Grand Prix de Paris History: A monument made in France

13 July 2021

Grand Prix de Paris History: A monument made in France


From its creation under the Second Empire, six years after the inauguration of Longchamp, the Grand Prix de Paris was out of the ordinary: foreign participants were welcome, and over the distance of 3,000 meters (1m7f), the best European 3-year-olds, all Derby winners can compete. The Grand Prix de Paris is the historic queen race of the French program. We find traces of it in all the novels of the period, across all social classes. Since 2005, however, the race has been contested over 2,400 meters (1m4f). It became the third round of a French "Triple Crown" started with the Emirates Poules d'Essai and continued in the Prix du Jockey Club and the Prix de Diane Longines. It is also, for the best 3-year-olds, the opportunity to try their ability to the classic trip on their journey to the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe ... In 2020, due to the upheavals of the program due to the coronavirus pandemic, the race was scheduled for the first time in September, instead of the Qatar Prix Niel (Gr2), also restricted to 3-year-olds.

July, ParisLongchamp*


Group 1 - 3-year-old colts and fillies, 2,400m/1m4f, €600,000

Created in 1863


Record-time: 2'24"30, Scorpion (2005)

Last winner: MOGUL (c3, Ire by Galileo ex Shastye, by Danehill), owned by Derrick Smith, Sue Magnier & Michael Tabor, bred by Newsells Park Stud, trained by Aidan O'Brien, ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot.

The race will be run in 2021 for the 153rd time.

The 2020 edition

Sunday, September 13, 2020, ParisLongchamp. - One year after his brother Japan (Galileo), Mogul (Galileo) won the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris (Gr1). Ridden by French ace Pierre-Charles Boudot, he brought the number of successes in the Parisian classic of owners Michael Tabor and Sue Magnier to seven, and five for his trainer Aidan O'Brien. He is also the fourth son of Galileo to win this event, which was run for the first time in place of the Prix Niel (Gr2) following the upheavals of the program caused by the pandemic.

To succeed, Mogul was kept along the rail by the French rider, who was able to switch him left behind Nobel Prize (Galileo), who had led at a fast pace, and make his move about two furlongs out. He then stayed on and finished two and a half lengths ahead of In Swoop (Adlerflug), who came from the rear to finish very well, two months after his German Derby victory. He stole the second place to a brave Gold Trip (Outstrip) in the last strides. The Epsom Derby winner Serpentine (Galileo) finished fourth, almost two lengths behind.

With a time of 2'24''76, Mogul is three-quarters of a second behind the course and race record set on a very fast track in 2005 by Scorpion. It is by far the best time achieved since in this race. 

The colt was bought for £3.4m at the Newmarket sales. His own sister is to be consigned by Newsells Stud at the next edition of this sale.

Mogul is out of the Listed-winner Shastye (Danehill), who gave three Group winners before him. She is herself out of a mare who made a career in France, Saganeca (Sagace). She won the Prix de Royallieu (Gr2) for trainer Antonio Spanu - that day, she beat the Wertheimers' Brooklyn's Dance, future dam of the Arc winner Solemia, no less! -, and gave the Arc winner Sagamix but also Sagacity and Sage et Jolie, dam of Sageburg.

Click here to read the sectional timings of the race.


Since 2005, it has had three new features. It is now usually held on or around the national holiday of July 14, aka Bastille Day, and is run as part of an evening meeting, over the changed distance of a mile and a half.

(*) In 2020, it was moved to September because of the coronavirus outbreak which made it impossible to run it in July.

The very first edition of the Grand Prix de Paris was at Longchamp on 31 May 1863 (two weeks after the Prix du Jockey Club and 11 days after the English Derby at Epsom), contested over 1 mile 7 furlongs. The distance was increased to 1 mile 7 ½ furlongs between 1964 and 1977, put back to 1 mile 7 furlongs between 1978 and 1986 and reduced again to 1 mile 2 furlongs in 1987. Today it is run over a mile and a half. The race was postponed in 1871 and between 1915 and 1918. It was run at Tremblay in 1943 and 1944. The Grand Prix de Paris has always been run on a Sunday except on 2 occasions: in 1981, when racecourse staff went on strike, the meeting scheduled for 27 June was postponed until Saturday 4 July; again in 2001 due to a strike, the meeting scheduled for 24 June was put back till the following Tuesday, making PMH and PMU betting impossible.

As part of the reform of the Classic programme for 3-year-olds, France Galop decided to modify the date and distance of the Grand Prix de Paris in 2005. The key planks of the reform were as follows: removal of the traditional Prix Lupin (1 mile 2 ½ furlongs) held on the same day as the Poules d'Essai (1 mile), the shortening of the distance of the Prix du Jockey Club (1 mile 2 ½ furlongs instead of a mile and a half) and the extension of the distance of the Grand Prix de Paris (a mile and a half instead of 1 mile 2 furlongs), which was put back by a fortnight. In this way, an ideal programme for 3 year-olds was constructed, spaced over two months and developing in distance from a mile, through a mile and a quarter, to a mile and a half. If the same horse ever manages to win all three races, it would amount to quite an exploit.

The field

In 1949 a record 26 runners and riders went to post when the filly Bagheera came in first. Since 1987 when the race has always been run over 1 mile 2 furlongs, the biggest field to date was in 1994 when 12 horses went to post. The smallest field to date was in 2001 when only 5 horses ran – which didn’t stop Chichicastenango setting a new race record, crossing the line after 2' 01''. The previous record had been held by Fort Wood (2' 01'' 60/100, set in 1993). Previous small fields came before the turn of the century with only 5 runners in 1864 and 6 in 1888 when Vermout and Stuart won respectively.


Fillies have triumphed 10 times: Sornette (1870), Nubienne (1879), Ténébreuse (1887), Andrée (1895), Semendria (1900), Kizil Kourgan (1902), Reine Lumière (1925), Commanderie (1930), Crudité (1935) and Bagheera (1949).

The last filly to finish in the frame (third) was Guislaine, in 1992.

Six fillies have managed the Prix de Diane-Grand Prix de Paris double: Sornette (1870), Nubienne (1879), Semendria (1900), Kizil Kourgan (1902), Commanderie (1930) and Bagheera (1949).

Jockey Club, Derbies and Grand Prix de Paris

Twenty three horses have done the Prix du Jockey Club-Grand Prix de Paris double: Boïard (1873), Salvator (1875), Frontin (1883), Little Duck (1884), Stuart (1888), Ragotsky (1893), Perth (1899), Ajax (1904), Finasseur (1905), Sardanapale (1914), Hotweed (1929), Strip the Willow (1932), Mieuxcé (1936), Clairvoyant (1937), Pharis (1939), Le Pacha (1941), Magister (1942), Sicambre (1951), Charlottesville (1960), Sanctus (1963), Reliance (1965), Rheffic (1971) and Peintre Célèbre (1997).

Six horses have done the English derby -Grand Prix de Paris double: Gladiateur (1865), Cremorne (1872), Kisber (1876), Spearmint (1906), My Love (1948) and Phil Drake (1955).

One Italian Derby winner has also won the Grand Prix de Paris: Nearco (1938).

Since 1987, only one Prix du Jockey Club winner, Peintre Célèbre (1997), has won the Grand Prix over 1m2f. But 3 horses that have finished 2nd at Chantilly have won at Longchamp: Dancehall (1989), Subotica (1991) and Chichicastenango (2001).


The race was founded by the Société d'Encouragement pour l'amélioration des races de chevaux en France in order to pit the best French and British horses against one another. In this race, horses that had run in the English Derby at Epsom or the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly over a mile and a half could attempt to stay the longer 1m7f distance. To attract the best horses, considerable prize-money was required. This was obtained thanks to the Duke of Morny who obtained 50,000 F from the Paris Municipal Council and 10,000 F from each of the 5 big railway companies. For the first running in 1863, prize-money was set at 100 000 F to the winner, which was more than enough to attract the top British horses to cross the Channel. In 1886, after 24 races, French horses had won 12 times, British horses 10 times, a Hungarian horse once and an American horse once.

Until 1892 the Grand Prix de Paris was the only race on the French card open to foreign runners. The second was to be the Prix du Conseil Municipal, first run in 1893.

From 1935 to 1939, the Grand Prix de Paris became associated with a sweepstakes game.

Louis Vuitton sponsored the race between 1988 and 1992.

Since 2001, Juddmonte Farm (British and American stud farm owned by Prince Khaled Abdullah), has taken over the reins.


A selection of outstanding Grands Prix

The race was first run on 31 May 1863 and straightaway met with phenomenal success. The grandstands were packed and gate receipts amounted to 81 000 F. Just before the start of the race, Napoleon III arrived by boat down the Seine to watch from the Presidential stand. “The Emperor was accompanied by his wife the empress who sported a poplin white dress and jacket with Brandenburg braids and green emerald buttons. She wore a white tulle hat with grass tufts and pink sequins” it was reported in the newspapers.

1867. On 2 June 1867 Longchamp was packed to the rafters and the security forces had their work cut out to clear the course to enable the race to start. Some 216,000 F was up for grabs in prize-money, over 124,000 F up on the previous year. The reason for this was the Exposition Universelle taking place in Paris at the time. The crowned heads of Europe sat in the Presidential stand : Napoleon III, Tsar Alexandre II, King Leopold II, the Belgian Queen and the Prince and Princess of Prussia. The race favourite was called Patricien, winner of the Prix du Jockey Club. Amongst the contenders was a horse called Fervacques (66/1), who had won the Prix de la Néva the previous day by a head, admittedly over a mediocre field. His owner, Alfred de Montgomery, decided to run him in the Grand Prix de Paris when the top English jockey, George Fordham, became available because his mount, Marksman, was withdrawn at the last minute. To the great surprise of everyone present, Fervacques, finished in a dead-heat with Patricien, ridden by Arthur Watkins. The two owners decided to rerun the race but again the winning post judge was at pains to separate the two horses. Fervacques was finally declared the winner by a nose. George Fordham would win the Grand Prix de Paris on two other occasions but never again finish in a dead heat.

1914. 28 June. The President of the Republic Raymond Poincaré was in the Presidential Stand, accompanied by his wife and several members of the diplomatic corps. A messenger brought Comte Szecsin de Temerin, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador, a telegram announcing the assassination of Archduke François-Ferdinand in Sarajevo. After discreetly informing President Poincaré, he left the stand and returned to his embassy. That evening, the public learned of the news that triggered the start of the First World War six weeks later. On the track, two fine thoroughbreds engaged in a fierce duel, with Sardanapale, ridden by George Stern, eventually pipping Frank O'Neill’s mount La Farina. The latter’s blistering pace from the start allowed the winner to establish a new record for 1 mile 7 furlongs of 3' 11'' 1/5. It also amounted to a family duel, as the winner belonged to Baron Maurice de Rothschild and the runner-up to his cousin Baron Edouard.

1926. 27 June. This time, the Presidential Stand contained the King of Spain, Alphonse XIII, as the guest of the President of the Republic Gaston Doumergue. All of the records for the event were shattered: 166,635 “paying pedestrians” were counted, 30,000 more than for the Grand Prix of 1923 (132,950)! This mammoth crowd broke down as follows: 119,407 in the grounds (3 F, equal to €1.52 today), 34,425 at the weigh-in (18,995 people who paid 40 F apiece, equal to €20.34 today, and 15,430 ladies t half-price), 12,552 at the pavilion (15 F apiece) and 251 on the mill terrace (4 F apiece). In addition to these pedestrians, there were the occupants of 844 cars parked in the grounds after having paid 40 F. Finally, a total of 84,012 programmes were sold. Records were also broken on the track, with the 1 mile 7 furlongs being covered in 3' 10'' 3/5 by the winner Take My Tip wearing the colours of James Hennessy and ridden by Jack Jennings. What’s more, without reaching the giddy heights of the winnings recorded in the two previous years (120/1 for Transvaal in 1924 and 119/1 for Reine Lumière in 1925), excellent odds of 62/1 rewarded backers of the winner who, the previous Tuesday, had only managed fourth in the Prix Berteux.

1939. A new record of 59,797 paying spectators were at the racecourse, including French President Albert Lebrun, the Sultan of Morocco, Mohammed V, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Germaine Grosbois, 55, and Angèle Bouchet, 51, two labourer’s wives and two of the poorest of the 650 inhabitants of Neung-sur-Beuvron in the Loir-et-Cher region were also in attendance. Together they had bought a winning sweepstakes ticket on 22 June (n° 1 336 736) and were allocated the horse Pharis – who romped home in grand style winning no less than 600,000 F for the two ladies. The Figaro covered the race and the story in three of its eight front-page columns; the Petit Parisien devoted six of its eight front-page columns and Paris Soir its whole front and back page.

In Le Figaro (26-06-1939), the poet Léon-Paul Fargue championed the horse in verse: "Le plus bel ornement, le roi de ce qu'on appelle, avec tant de gentillesse, la Saison de Paris, c'est incontestablement le cheval, and il est bon que nous l'ayons choisi, car le cheval est, par sa forme and son dessin, la plus fine and la plus heureuse manifestation de la puissance. […] Mais, dans cet art de plaire and de jouir qu'est la Saison de Paris, le cheval, mieux brossé que jamais, plus haut de poitrine, plus élancé du cou, demeure le chef d'œuvre décoratif par excellence and comme le signe même de la force élégante. Juin sans Courses serait une véritable catastrophe, and la grâce des femmes y perdrait de son assurance. "

The finest ornament imaginable, the king of what is known, with so much kindness, like the Saison de Paris, is undoubtedly the horse, and it’s good that we have chosen it, as the horse is, by its form and design, the finest and happiest manifestation of power. […] But, in this art of pleasure and enjoyment that is the Saison de Paris, the horse, better brushed than ever, with a higher chest, a more slender neck, remains the decorative masterpiece par excellence and the very symbol of elegant strength. June without racing would be a veritable disaster, and the grace of the ladies would lose its assurance.

In Le Petit Parisien (26-06-1939), Henry Thétard celebrated the Grand Prix de Paris: "Most importantly the Grand Prix is run at Longchamp, which has been a point of attraction for Parisians since time immemorial. For many years the race symbolised the battle of horses bred in France against horses bred in Great Britain.…France’s horses held the hopes of a nation – often, it must be admitted, disappointed not to beat the arch enemy. And even today, when racegoers are imbued with more fair play, it is still this international competition which generates the most interest."

Jean Trarieux, (Le Figaro, 26-06-1939) was in raptures. “The greatest race in the world” had just been run before his eyes. “The greatest not only because of what was at stake but also because of the tremendous excitement the race generated. And Pharis. What a horse. To win at a canter over such an extraordinary field. Way ahead of the great Donatello. At last, now, when older generations tell us tales of Gladiateur and the like we will contend that we saw the greatest horse of them all – his name was Pharis. "

1986. 29 June. The 118th Grand Prix de Paris is won by a horse in its maiden race! The culprit, Swink, owned by Nelson-Bunker Hunt, triumphed by a short head over British hopeful War Hero, himself nothing more than a handicapper. It was time to act to save the reputation of a famous race. And so 5 furlongs was cut off the distance for future races. From 1987 onwards, the Grand Prix was run over 1 mile 2 furlongs.

Foreign winners

26 wins from foreign yards: The Ranger (1863), Ceylon (1866), The Earl (1868), Cremorne (1872), Trent (1874), Kisber (1876), Thurio (1878), Robert the Devil (1880), Foxhall (1881), Bruce (1882), Paradox (1885), Minting (1886), Spearmint (1906), Galloper Light (1919), Comrade (1920), Lemonora (1921), Nearco (1938), Glint of Gold (1981), Yawa (1983), At Talaq (1984), Risk Me (1987), Beat Hollow (2000), Scorpion (2005), Imperial Monarch (2012), Kew Gardens (2018) & Japan (2019).


Stallions who have sired at least two Grand Prix de Paris winners:

  • Galileo, sire of Imperial Monarch (2012), Kew Gardens (2018), Japan (2019), Mogul (2020).
  • Dansili, sire of Rail Link (2006), Zambezi Sun (2007) and Flintshire (2013).
  • Montjeu, sire of Scorpion (2005), Montmartre (2008) and Gallante (2014).
  • Sea Saw sire of Bruce (1882) and Little Duck (1884).
  • Winkfield's Pride sire of Quo Vadis (1903) and Finasseur (1905).
  • Massine sire of Strip the Willow (1932) and Mieuxcé (1936).
  • Pharos sire of Nearco (1938) and Pharis (1939).
  • Brantôme sire of Pensbury (1943) and Vieux Manoir (1950).
  • Vatellor sire of My Love (1948) and Vattel (1956).
  • Prince Bio sire of Sicambre (1951) and Northern Light (1953).
  • Tantième sire of Reliance (1965) and Danseur (1966).
  • Val de Loir sire of Chaparral (1969) and Tennyson (1973).
  • Luthier sire of Galiani (1978) and Yawa (1983).
  • Sadler's Wells sire of Fort Wood (1993) and Beat Hollow (2000).


No Grand Prix de Paris winning filly has ever produced a winner of the same race. However, two mares gave two winners: Czardas, dam of Ragotsky (1893) & Semendria (1900), and Shastye, dam of Japan (2019) & Mogul (2020).



  • Aga Khan IV (7 wins): Charlottesville (1960), Sumayr (1985), Valanour (1995), Khalkevi (2002), Montmartre (2008), Behkabad (2010) & Shakeel (2017).
  • Edmond Blanc (7 wins): Nubienne (1879), Clamart (1891), Rueil (1892), Andrée (1895), Arreau (1896), Quo Vadis (1903) & Ajax (1904).
  • Magnier, Tabor, Smith (7 wins): Grape Tree Road (1996), Scorpion (2005), Imperial Monarch (2012), Gallante (2014), Kew Gardens (2018), Japan (2019), Mogul (2020).
  • Arthur de Schickler (4 wins): Fitz Royal (1890), Ragotsky (1893), Dolma Baghtché (1894) & Semendria (1900).
  • Guy de Rothschild (4 wins): Vieux Manoir (1950), White Label (1964), Soleil Noir (1979) & Le Nain Jaune (1982).
  • Khalid Abdullah (4 wins): Beat Hollow (2000), Rail Link (2006), Zambezi Sun (2007) & Flintshire (2013).

In 1903, Edmond Blanc saw his horses finish first, second and third in the Grand Prix de Paris in the same year: Quo Vadis, Caïus and Vinicius finished in that order.

The blue and yellow colours of the Rothschild family have been particularly successful in the Grand Prix de Paris. As well as the four wins of Baron Guy mentioned above, their clan boasts four seven other successes; those obtained by Baron Alphonse with Le Roi Soleil (1898), Baron Edouard with Sans Souci II (1907) and Crudité (1935), Baron Maurice with Verdun (1909) and Sardanapale (1914), Anthony de Rothschild with Galloper Light (1919), James-Armand de Rothschild with Reine Lumière (1925) and, most recently, the “Rothschild Family” with Méandre (2011).


  • André Fabre (13 wins): Dancehall (1989), Subotica (1991), Homme de Loi (1992), Fort Wood (1993), Grape Tree Road (1996), Peintre Célèbre (1997), Limpid (1998), Slickly (1999), Rail Link (2006), Cavalryman (2009), Méandre (2011), Flintshire (2013) & Gallante (2014).
  • François Mathet  (9 wins): Northern Light (1953), Phil Drake (1955), Vattel (1956), Reliance (1965), Danseur (1966), Rheffic (1971), Exceller (1976), Soleil Noir (1979) & Le Nain Jaune (1982).
  • Alain de Royer-Dupré (5 wins): Sumayr (1985), Valanour (1995), Khalkevi (2002), Montmartre (2008), Shakeel (2017).
  • Aidan O'Brien (5 wins): Scorpion (2005), Imperial Monarch (2012), Kew Gardens (2018), Japan (2019), Mogul (2020).
  • William Webb (4 wins): Fitz Roya (1890), Ragotsky (1893), Dolma Baghtché (1894) & Semendria (1900).
  • Arthur Carter (4 wins): Clamart (1891), Rueil (1892), Andrée (1895) & Arreau (1896).
  • Max Bonaventure (4 wins): Sicambre (1951), Birum (1959), Balto (1961) & Phaéton (1967).
  • Thomas-Richard Carter (3 wins): Vermout (1864), Boïard (1873) & Vasistas (1889).
  • James d’Okhuysen (3 wins): Finasseur (1905), Verdun (1909) & Sardanapale (1914).
  • Richard Carver (3 wins): Cri de Guerre (1928), Cappiello (1933) & My Love (1948).
  • Geoffroy Watson (3 wins): Vieux Manoir (1950), White Label (1964) & Pleben (1972).



  • Tom Lane (6 wins): Stuart (1888), Fitz Royal (1890), Clamart (1891), Rueil (1892), Ragotsky (1893), Perth (1899).
  • Yves Saint-Martin (4 wins): Reliance (1965), Danseur (1966), Exceller (1976), Sumayr (1985);
  • Thierry Jarnet (4 wins): Subotica (1991), Homme de Loi (1991), Grape Tree Road (1996), Slickly (1999).
  • Christophe Soumillon (4 wins): Khalkevi (2002), Rail Link (2006), Montmartre (2008), Shakeel (2017).
  • Maxime Guyon (3 wins): Cavalryman (2009), Méandre (2011) & Flintshire (2013).