TTHE PRIX DE DIANE
Sometimes referred to as the French Oaks, is a Group 1 flat horse race that is open to three-year-old thoroughbred fillies. It is run at Chantilly over a distance of 2,100 metres (about 1 mile and 2½ furlongs).
The event was inspired by the Oaks Stakes in England, and it was named after the mythological goddess Diana (French name Diane). It was first run on May 18, 1843, and it was originally restricted to horses born and bred in France. Its distance was set at 2,100 metres, which is around 300 metres shorter than that of the English Oaks. The race departed from its regular venue during the 1848 French Revolution, when it was switched at short notice to Versailles. It was not run in 1871 due to the Franco-Prussian War.
The Prix de Diane was abandoned throughout World War I, with no running from 1915 to 1918. It resumed the following year with the first of two post-war editions at Longchamp. It returned to Chantilly in 1921, and with the exception of a single year at Longchamp in 1936, it continued at its usual home until World War II. It was cancelled in 1940, and for the following two years it was contested at Longchamp. It was run over 2,150 metres at Le Tremblay in 1943 and 1944, and it then returned to Longchamp for three more years. The event was opened to foreign participants in 1946. It moved back to Chantilly in 1948.
The first foreign-trained horse to win the Prix de Diane was Sweet Mimosa in 1970, who was trained in Ireland by Seamus McGrath. When the present system of race grading was introduced in 1971, the event was classed at the highest level, Group 1. The race was called off in 1975 due to a strike by stable lads. The favourite to win that year had been Ivanjica. From 1977 to 1982 the race was sponsored by Revlon, and from 1983 to 2007 it was backed by Hermès.
Two Prix de Diane winners also won the English Oaks – Fille de l’Air in 1864 and Pawneese in 1976. However, as these races often take place in close succession it is not always possible for horses to compete in both events. Five winners have subsequently achieved victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (first run in 1920), the latest of these being Zarkava in 2008 and Treve in 2013 and 2014 . Zarkava is owned by the Aga Khan whose stud at Gilltown, Ireland we will visit later in our trip.
The Queen Anne Stakes- Day 1
A Group 1 flat horse race open to thoroughbreds aged four years or older. It is run over a distance of 1 mile (1,609 metres), The race was created in 1840, and for the first part of its history it was called the Trial Stakes. In its original form it was contested by horses aged three or older. The title was changed in 1930 to commemorate Queen Anne, the monarch who established racing at Ascot in 1711
When the current system of race grading was introduced in 1971, the Queen Anne Stakes was classed at Group 3 level, and it was subsequently promoted to Group 2 in 1984. It was given Group 1 status in 2003, and simultaneously the minimum age was raised to four. It is presently the first race on the opening day of the Royal Ascot meeting. In 2015 we saw Frankel win in arguably the greatest performance of a thoroughbred ever, although Secretariat fans might argue that point.
The King’s Stand Stakes- Day 1
A Group 1 flat horse race open to thoroughbreds aged three years or older. It is run over a distance of 5 furlongs (1,006 metres).
The event was created as a result of bad weather at Royal Ascot in 1860. Heavy rain made it impossible to run the Royal Stand Plate over its usual distance of 2 miles, and so it was shortened to the only raceable part of the course, 5 furlongs. The amended race was titled the Queen’s Stand Plate, and in time it became the most important sprint at the Royal meeting. During its early years the event was open to horses aged two or older. Its name was changed to the King’s Stand Stakes in 1901, following the death of Queen Victoria and the accession of King Edward VII.
The current system of race grading was introduced in 1971, and the King’s Stand Stakes was given Group 1 status in 1973. It was downgraded to Group 2 level in 1988 so that another event, the Haydock Sprint Cup, could be promoted.
The King’s Stand Stakes became part of a new international race series, the Global Sprint Challenge, in 2005. It consequently featured a number of high-quality contenders from overseas, and it regained Group 1 status in 2008. It is now the fourth leg of the series, preceded by the KrisFlyer International Sprint and followed by the Golden Jubilee Stakes. It is presently run on the opening day of the Royal Ascot meeting.
Many Australian horses have won the King’s Stand Stakes including the great Takeover Target (pictured below), trained by past tour participant Joe Janiak, in 2006.
If you come with us, remind Geoff to tell you the ‘Joe Janiak meets The Queen’ story. It’s a classic.
The Gold Cup- Day 3
A Group 1 flat horse race that is open to thoroughbreds aged four years or older. It is run over a distance of 2 miles and 4 furlongs (4,023 metres)
It is Britain’s most prestigious event for stayers. It is traditionally held on day three of the Royal Ascot meeting, which is known colloquially (but not officially) as Ladies’ Day. Contrary to popular belief the actual title of the race does not include the word “Ascot”.
The amazing Yeats won 4 consecutive Gold Cups. Her Majesty The Queen unveiled his statue in the Parade Ring at Royal Ascot in 2011. Yeats now stands at Coolmore Ireland.
The Queen herself owned the winner of the 2013 Gold Cup, Estimate, trained by Sir Michael Stoute. We were lucky enough to meet Estimate at Sir Michael’s yard in Newmarket in 2012.
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes- Day 5
A Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain which is open to thoroughbreds aged three years or older. It is run over a distance of 6 furlongs (1,207 metres).
The event was established in 1868, and it was originally called the All-Aged Stakes. Its title was changed to the Cork and Orrery Stakes in 1926, in honour of the 9th Earl of Cork, who had served as the Master of the Buckhounds in the 19th century.
When the current system of race grading was introduced in 1971, the Cork and Orrery Stakes was classed at Group 3 level. It was promoted to Group 2 status in 1998. It was renamed in 2002 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and simultaneously it was raised to the highest grade, Group 1.
The Golden Jubilee Stakes became part of a new international race series, the Global Sprint Challenge, in 2005. It has consequently featured a number of high-quality contenders from overseas. It is now the fifth leg of the series, preceded by the King’s Stand Stakes and followed by the July Cup. It is presently run on the final day of the Royal Ascot meeting.
Australia’s Starspangledbanner won the 2010 Golden Jubilee Stakes. In 2011 Star Witness ran a creditable third, backing up from a fine second in the King’s Stand 5 days earlier. He is now a leading sire in Australia.
In 2012 it was renamed the Diamond Jubilee Stakes to honour The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
THE IRISH DERBY
A Group 1 race that is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run over a distance of 1 mile and 4 furlongs (2,414 metres). It is the Irish version of the English Derby.
The earliest version of the race was called the O’Darby Stakes. This was established in 1817, but it was discontinued after the 1824 running. It was succeeded in 1848 by the Curragh Derby but this was again short-lived.
The modern Irish Derby was created by the 3rd Earl of Howth, the 3rd Marquess of Drogheda and the 3rd Earl of Charlemont and it was first run in 1866. Its distance was initially set at 1 mile and 6 furlongs, and this was cut to its present length in 1872.
In 1907 that year’s English Derby winner, Orby, won the Irish Derby. But it was not until 1962 that the Irish version became the major international race that it is now. This was brought about by Joe McGrath, a founder of the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake. McGrath combined the race with the sweepstake, and it became known as the Irish Sweeps Derby. The prize money was substantially increased, and the event began to regularly attract the winners of the English Derby. In 1964 Santa Claus became the first horse to win the double since Orby. Several more have followed, and the most recent to win both races was High Chaparral (pictured), sire of Australian Champion So You Think, in 2002.
In 2011 we saw Ballydoyle trainer Aiden O’Brien record a remarkable trifecta when Treasure Beach beat two other Ballydoyle runners. It was O’Brien’s ninth Derby success.
Geoff observed that Aiden then delayed the presentation ceremony near the winning post while he congratulated the strappers of the second and third horses in the parade ring some 100m away.
“Now that’s the sort of man I’d want training my horses; a man who puts his staff and horses above personal glory”, thought Geoff, as if he could afford him. In Australia, Chris Waller most reminds Geoff of the humility he saw that day at the Curragh. He cant afford Chris Waller either.