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PRIX DE DIANE (Group 1)
Chantilly, Turf, 2100m
17 June 2012
Lucas Marquardt - It is one of the crown jewels of French racing, a Classic that’s been sought after, and won, by queens and princes, sheikhs and shipping magnates. It’s the G1 Prix de Diane, held each June for 3-year-old fillies going 2100 meters at Chantilly, and it indeed has grown to a lofty stature since a humble beginning back in 1843, when a sparse crowd watched Favored Nativa (Fr) become the first of trainer Henry Jennings’s record nine winners.
Since then, a parade of champions has claimed the Diane, France’s most important race for 3-year-old fillies. The honour roll includes the storied dual French champion Pearl Cap (Fr), winner in 1931, who that year became the first filly to win the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe over males. It includes the 1973 heroine Allez France, also winner of the Arc during a 1974 season that earned her the title of Horse of the Year. And it includes the likes of Zarkava (Ire), whose Diane/Arc double in 2008 made her Europe’s Horse of the Year.
But the allure of the Diane is more than just a talented roster of winners. It’s a race which is uniquely French, oozing style and charisma even more so than the country’s most prestigious event, the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Part of the Diane’s panache comes from the people themselves, a mix of French urbane and provincial charm, and part from the beauty of the surroundings. Chantilly ranks as one of France’s and maybe the world’s, most attractive racecourses, sitting within the Chateau de Chantilly and boasting a 1,900 hectare training centre edging Chantilly forest.
Chantilly opened its doors in 1834, and the grandstand, dating back to 1879, was designed by famed architect Pierre Jerome Honore Daumet. The adjacent Great Stables, imposing in its beauty and sitting prominently on one of the track’s right-hand turns, pre-dates the track by over 110 years, and was commissioned by a duke who requested that his architect build a stable suitable of his rank, on the assumption that he would be reincarnated as a horse in his next life.
The impeccable bloodlines of the Diane’s winners represent the sport’s most esteemed breeders: Marcel Boussac, Baron Edouard de Rothschild, Baron Maurice de Rothschild, Daniel Wildenstein, Stavros Niarchos, HH Aga Khan IV, Sheikh Mohammed, Khalid Abdullah, and many others.
Will this year’s Prix de Diane feature any fillies who will go on to star on the first Sunday in October at Longchamp? Time will tell. But what’s the rush-this Sunday, Chantilly features a Classic jewel unto itself.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News
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