“Mornyville”: this was the name used in 1864 by Le Sport newspaper to refer to the small town of Deauville, separated by the La Toucques river from her twin town of Trouville-Les-Bains. Over one hundred and fifty villas, a casino and a grand hotel had already been constructed there when the Duc de Morny, with the help of his friend, Doctor Oliffe, decided to organise races at Deauville in the hope of rivalling Brighton in England and Baden-Baden in Germany.
On sixty-six hectares of reclaimed ancient marshland beneath lush-green hillsides, an area was turfed and two tracks marked out, the first 1 mile 3 furlongs in length, the second 2 miles 1 furlong. Stands were erected (based on those at Fontainebleau), behind which were created the weigh-in room, the buffet, a lounge for the ladies, and some stalls.
The new Société des Courses de Deauville was assisted for practical issues by the Société d’Encouragement, a member of which, Comte Louis Hocquart de Turtot, oversaw the weighing operations and judged the finishes, while the chairman of the Société des Courses de Caen, Charles Calenge, gave the starting signals.
Laid on for the Parisian public was a 1st class express train, leaving on Sunday morning at 7.20 am and reaching Trouville at midday. Starting the return journey at 1 o’clock in the morning, it would reach the capital at 6 am. The price of a return ticket was 30 F.
The first two days of racing took place on Sunday 14 and Monday 15 August 1864, during the course of which prize money of 23,500 was awarded. There were six flat races on Sunday, the first of which, the Prix du Chemin de Fer, went to Dame Blanche owned by Paul Aumont, a neighbouring breeder from the Victot stud farm.
The showpiece event was a handicap, the Prix de Deauville (1 mile 4 ½ furlongs), which offered 9,200 F to the winner and attracted nine starters. The lucky horse was Jean Sans Peur, owned by Arthur Schickler and ridden by Arthur Watkins; two jockeys fell, without sustaining a serious injury after one horse collided with a fence post.
The second day’s race card featured two trotting events and three steeplechases. The champion French trotter, in this case, the mare Bayadère owned by Mesdames Montfort and Tiercelin, easily outpaced her three opponents over 2 miles 4 furlongs. Incidentally, the order in which two steeplechases were supposed to be run had to be reversed when one of the competitors turned up late for the weigh-in.
Lastly, a rider who “had suffered an accident taking his warm-up gallop was replaced by a debutant, M. Fessard, who was very fortunate to successfully complete this hazardous challenge”.
The second Deauville meeting took place on 6 and 7 August 1865. There were five races on Sunday, including the Prix de Morny (see the race of that name). Monday’s card featured seven races, including one for amateur riders, which was won by a German competitor, Saïd, owned by Comte Lehndorff and ridden by Captain Hunt, a renowned horseman.
There was also a steeplechase, won by Baron Finot’s famous mare, Astrolabe, together with a trotting race where the honours were taken by Essai, owned by the Marquis de Croix, who beat his sole opponent, Figaro. But the undoubted star of the meeting was La Reine Berthe, who lifted the Prix de Deauville (handicap, 1 mile 4 ½ furlongs, 10,350 F) on Sunday and the Prix de la Société d’Encouragement (1 mile 7 furlongs, 5,500 F) on the Monday on behalf of Comte Frédéric de Lagrange.
In 1866, the meeting was expanded to three days. From Saturday 4 to Sunday 6 August, seventeen races took place with, as the big novelty, the Coupe de Deauville, the race described above. The Prix de Morny – which went to Le Petit Caporal owned by Achille Fould – gave rise to two falls at the final bend, leaving the jockey Willy Carter with a fractured arm. The Prix de Deauville, an important handicap (1 mile 4 ½ furlongs, 11,150 F) was also mired in controversy when, during a first start, a competitor, Marino, remained at the post, leaving Fleur des Bois to win it. The starter (the Comte d’Hédouville) then changed his mind, declaring the start false despite having lowered his flag.
The race was then restarted with three fewer competitors – they refused to run again – and this time it was Marino (also owned by Achille Fould) who prevailed. The Grand Steeple-Chase (3 miles 5 furlongs, 14,700 F) was won by another famous jumper owned by Baron Finot, Valentino, ridden by John Page, the champion jumps jockey of the day. Two falls were recorded: one at the “fixed bar”, the other at the “picket fence”.
Finally, on Monday, the Prix de la Toucques, over 7 ½ furlongs was open to 2 year-olds and over. Benefiting from a 14-kilo allowance, the 2 year-olds carried 44 kilos, while the horses aged 3 and over were all up for claiming for 15 000 F. The 2-year-old Montgoubert, owned by the Comte de Lagrange and second-placed in the Prix de Morny on Saturday, won it at a canter. The following year, he would be victorious in the Coupe de Deauville.
After the death in 1884 of Comte Louis Hocquart de Turtot, it was Comte Florian de Kergorlay who took over from him as chairman of the Société des Courses de Deauville. On 23 May 1888, it became a civil company with usage rights over the racecourse for a duration of eighty years. In 1890, the racecourse’s new weigh-in room was unveiled, designed by the architect Delarue. It is still in use today.
On 20 August 1887, the first public auction took place in the racecourse’s weigh-in area, organised by Lyon-Chéri. There were 20 subjects presented, 9 of which were sold. Among those withdrawn was Augure, who triumphed in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil in 1891. A second sale was held on 18 August 1888 the 25 yearlings having been on view since 16 August in the boxes at Chéri’s premises near the town hall. 21 of them were snapped up. In 1891, Callistrate was sold for 7,100 F, the first of many great horses to be acquired at the Deauville yearling sales.
He would go on to win the Prix Lupin and the first Prix du Conseil Municipal. In 1892, Chéri-Raymond Halbronn purchased land from the Mauger consorts for the construction of an elegant rural auction house which, after several enlargements, would consist of 294 boxes over a surface area of 18,198 m2. In 1893 at Deauville, the Pepinvast stud farm sold Omnium II, who would win seventeen races including the Prix du Jockey Club.
On 19 August, a broodmare sale was held (in between the yearling sessions), a feature that continued regularly until 1903. In 1894, 200 yearlings were presented at Deauville, 125 of them finding new homes. In 1897, the Gazon stud farm sold Perth there, who would later win ten races including the Poule d’Essai, the Prix du Jockey Club and the Grand Prix de Paris.
In 1899, the French branch of Tattersall’s was unveiled (between the racecourse and Chéri’s premises), constructed in the Norman style with half-timbering and thatched roofs. After several enlargements, this second auction house covered 10,185 m2 by 1926 and contained 212 boxes.
In 1901, some 500 yearlings were put up for sale in the two establishments, but only half were sold. On 19 August 1904, fifty-eight breeding subjects resulting from the death of Paul Aumont (Victot stud farm) were sold at Deauville.
The record price of 62,000 F was forked out for the broodmare Dormeuse by Comte Lehndorff, who ran the Graditz stud farm (Prussia). In 1905, a significant number of foreign owners turned up at the yearling sales. From then on, they would attend every year, apart from during the two World Wars. And in 1912, when the average sale price was 7,072 F, a yearling reached the 100,000-F mark for the first time.
The horse in question was Mont d’Or, acquired by an American with deep pockets, Joseph E. Widener
In 1911, upon the death of Comte Florian de Kergorlay, the chairmanship of the Société des Courses de Deauville (made a limited company on 11 July 1908) was taken over by Comte Jacques Le Marois (see the race of this name).
The changes he made included restoring the Prix des Deux Ans to its former name before 1871 of the Prix Morny and renaming the Prix de Longchamp (2 miles 1 furlong) the Prix Florian de Kergorlay – in 1929, it would be shortened to the Prix Kergorlay.
Comte Le Marois also decided to modernise the facilities. As a result, when the racecourse’s centenary was celebrated on 6 August 1913, two new features could be admired: brick-built stands (in the style of Le Tremblay) and a 1-mile-long straight track, passing primarily over plots of pasture land, initially leased and then gradually purchased.
But no changes were made to the attractive weigh-in room complete with half-timbering dating from 1890, nor to the steeplechase course, on which ‘the Irish bench’ constituted the most difficult obstacle. Also in 1913, the Société des Courses de Deauville leased land to the Société Anonyme des Ecuries du Polo de Deauville, on which it had 150 boxes built.
On Saturday 1 August 1914, the meeting (five jumps races) planned for the day at Deauville was cancelled by the stewards, “in view of the impossibility encountered at the eleventh hour of obtaining the police service required to ensure public order and the functioning of the races at the racecourse.” On 3 August, France received the declaration of war from Germany and the First World War began.
1919 brought the return of racing to the banks of the la Toucques on 6 August, and the return of the yearlings to the ring at Deauville on 10 August. On 17 August, Ksar, a product of the Saint-Pair-du-Mont stud, was acquired for 151,000 F by Edmond Blanc.
He would subsequently triumph in the Prix du Jockey Club and twice in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The Grand Steeple (2 miles 7 ½ furlongs) also took on the name of the Prix Henri Ridgway in memory of the eminent sportsman and Deauville steward since 1896, who had passed away in 1913.
In December 1920, Comte Jacques Le Marois passed away. Consequently, the decision was made on 11 February 1921 to merge the Société des courses de Deauville with the Société d’Encouragement via the absorption of the first by the second. This meant that, from 1922 until the opening of Clairefontaine Racecourse in August 1928, “la Plage Fleurie” would be deprived of jumps races.
In 1926, with Grand Prix winner Astéroïde, the American owner Ralph-Beaver Strassburger recorded his first victory in France. He would triumph in the race again in 1931 courtesy of Célérina. A great friend of France, he created a superb stud farm for his horses near (Les Monceaux) and had a fine villa built for himself near the racecourse, surrounded by apple trees situated on the side of the hill that would be leased to Deauville town council. The “Villa Strassburger” subsequently hosted many glittering receptions.
On 9 August 1928, the Clairefontaine-Deauville racecourse was unveiled, sited in the midst of an area of grassland filled with flowers and apple trees near the village of Bénerville. Mostly flat races were held there, as well as some jumps and occasional trot events.
The 1930 yearling sales proved a veritable disaster. After record sales had been recorded in 1927, the turnover collapsed by 45% on the previous year. The cause? Overproduction, combined with the stock market crash of 1929.
On Sunday 27 August 1939, the racecourse closed its gates on the evening of the Grand Prix won by Birikil, while the sellers and buyers left the auction houses after a dismal session, as all-around apathy continued to plague the yearling market. On Sunday 3 September, war was declared and racing was suspended.
On its resumption in 1940 and throughout the war, the main races on the Deauville card took place at Parisian racecourses: Longchamp, Maisons-Laffitte and Tremblay, while the yearling sales were held at Tattersall Français in Neuilly.
1946. In a region still blighted by ruins, at the request of the casino and Deauville town council, the minister for the interior gave his agreement for the resumption of racing “which is necessary for the success of the season at Deauville”.
Thirteen meetings were held from 7 to 25 August. The Grand Prix de Deauville was won by Kerlor owned by the Marquis de Ganay, chairman of the Société d’Encouragement. The reopening of Clairefontaine Racecourse took place on 5 August 1947 and, a few days later, the yearling sales recommenced. In 1950, the first Gala des Courses (which, before the war, had taken place at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris) was held at Deauville casino, the profits going to the Jockeys’ Association.
1955. Deauville was chosen to host the Grand Prix Européen des Gentlemen-Riders, the Prix Georges Courtois. Its first winner was Sidano, ridden by Paul-Noël Delahoutre. Among the nineteen horsemen was Prince Aly Khan, Group Captain Peter Townsend, the British aviation hero and the journalist & breeder John Hislop. Six nations were represented. The Grand Prix de Deauville went to Rosa Bonheur, whom Prince Aly Khan had just acquired the day before.
1956 was marked by upheaval among the breeders. The traditional auction houses, Chéri and Tattersall Français, now only had a limited clientele (39 registrations) in their vast deserted premises. A rival, the Office du Pur Sang, put up for sale 346 yearlings in a makeshift facility in a meadow bordering the Avenue Florian de Kergorlay.
Other breeders quit Deauville to present their yearlings in Paris (Maisons-Laffitte then Saint-Cloud) where they would sell their produce until 1960. In 1957, the Société des hôtels et casino, chaired by François André, decided to purchase the Deauville auction houses (294 boxes at Chéri, 212 at Tattersall) from the heirs of Georges Courtois, who had become their owner during the war.
In 1958, the stands and racecourse buildings were refurbished. And for the very first time, during the Gala des Courses, the “Cravache d’Or” was awarded to the jockey with the greatest number of victories in the previous season. The winner was Jean Deforge, a champion jockey in 1957, 1958 and 1959 and therefore the recipient for the first three years.
In 1961, Deauville celebrated the centenary of the “Plage Fleurie”. The Société d’Encouragement created a special meeting, which attracted nineteen horses from abroad. They supplied twenty-eight starters but only amassed three victories.
But the Grand Prix du Centenaire de Deauville, boasting a special prize of 200,000 to the winners, went to the Italian Molvedo, who would also prevail in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe a few weeks later.
In 1962, the Société d’Encouragement purchased the Deauville auction houses from the Société des hôtels and du casino, placing them at the disposal of the sales bodies. The first autumn sales then took place at Deauville, with 420 broodmares and various other horses being presented for sale. Benefiting from mainly foreign buyers, this new market quickly established itself. In 1968, the Agence Française de Vente du Pur Sang was created, with Maurice O’Neill as its first chief executive.
In 1971, a new sales hall was opened in the form of an amphitheatre, with a capacity of 450 seated places. In 1976 the chairmanship of the Agence Française returned to Elie de Brignac, who had entrusted its general management to Philippe Augier in 1977. In his turn, he became chairman and chief executive of the agency in 1989. In September 1986, a first trotter yearling sale was held by the Agence Française du Trot, a subsidiary of the Agence Française.
A new market was thus created. In 1991, the Agence Française had a new building constructed (at the corner of Avenue Florian de Kergorlay and Rue Jules Saucisse), complete with offices (where it set up its headquarters) and an exhibition hall used by the company Deauville Auction primarily for the sale of works of art.
1973. Upgrading of the bend on the racecourse’s round track by the creation of a single course replacing the old internal and external tracks. In 1979’s Grand Prix de Deauville, while battling for second place, Lester Piggott lost his whip; he snatched that of his rival, Alain Lequeux, returning it to him after passing the post.
This “loan”, as he described it, cost him a twenty-day ban. After the 1982 meeting, Nicolas Madamet asked permission to train his horses permanently at Deauville racecourse. The authorisation was granted, and he was soon joined by Eric Danel. In July 1984, 120 additional boxes were constructed and the permanent Deauville training centre was born.
On 22 and 26 October 1991, two additional race meetings were held. They coincided with the launch of the Horse Expo, an annual trade fair for racehorse professionals. A new week of equestrian activity at Deauville was thus created. In 1992, a race meeting was arranged at the start of May. Held again in 1993, this experiment was then abandoned.
In 1994, in order to safeguard the Deauville races during a period of economic crisis, the Société d’Encouragement and des Steeple-Chases de France – which in 1995 would become France Galop – decided to transfer ownership of a part of the racecourse (tracks and weighing area) to a mixed syndicate (grouping together the local and regional authorities) responsible for the completion of the necessary modernisation work. Consequently, on 30 July 1995, after considerable work had taken place during the close season, the la Touques racecourse reopened its gates.
There were two new features to be admired: a panoramic restaurant and a “new track” created using the exterior section of the very large “paddock”, itself situated within the main track. And it was France Galop, horseracing’s new governing body, which was now in charge of the racecourse.
In late 1999, France Galop transferred to the Agence Française de Vente the auction houses (formerly Chéri) situated on Avenue Hocquart de Turtot. Its former offices in Rue Le Marois and the Blood-Horse stable on Avenue de la République passed into the hands of third parties.
France Galop retained ownership of the former Tattersall property (with its 220 boxes), the racecourse stables (with 280 boxes, 60 of them newly constructed), the private car parks, the technical buildings to which it added – to serve as its headquarters – new offices at the side of the weigh-in room.
And on 6 July 2003, in order to protect the turf course, a 1-mile 2-furlong sand track was opened (consisting of rubberized fibres and a binding solution), useable for training and racing in all weather, even in winter. As a result, a mini-meeting of nine new races was organised in December 2003 (six) and January 2004 (three). Then in 2006, the Arqana company took over the organisation of the sales from the Agence Française de Vente du Pur Sang and the Deauville Auction company handed over the reins of the art auction to Art Curial.
In August 2006, ARQANA was born from the merger between the Agence Française de Vente de Pur-Sang and Goffs France, at the initiative of several investors including the Aga Khan.
The race was first sponsored in 1987 by the Maison Lancel, which maintained its involvement until 1998. After an interval of one year, the Casinos Barrière became the new partners of the Grand Prix de Deauville, a town where they have been in business since the group was launched under the leadership of François André, who was succeeded by his nephew Lucien Barrière.
In the 150 races up until the end of 2020, fillies have triumphed just 26 times. Their last win (that of Siljan’s Saga) dates back to 2015. Their percentage of victories – about 17% -, is normal for an event involving mainly horses aged 4 years and over, a category containing few females, the best having been transferred to the stud farms at the end of their third year. A handful of these mares have gone on to confirm their ability, such as the first winner, La Périchole (1871) owned by Edgar de La Charme, who later won the Grand Steeple-Chase de Deauville in 1874 for his new owner, the Comte de Saint-Sauveur (later Marquis); Kincsem (1878), who went unbeaten for 54 races; Punta Gorda (1907), who, after being bought in a claimer, clocked up 73 races studded by 25 victories and as many places; Basse Pointe (1911), who won two prestigious races that same year: the Prix du Conseil Municipal and the Prix Gladiateur; Célérina (1931), who would later foal the winner of the Grand Prix de 1943, Pensbury; and Schonbrunn (1970), a champion in Germany who was bought by Daniel Wildenstein and would later become the grandmother of Sagace (Arc de Triomphe) and Steinlen (Breeders’ Cup Mile).
Open from 1872 “to horses of all breeds and from all countries”, it did not take long for the Grand Prix de Deauville to attract a famous filly adept at long journeys, the Hungarian Kincsem. At the age of 4 in 1878, she triumphed easily on the banks of the Touques before continuing her career as a 5-year-old, going unbeaten in her fifty-four outings. In 1881, shortly after having been narrowly beaten by the American Foxhall in the Grand Prix de Paris, the English 3-year-old Tristan had to content himself with a distant third place at Deauville. But his French owner, Charles-Joachim Lefèvre, taking advantage of the event’s international nature, decided to bring him back to contest the only race then open to older horses bred abroad. And so it was that, from Newmarket where he was trained by Tom Jennings junior, Tristan returned to Deauville in 1882, and proceeded to lift the Grand Prix carrying 65.5 kilos. What’s more, with three additional kilos, he repeated the feat in 1883 and 1884, accomplishing a unique treble. The following year, 1885, brought a new victory for an English visitor, the 3-year-old Althorp, in the colours of Baron Lucien de Hirsch. The string of British successes continued in 1887, with the triumph of Pythagoras, trained in Pisa and wearing the colours of the Comte de Canevaro. After this, the foreigners endured a very long barren patch.
In fact, they had to wait… three-quarters of a century before recording another victory. When it came, it was another Italian colt, Molvedo, who broke the hoodoo at Deauville before recording his 1961 success in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. In 1975, another horse from Italy that had arrived six weeks earlier, Duke of Marmelade, was first past the post but then demoted to fifth place for having impeded the fifth-placed finisher. The following year, he had to be content with third place. 1987 brought a renewal of the assault from British visitors. They took the first two places, the winner Almaarad, trained by John Dunlop, confirming the victory acquired three weeks earlier in the Prix Kergorlay. It marked the start of a cross-Channel tidal wave, as from 1987 to 2001, the visitors racked up nine wins. The triumphant trainers were John Dunlop again with Taipan (1997), Peter Chapple-Hyam with White Muzzle (1994), Michael A. Jarvis with a Prix du Jockey Club winnerHolding Court (2001), and first and foremost Paul Cole, who claimed no less than five Grands Prix titles courtesy of Ibn Bey (1988), Snurge (1991 and 1993), Strategic Choice (1996) and Courteous (1999). However, the natives proceeded to reassert themselves through Polish Summer (2002), Policy Maker (2003), Cherry Mix (2004), Marend (2005), Irish Wells (2006, 2007), Getaway (2008), Marinous (2010), Cirrus des Aigles (2011), Masterstroke (2012). In 2009 another foreign runner triumphed, the 3-year-old from England: Jukebox Jury, followed by Savoir Vivre (2016), trained in Germany by the former French rider Jean-Pierre Carvalho, and Loxley (2018), trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin.