Qatar Prix du Jockey. Club : 19 runners' connections quotes

3 June 2021


On Sunday June 6the 181st edition of the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club will hold sway at Chantilly. The top European three-year-olds will battle it out over 2,100 metres and, with purse of 1.5 million euros on offer, it’s the second most valuable French flat race (behind the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe). What is at stake? Quite simply it will crown the best colt of his generation, and ensure that the winner is a much sought after commodity at stud, and set up the winner for the big autumnal clashes – of which the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is the focal point.


Unlike the Epsom Derby, which will be run the day before over 2,400 metres, the distance of the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club is 2,100 metres. The distance was reduced from 2,400 to 2,100 metres in 2005. The aim was twofold: to distinguish it from the other European Derbies, and to facilitate a smoother transition process from the 1,600 metres distance of the Emirates Poule d'Essai (run in mid-May) to the 2,400 metres of the Grand Prix de Paris (traditionally run on 14 July), in addition to adapting to the demand of breeders who are looking for sires who have shown a certain speed in their races. The profile of horses lining up in the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club has thereby been broadened in scope, as many milers (1,600 metres specialists) have attempted the step up to 2,100 metres. This has been done with some success, as Shamardal (2005), Lope de Vega (2010) and Brametot (2017), have all completed the "Poule d'Essai-Jockey Club" double.

This year, the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains winner, the Irish-trained St Mark's Basilica, will be seeking to do the double by adding the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club to his CV.



Last year heralded the triumph of the British colt Mishriff, who was ridden by the Basque jockey Ioritz Mendizabal. He also enabled the British trainer John Gosden to savour his first Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club win. The handler has a huge reputation in Britain and is based at Newmarket (the British version of Chantilly). John Gosden is renowned for having trained, amongst others, the mare Enable: the winner of the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and who also second in the 2019 renewal.

Despite the fact that travel plans have been complicated by the Covid virus (accompanying stable staff have to undergo quarantine on arrival in France), the British have again turned up for this edition of the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club, as three cross channel raiders, two of them trained by John Gosden, have made the trip. Incidentally, the latter now trains in partnership with his son Thady. They are Megallan, who carries the US colours of Anthony Oppenheimer (who won the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 2015 with Golden Horn), and Derab, who represents the estate of the late Prince Khalid Abdullah, one of the world's most famous owner-breeders (Enable was owned by him), who passed away earlier this year. Megallan boasts a second place in the Dante Stakes, a traditional Epsom Derby prep (a counterpart of the Prix du Jockey-Club) whereas Derab, the younger brother of the great Enable, has only raced three times to date, which includes a recent win at Newmarket: a race of comparatively modest level.

A second British trainer also seeks his place in the sun. He is Roger Varian, and is represented by El Drama, who is coming off a listed win at Chester. He will be partnered by French jockey Mickaël Barzalona, who hails from Corsica.


5 runners from Chantilly (Oise)

In France, the biggest concentration of English thoroughbreds is to be found at the Chantilly training centre (Oise), and four of the field are able to capitalise on this exceptional training environment, which extends over several communes (Chantilly, Lamorlaye, Gouvieux, Coye-La-Forêt and Avilly-Saint-Léonard), and one split over 1,900 hectares! This includes 140 kms of natural sand tracks and 120 hectares of grass tracks, which enables aspiring champions to undergo the best preparation. It is at Chantilly, and in neighbouring communes, that Pascal Bary (whose Baby Rider bids to give the handler his seventh Jockey-Club win), Pia and Joakim Brandt (Policy of Truth), Freddy Head (Adhamo), Nicolas Caullery (Fort Payne) and Fabrice Vermeulen (Pretty Tiger), all hold court.

2 runners from Calas (South-East of France)

However, other French regions are also out in force. The “South-East” region, and for this read the training centre of Calas-Cabriès (situated some 30 kms from Marseille), will be represented by the Frédéric Rossi duo Sealiway and Smile Makers. Frédéric Rossi also has a second stable (a satellite yard) at Chantilly, which is designed to limit the travel factor (and therefore fatigue) of their horses which frequently race in the Parisian region.

5 runners from Deauville (Normandy region)

Jean-Claude Rouget also has two yards: his more long-standing base is to be found at Pau, whereas the other more recent addition is to be found at Deauville. In fact, the famous seaside resort on the Normandy coast is where his three runners, Cheshire Academy, Saiydabad and Makaloun, are all trained. The former carries the colours of US owner Peter Brant, whose Sottsass won in 2019 (and who went on to win the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe the following season), while the other two aforementioned colts are representatives of His Highness the Aga Khan, whose colours have triumphed on seven occasions.

Stephanie Nigge has also chosen Deauville as her training base, having set up shop there in 2020. She has achieved the tour de force of being doubly represented, given this time span, and both her representatives are sons of Le Havre (the winner of the Prix du Jockey-Club in 2009): Millebosc and Normandy Bridge.

And one runner from Mont-de-Marsan (South-West)

Lastly, Philippe Sogorb will represent the South-West, as he trains from his base at Mont-de-Marsan in the Landes region. A former jockey who turned trainer in 2011, he will saddle the statuesque Ninth Titan, who races in the prestigious colours of the Niarchos Family. This concern were victorious in 2018 (Study of Man) 2002 (Sulamani) and 1998 (Dream Well). Although the latter was owned in partnership with Jean-Louis Bouchard.



The Chantilly track will be in perfect condition for the advent of the champions on display. The month of May was quite rainy, with rather mild temperatures: this favoured the growth of the grass, which means that the track's grassy covering is particularly dense. The running rail will not be moved in-field. It has not been set since 20 April, which guarantees that a large portion of the track is in very good condition. Marin Le Cour Grandmaison, in charge of the Chantilly racecourse and training centre, said: «We have carried out all the necessary rolling, ramming and aeration, plus the mowing of the track, so as to prepare the track as well as possible. We monitor the going every morning, using the penetrometer, whose readings are published on our social media networks. On Wednesday morning, after a light dousing of water, aimed solely at compensating for evapotranspiration, the penetrometer reading was 3.3, or « good to soft».  The weather forecast is rather uncertain, as thunderstorms are predicted for Friday in particular. This uncertainty does not enable us, at this stage, to make an exact prediction of what the penetrometer reading will be on Sunday. However, we will keep the professionals informed on a daily basis. »




Pauline Chehboub, the representative of Haras de la Gousserie, the owners of Sealiway and Smile Makers

“Sealiway is doing very well. Franck Blondel will be riding him: he rides him every morning and we thought that if Mickaël Barzalona was unavailable, then Franck would ride him. Contrary to what people say, Sealiway is not just a soft ground type: he doesn't mind a soft track but he can also act on good ground. The Poule d'Essai is a race to forget: he needs to be bowling along, and isn’t a colt that can be held up off a four wide trip. He struggled the whole race. In any case, he is in good order after his Paris-Longchamp exertions, and we think he will stay the trip. Smile Makers has every chance, and we are hoping for a good draw. He’s a relatively straight forward ride, easy to handle and he has never been out of the first three in his eight races to date. At Saint-Cloud, in the Prix Greffulhe, he raced from the front and battled throughout the straight. Physically speaking, he's a lump and needs to get into racing rhythm that suits him to a tee.”


Freddy Head (the trainer of Adhamo)

“The colt is doing very well and I’m very happy with him. The 2,100 metres trip is not a problem and, if it rains, during the week it won't be a problem either. In terms of ratings, Adhamo is one of the highest in the race. I'm hoping for a race run at a good gallop, an inside draw [Editor’s note: a low number in the starting stalls... and, then, a slice of luck!

Nicolas Caullery (the trainer of Fort Payne)

“This is my first runner in the Jockey-Club, and we have ambitions! There's no one outstanding colt in the field and we all have a chance of winning. There’s no pressure as they say! I have confidence in my colt and my jockey. If my colt is better than the others, we hope he will win. If he gets beaten by better horses then so be it... What I’m hoping for is that I will have no regrets, and that the colt has a clean race... Given the number of runners, there will be happy and unhappy people after the draw has been made. We have done everything right, all his preparation has gone well, and there is no adverse weather forecast before the we will have no excuses at first glance. Thomas Trullier will ride him and he retains all my confidence: as he knows the horse inside out, and even better than me, because he has a rider's feel. I have a visual impression of things.

Pia and Joakim Brandt (the trainers of Policy of Truth)

“The decision to run the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club was made in tandem with Olivier Carli, whose colours Policy of Truth carries. He has everything going for him.  All three of us have thought about the best interests of the colt. He deserves to run in the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club given what he has achieved so far. Julien Augé came to ride him on Monday when the colt did a racecourse canter. He was surprised how straight forward the colt was to handle. Furthermore, he has no doubt about his ability to stay the trip... Of course, on Sunday, a bit of racing luck will be needed. This is a great moment for the stable. He is our second runner in the Jockey- Club.


Stéphanie Nigge: the trainer of Millebosc and Normandy Bridge

Millebosc is doing very well. There is a lot of speed in his pedigree, but he ran well over 1,800 metres at Chantilly last time. It's not the first time in the history of this race that a colt goes into the race with doubts about his stamina. In Australia, horses run and win over a wide variety of distances. So it's important to give it a try - knowing that horses evolve over time. We're going to ride him in the way which suits him best, namely from the back of the field. Furthermore, the Prix de Guiche is a good prep race. Besides, the first four home in that race will again come orders at Chantilly on Sunday!”

“Strangely enough, his attempt in the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains {editor’s note: he was seventh] probably did Normandy Bridge some good. He came out of his race in good order and has changed for the good. Physically, he has improved in condition. He didn't have a hard race and effectively only really raced for 200 metres. After getting going in the final 200 metres, he wasn’t blowing afterwards. Gerald Mossé rode him "with the future in mind", and without being hard on him. Normandy Bridge will have no problem in staying the 2,100 metres trip. He is a big colt, with a raking action and is one that needs to race. As he matures and settles better in his races, he will, for sure, be eventually tried over 2,400 metres. That is one day or another. He has the breeding, the action and the physique for it…”

Jean-Claude Rouget (the trainer of Makaloun, Saiydabad and Cheshire Academy)

If I’m race all three of them, it's because I think they each has a good chance, although they are very different. There will be a lot of runners, so the way the race pans put will have a bearing on matters... We made a conscious decision to keep Makaloun under wraps for a considerable period during the winter, as he had run late in the season (2020), and on a track that was very demanding on the body. So he went late into training, but quite quickly came to himself in the mornings. In the Prix de Guiche, which the colt won, he wasn’t a 100 per cent. I don't think I can have him in any better condition that he is now!

Saiydabad is a more backward type than Makaloun. He has less speed but is more laid back.  We couldn't have raced him as a two-year-old. His real target is the Grand Prix de Paris [in mid-July], but I think he still has fair scope for improvement, and so it's worth having a crack at the Jockey-Club.

Cheshire Academy has a very particular background as he only began his career during the winter at Pau. So it was some feat to win the Prix Noailles, but he hasn't run for two months... That's the question mark, and the timing wasn’t right as regards racing him after the Noailles and prior to the Jockey-Club. He is a light, feminine type of colt, and one doesn't need much work. The fact that he will be racing at Chantilly doesn’t worry me. He's in a good frame of mind, and is a very good natured colt. He’s often slowly into his stride. So he's likely to be racing from off the pace before finishing with a flourish in the straight! "



Jean-Pierre Deroubaix: the representative of Valentin Bukhtoyarov, the owner of Royal World

“Royal Word is coming off two easy wins. Unbeaten this year, he has just won the Czech Guineas. The distance is a question mark as he has never raced beyond 1,800 metres. He will be ridden by Fabrice Veron. Royal Word was bred at the Haras du Quesnay [near Deauville] on behalf of his owner, Valentin Bukhtoyarov, He wishes to test his horse in a prestige race. An owner whose interests span Western Europe, Russia, the Czech Republic and the US, Valentin Bukhtoyarov likes to have runners at the big international meetings, and to share his passion with his friends. For example, he has won the UAE Oaks [editor’s note: the Emirati version of the Prix de Diane. He’s a supporter of racing in Russia where he sponsors a whole meeting. Valentin Bukhtoyarov also breeds English thoroughbreds, and his mares board at the Haras du Berlais [editor’s note: in the Vienne department}. However, he races mainly in Russia with this breed.”