As a horse-crazed kid, I devoured everything I could find relating to horses – any kind of horse, any horse event, anywhere in the world. So, when I journeyed to France to launch the Ice Horse products for the European market, I was surprised to learn there was a major horse race I had never heard of: The Grand Prix d’Amerique.
Little known fact: The race has been going on since 1920 and is run each year as a tribute to America’s involvement in World War I. On top of that, it is one of the richest prizes in horse racing, boasting a purse of 1 million euros. Who knew!
If you ever get the chance to go, do. The racetrack is in Vincennes, which is a suburb of Paris. It is nicknamed “The Trotting Temple” and covers 42 hectares in the midst of Vincennes Forest (think Central Park, only bigger). There is a giant hippodrome attached to the clubhouse, and two days before the race, there is a huge trade show for all of the trainers. We met not only all the top French trainers but trainers from all over the world, even as far away as Iceland.
Grand Stand Parade
Race day began with the band playing the United States national anthem. The day was cold and rainy, but that did not stop a crowd of more than 30,000 from filling the stands. Just prior to the featured race, the track was transformed into a stage. Everything and everyone was in red, white, and blue! Sulky drivers for The Grand Prix d’Amerique paraded in front of the grand stands in vintage Corvettes, led by Uncle Sam tall men and a team of cheerleaders that rivaled the Dallas Cowboy’s own.
Eighteen cracks, which are what the trotters are called, started – with no assigned postpositions. It is a running start and quite different from anything I had ever seen in horse racing. And, unlike most U.S. races where the same age group and often the same gender race against one another, these horses were of various ages. Two-time winner Ready Cash was the heavy favorite.
Trotters at the famed Grobois Training Center
We were rooting for Ready Cash too, having met his owner at the Grosbois Training Center while demonstrating the Ice Horse boots the day prior.
The training center is quite spectacular with a manor house once belonging to Napoleon, more than 1600 hundred stalls, 4 sq. km. of castles, lakes, forest paths, racing lanes and of course, a full track.
In the end, the race went to the Swedish superstar, Maharajah, fulfilling a life-long dream for Trainer Stefan Hultman. The French favorite, Up And Quick, finished runner-up, one length behind Maharajah. Our favorite, Ready Cash, who was out to claim his third Prix d’Amerique title, was disqualified for breaking stride. The Norwegian challenger, Yarrah Boko, driven by Pierre Vercruysse, managed to finish third, after a trip in the pocket behind Maharajah.
Third victory eludes Ready Cash breaking stride at the finish.
I hope you can get the idea from my pictures that the whole event was quite spectacular, not to mention, emotional. We were with some of the finest trotting horses on the planet and also had the privilege to witness a little-known but special tribute from one country to another. If you want to see the race and learn more, click here. And don’t forget to visit our site, www.icehorse.net, and like us on Facebook to see how others are using our products as part of their leg-care routines.
Julie Garella, Owner