5 Fast Facts about the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, a European Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race
- Founded in 1853, the race was known through most of its history as the Grand Criterium. It was renamed in 2003 after Jean-Luc Lagardere, a successful businessman, owner-breeder, and the first president of France-Galop, which manages and controls racing in France.
- Numerous Classic winners and other outstanding racehorses have won the race. The best include Val d’Or (1904), Prestige (1905), Brantome (1933), Ambiorix (1948), Tantieme (1949), Sicambre (1950), Bella Paola (1957), Right Royal (1960), Hula Dancer (1962), Sir Ivor (1967), Blushing Groom (1976), Hector Protector (1990), and Rock of Gibraltar (2001).
- The race is also notable as being the only defeat for arguably the best horse of the 20th century. Favorite Grey Dawn won in 1964 as favorite, but finishing second – reportedly waited on too long before finishing fast – was the mighty Sea-Bird. The 1970 race also featured a narrow defeat for another all-time great, Mill Reef, who was beaten by My Swallow.
- The Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere is the only French race in the inaugural seven-race European Road to the Kentucky Derby. It has been a “win and you’re in” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf since 2011, but none of the winners has yet taken up the invitation to run.
- One horse has, however, used the race as a springboard to 2-year-old Breeders’ Cup success. The 1991 victor scored in impressive style to record his sixth consecutive win, but as good as it was, it was nothing compared to the he put on in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Arazi’s earth-shattering display is still remembered as one of the greatest Breeders’ Cup performances ever.
(Coady Photo/Churchill Downs)