (2002, second) and Cavalryman (2009, 3rd).
Three horses finishing second or third in the Prix Niel have gone on to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: Soltikoff (1962, third), Peintre Celebre (1997, second) and Bago (2004, third).
The record of five victories is held by Prince Karim Aga Khan: Akarad (1981), Mouktar (1985), Sinndar (2000), Dalakhani (2003) and Behkabad (2010).
3 Nelson-Bunker Hunt: Dahlia (1973), Mississipian (1974) and Youth (1976).
2 Henry Aubert: Montrouge (1959) and Puissant Chef (1960).
2 Mme Leon Volterra: Belbury (1969) and Cariellor (1984).
2 Baron Guy de Rothschild: Arlequino (1971) and Crystal Palace (1977).
2 Mahmoud Fustok: Bon Sang (1982) and Fijar Tango (1988).
2 Daniel Wildenstein: Sagace (1983) and Epervier Bleu (1990).
2 Jean-Luc Lagardere*: Housamix (1995) and Sagamix (1998).
2 Stavros Niarchos and the Niarchos Family: Hernando (1993) and Sulamani (2002).
2 Michael Tabor: Montjeu (1999) and Hurricane Run (2005).
* The Lagardere Family also won with Valixir (2004).
The record of ten victories is held by Andre Fabre: Cariellor (1984), Trempolino (1987), Subotica (1991), Carnegie (1994), Housamix (1995),Sagamix (1998), Valixir (2004), Hurricane Run (2005), Rail Link (2006) and Cavalryman (2009).
3 Francois Mathet: Upstart (1958), Crystal Palace (1977) and Akarad (1981).
3 François Boutin: Stintino (1970), Le Marmot (1979) and Hernando (1993).
3 Maurice Zilber: Dahlia (1973), Mississipian (1974) and Youth (1976).
3 Alain de Royer-Dupré: Mouktar (1985), Dalakhani (2003) and Reliable Man (2011).
2 Richard Carver: Shikampur (1953) and Amber (1957).
2 Charles-William Bartholomew: Puissant Chef (1960) and Belbury (1969).
2 Etienne Pollet: Le Mesnil (1963) and Vaguely Noble (1968).
2 Elie Lellouche: Epervier Bleu (1990) and Helissio (1996).
The record of four victories is held jointly by Yves Saint-Martin: Nelcius (1966), Akarad (1981), Sagace (1983), Mouktar (1985); and Freddy Head: Taj Dewan (1967), Mississipian (1974), Gay Mecene (1978), Cariellor (1984).
3 Thierry Jarnet: Subotica (1991), Carnegie (1994) and Housamix (1995).
3 Gérald Mossé: Rajpoute (1997), Behkabad (2010) and Reliable Man (2011).
2 Leon Flavien: Walhalla (1955) and Sigebert (1964).
2 Maxime Garcia: Montrouge (1959) and Puissant Chef (1960).
2 Gerard Thiboeuf: Devon (1961) and Stintino (1970).
2 Jean Deforge: Kistinie (1962) and Belbury (1969).
2 William-B. Pyers: Super Sam (1965) and Dahlia (1973).
2 Lester Piggott: Hard to Beat (1972) and Youth (1976).
2 Antony-S. Cruz: Fijar Tango (1988) and Golden Pheasant (1989).
2 Olivier Peslier: Helissio (1996) and Sagamix (1998).
2 John-Patrick Murtagh: Sinndar (2000) and Soldier of Fortune (2007).
2 Kieren-Francis Fallon: Golan (2001) and Hurricane Run (2005).
2 Christophe Soumillon: Dalakhani (2003) and Rail Link (2006).