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The World According To Dean

Published: January 24, 2009 12:28 am ET

Last Comment: January 24, 2009 11:53 am ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

To quote from the second line of Le Marsellaise, the French national anthem, "Le jour de gloire est arrive" ("The day of glory has arrived").

Technically, it's tomorrow when trotting devotees from across Europe will be at Vincennes to witness the Prix d'Amerique. But the sense of anticipation before the big race takes over Paris several days in advance.

I'm in Paris now with a group of 16 North American horsemen and racing fans: Blair Burgess, Karin Olsson-Burgess, Dr. Robert Fox, Marsha Cohen, Peter Gerry, Gina and Rick Beinhauer, Joyce and Tom Dillon, Johanna and Charlie Beaver, Tom Hicks, Maryellen and Dave McDuffee, Don Richards, and Bonnie Smith.

We're the North American contingent of a tour sponsored by the Swedish firm Equitours and we're hoping to see an exciting race tomorrow. In fact, we're practically guaranteed to see an exciting race. The French fans are so vociferous in supporting their favorites that the Vincennes racecourse is rockin' n rollin' with excitement long before post time.

You can probably make a legitimate case for about half of 18 starters in the Prix d'Amerique. That makes for a wide open race. Of course, since Offshore Dream has won the big event the last two years, it's hard to pick against him.

There is a lot of cat-and-mouse in the prep races for the Prix d'Amerique. It's hard to know with certainly which horses are truly fit for the war that stretches over 2,700 meters. For example, in the Prix de Belgique, the most recent for the four major preps, Offshore Dream started with a 25-meter handicap, as did several others. That makes it difficult to precisely assess their performance, but the French betting public will weigh in on this issue with millions of Euros bet on this great event.

The purse is 1 million Euros or about C$1,650,00 and about 40,000 screaming fans will be shoe-horned into the Hippodrome de Vincennes, which is often referred to as the "Temple of Trotting". The main track at Vincennes is just shy of 2,000 meters and its surface is crushed cinders. The Prix d'Amerique starts in a chute that angles off the backstretch. A mobile gate is not used.

Trotting is France is stronger than in any other country, thanks to strong government support and a betting system that reaches people across the country. The stars of the French sport are the older horses and they typically stay at the top level for many years. Because they're not pushed hard when they are young, they're sound enough to keep going for a long time; if they attain fame and there is a demand for their breeding services, they simply do double duty, breeding and racing.

This will be the 88th edition of the Prix d'Amerique, so it's older than the Hambletonian, Jug or many major North American events. The only horse to win the Hambletonian and the Prix d'Amerique was Walter Dear, who triumphed in Paris in 1934 five years after winning the American trotting classic.

In 1935, Muscletone won the Prix d'Amerique at age 4 less than six months after winning a heat of the Hambletonian at Goshen. He won again in 1937 and American-bred horses were quite successful in the 1930s.

The race was not contested in 1940 or 41 as the French were contending with the early stages of the war, but it resumed in 1942.

The great mare Roquepine won the Prix d'Amerique three consecutive years in the 1960s, but she was not able to handle the 4-year-old Armbro Flight in the Roosevelt International in 1966.

Hanover-bred trotters Dart Hanover and Delmonica Hanover took the French classic in 1973-74, but not until 1994 did another North American-bred horse win. That was Sea Cove, bred by A.M. Cuddy of Strathroy. In 1999, the great mare Moni Maker took the Prix d'Amerique.

The Prix d'Amerique has been sponsored for almost a decade by Marionnaud, a large French firm offering beauty products and perfume.

The countdown is upon us and we're looking forward to a great trotting spectacle tomorrow.

Dean Hoffman, one of North America's most prolific harness racing journalists and member of the U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame, offers SC website readers his weekly look at international standardbred racing through his eyes.

January 24, 2009 - 11:53 am"In 1935, Muscletone won the

Don Daniels (not verified) SAID...

"In 1935, Muscletone won the Prix d'Amerique at age 4 less than six months after winning a heat of the Hambletonian at Goshen. He won again in 1937 and American-bred horses were quite successful in the 1930s."

from Dec 30, 1936 Harness Horse.

French International Trotting Race Inaugural January 24,1937
THE French International Trotting races held at the Paris- Vincennes track midway between Paris and Vincennes, France, and, not to exceed eight English miles from the hotel center of Paris will be inaugurated Sunday, January 24, with the Prix d'Amerique, for which stallions and mares from all countries are eligible bringing together every American bred horse now in Europe presumed to be in form at the time the entries close. There are eight International Trotting events to sulky and one International event to saddle. In addition to the Prix d'Amerique for 200,000 francs there is the Prix d'Angleterre 40,000 francs; Prix de Belgique 60,000 francs; Prix de Bucarest 30,000 francs; Prix de Bel-grade 20,000 francs; Prix de Copenhagen 60,000 francs; Prix d'Italie 100,000 francs; Prix d'Amsterdam 20,000

As the Prix d'Amerique is the most valuable and due to the fact that it attracts more ex-American trotters than other events, the conditions under which it is given will be outlined.

Prix d'Amerique value 200,000 francs-Sunday, January 24, 1937

100,000 francs to first horse
50,000 francs to second horse
25,000 francs to third horse
15,000 francs to fourth horse
10,000 francs to fifth horse
Entrance f ee 200 francs

Entries received by the secretariat de la Society 7 rue d' astorg, until noon Tuesday, January 19
Distance 2,600 meters figured in American measurements One mile and 3,168 feet within two feet of one and three fifths miles

All horses that won the Prix d'Amerique in the two
preceding years will be handicapped 25 meters (about 8 1 feet)
Any horse winning the Prix d'Amerique in each of the last two years will be handicapped 50 meters--Handicaps not accumulative.
Only mares or stallions are eligible to the race and other International events, geldings not eligible.

The race is probably the most trying trotting race in the world as in the first place it is raced at a time of year called wholly unseasonable in the U. S. Second, the distance 2,600 meters about a mile and three fifths takes the heart right out of many horses. Third, the track is sand and cinders, up hill and down, better suited to a rough gaited hop-ski-and-dive French trotter than a true gaited American trotter trained to go good gaited and stick on a trot. Yet Hazleton 2:003/4 won it twice, Muscletone 3, 2:02 literally ran away with it in 1934 and would no doubt have repeated in 1935 had he not met interference, gotten away poorly, which handicapped him to such an extent that it was beyond reason to think he could overcome the distance lost.

What American horses will be entered and start this year is problematical. Muscletone will no doubt try again, taking his 25 meter handicap and possibly more through other conditions not apparent in the conditions specified generally. Gianni (Johnny) Gambi, the Italian swimming champion who bought Mary Sunshine in 1935 and Tara 2:00 during the 1936 Lexington "Trots" will surely start one or the other of these great mares, T ara preferred, if she seems to be in form. There will no other entry that will carry the hopes of American horsemen, either in Europe or the United States as will the dapper, diminutive, Terrible Tara 2:00. She will present an angle of consideration in direct opposition to what the horse public regard as necessary for a long distance race, or a heavy track, which generally speaking is a big rugged stallion presumed to be best fitted. But the dainty appearing Tara, and her tippy gait may come on at the finish and trim big and little trotters, American, French, Belgian and others-all alike. The complimentary reference of "Terrible Tara" has proven true on more than one occasion at the end of a fast, furiously contested third heat. In previous years there has been a condition whereby the winner received in addition to the hundred thousand francs as first money an additional sum, either from the betting, or out of the admission fees, this clause not being given in the general conditions of the race, published.

The Prix d'Angelterre, scheduled to be raced Thursday, January 28 carries a purse of 40,000, similar conditions prevailing as to horses to be entered, as only entire horses and mares are eligible. A horse winning third money in the Prix d'Amerique of 1937 is handicapped 25 meters, a horse winning second money is handicapped 50 meters. A handicap of 25 meters is also placed on half French bred horses, foaled outside of France. Entries in the Prix d'Angleterre close January 19, nine days prior to the race.

The Prix de Belgique scheduled for Sunday, January 31 is for 60,000 francs, divided into five moneys, distance 2,250 meters, entrance fee 150 francs with the following penalties or handicaps; horses winning 15,000 francs in previous International events of 1937 handicapped 25 meters, horses which won 40,000 francs in previous Internationals, or 50,000 in 1935 handicapped 50 meters, horses that won the Prix d' Amerique, or the Prix de Cornulier in the last two years are handicapped 75 meters, more than 225 feet. Half French bred horses, foaled outside of France also receive a handicap of 25 meters, provided they have not won at greater distances than 2,325 meters. Entries close January 26 five days prior to the race.

The Prix de Bucarest, scheduled for Wednesday, February 3, is worth gross 30,000 francs, distance 2,600 meters, entrance 100 francs closing time January 26. It has similar penalties for winning previous Internationals, also penalizes half French bred horses by 25 meter handicaps. The Prix de Belgrade purse 20,000 francs will be raced Thursday, February 17. The money is divided 50-25-15 and 10 per cent on the same basis that races are divided in the United States. The distance is 2,250 meters slightly more than a mile and a quarter, about a mile and three-eighths. The Prix de Copenhagen scheduled for Sunday, February 7, purse 60,000 francs-distance 2,600 meters, has five moneys, with similar handicaps governing running races other than the Prix d'Amerique and Prix d'Angleterre.

The Prix d'Italie, probably due to the fact that so many leading American horses exported to Italy take part in the French Internationals is more valuable being worth 100,000 f rancs. It is also the longest distance to be raced in the Internationals 2,900 meters. It will be raced on St. Valentine's Day, February 14, entries open until noon of February 10, the usual penalties for winning races, non French bred etc. governing the event.
The last of the International Trots to sulky is the
Prix d'Amsterdam--2,600 meters
Purse 10,000 francs, entrance 75 francs

It is for all horses (stallions or mares) four-years-old, or older and has limited provisions for winners.
The only International Trot under saddle announced in the advertisements of the International events to be raced during the winter season over the Paris-Vincennes course is the Prix de Cornulier scheduled for Sunday, January 31.

January 24, 2009 - 10:40 amWhatever happened to Sea

Ray DeGennaro (not verified) SAID...

Whatever happened to Sea Cove? He won almost $3 million and yet we never hear of him. I've never heard of any offspring. Was he a gelding or sterile, or did he die young?

[email protected]
Ramon P. DeGennaro
Academician, raconteur, and all-around good guy.

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