What they say about the 2023 Qatar Prix du Jockey Club ...

1 June 2023

Photos scoopdyga.com

The 183rd edition of the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club will take place on Sunday 4 June 2023 at Chantilly racecourse. Europe's top 3-year-olds will square up to each over 2,100 metres, and will compete for a purse worth a total of €1.5 million, which makes it France's second most valuable race (behind the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe). This outcome serves to determine the best of 3-y-old of the current classic crop, while at the same time, setting the scene for the elite autumnal races, of which the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is the highlight.


Conditions will be ideal at Chantilly on Sunday. Marin Le Cour Grandmaison, who oversees the Chantilly training centre and racecourse, said: « The ground is riding good to soft (3.3 on the penetrometer scale) as of Thursday morning. We will water the track on Thursday evening. The grass has been mowed to a depth of 12cms. We’re aiming for a penetrometer reading of 3.3 (good to soft) by 10am on Sunday morning, with the optic of achieving a 3.2 mark during the day. »


The favourite is a French colt trained at Chantilly by Christopher Head

The French colt Big Rock is expected to start favourite, having made remarkable progress this year, which has entailed winning two of his prep races with flying colours: the Prix de Guiche and the Prix La Force.


Big Rock is trained at Chantilly by Christopher Head, who comes from a family that is steeped in the history of the sport, which has transcended some of the greatest moments in world horse racing. At just 36, Christopher Head is a rising star of the French flat trainers’ fraternity. He is the son of Freddy Head, who was a crack jockey who numbered four Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe wins. In 1997, Freddy Head decided to hang up his riding boots to become a trainer. The outstanding mare of his training career was Goldikova, who carried the colours of the Wertheimer & Frère stable. She won 14 Group 1 races, including four editions of the Prix Rothschild and three renewals of the Breeders' Cup Mile (run in the US). Christopher's aunt Christiane Head is the only woman to have trained a Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner. In fact, she trained three winners of the great race, having set the ball rolling in 1979, a year after taking out her licence, with Three Troïkas, before doubling up with Trêve in 2013 and 2014. She retired as a trainer in January 2018.

Having begun his training career in 2018, Christopher Head very soon enjoyed success and, last year, he saddled his first winner at the very top level thanks to Blue Rose Cen. The latter won the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac (Group 1), which is the top French race for 2-year-old fillies. Blue Rose Cen has confirmed this level of form by taking the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (the top prize for 3-y-old fillies run over 1,600 metres in the spring). Both Blue Rose Cen and Big Rock are owned by the Yeguada Centurion, the stable of Leopoldo Fernández Pujals, and himself a Cuban-born entrepreneur, who made his fortune in Spain, where he founded the home delivery pizza chain Telepizza.


Nurlan Bizakov and his love of Normandy

Padishakh, trained at Deauville by Jean-Claude Rouget, will defend the colours of Nurlan Bizakov, who is also the colt’s breeder. A businessman from Kazakhstan, Nurlan Bizakov discovered horse racing in his homeland, before his passion took on a new dimension in England, where he was based at the time. In 2010, he acquired a stud in the south of England, Hesmond Studs, before falling in love with Normandy. This has entailed developing his breeding and racing business activities there, under the Sumbe banner (which is the name of his home village).

In 2019, he acquired the Haras de Montfort et Préaux, located between Orbec and Lisieux, in the heart of the Pays d'Auge, and, in 2021, he bought the Haras du Mézeray. The latter situated at Livarot, in the Orne region, was yet another example of a French historic thoroughbred breeding centre. These two breeding facilities span 350 hectares, and they are home to four stallions of note: Mishriff, Golden Horde, De Treville and Recorder.

Success soon followed: as last year's Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère winner, the top autumnal prize for 2-year-old colts, was Belbek, who became the first Group 1 winner to be bred and owned by Nurlan Bizakov.


As a sign of his attachment to French racing, Nurlan Bizakov, via his Sumbe operation, has signed up to a five sponsorship year of the Prix Morny (Group 1 - Sunday 20 August 2023), and the highlight of the Deauville Barrière Meeting, which takes place throughout August at the seaside town's racecourse.


A long-standing partnership between Jean-Louis Bouchard and Pascal Bary (Chantilly): a tandem which has impacted the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club