The Sébastien Guarato trainee, driven by Björn Goop, set a stakes record that translated into an impressive mile rate of 1:54 over 2,700 meters
by Thomas Hedlund
He was not an upset winner in 2020, but still, Face Time Bourbon was 5 years old last year and it’s always a tough task for ”younger” trotters to be the best among 15-17 more merited and established elite horses in the Prix d’Amérique. Sébastien Guarato’s Ready Cash son showed all ingredients necessary to to win the biggest race in the world for older trotters and when the $1.2 million event was held at Vincennes in Paris on Sunday afternoon (Jan. 31), Face Time Bourbon was the chased horse.
As usual in this particular race, the start was a mess with 18 horses and drivers in a disorganized jumble in the spot where horses gather before they enter the track. A couple of recalls — as happened this year — is tradition in the Prix d’Amérique.
Face Time Bourbon was calm on his way back to the start and Björn Goop opted a start on the outside. The 6-year-old trotter left quite quickly.
Bahia Quesnot, the mare who came from an impressive win in Prix de Cornulier one week ago, opened quickly for the lead, but Robert Bergh was eager three wide with his Power and the latter horse took over the front with 1,900 meters to go. Soon thereafter, Bahia Quesnot was seen in the lead again and a decisive incident had occurred just moments before, a little bit further back in the field when Jean-Michel Bazire was on his way towards the front of the field, three wide.
Goop and Face Time Bourbon were positioned ahead of Davidson du Pont, but in second line and Goop had to act quickly when he lifted out Face Time Bourbon three wide. In a hockey game, Goop would most probably have been sent off for two minutes, it was a clear interference from Goop’s part, but in French harness racing, that kind of move in races is more common and more allowed compared to other countries’ racing rules and regulations. The move by Goop meant that Face Time Bourbon landed first outside of Bahia Quesnot, with Davidson du Pont following behind. With all the facts on hand, it would be unfair to say that the complete outcome of Prix d’Amérique was determined by the possible interference. Face Time Bourbon could rest behind Bahia Quesnot when the uphill part of Vincennes track waited and Davidson du Pont didn’t have to choose the position first over since there was space behind Face Time Bourbon. So, a fair battle between the two favored horses in the race was expected with 600 meters to go. At that point, Goop placed Face Time Bourbon on the outside of leader Bahia Quesnot once again and thereby Davidson du Pont got perfect cover throughout the last turn.
When Face Time Bourbon disarmed Bahia Quesnot in the turn, Goop played all his cards and tried to make it difficult for the follower Davidson du Pont. The two lengths advantage he earned by that move was enough and Face Time Bourbon claimed his second win in the race, this time in a stakes record that translated into an impressive mile rate of 1:54 over 2,700 meters.
Davidson du Pont finished second, some two lengths behind the winner and 5-year-old Gu d’Heripre finished strongly as third.
Goop described the race as a war moments after the prestigious win and it really was a war between him and the king of Vincennes, Jean-Michel Bazire. Bazire himself is known as one of the most daring drivers in France, but it’s not common that he is the victim of someone else’s cheeky moves in big races and the incident that occurred after 700 meters became a hot topic of conversation.
“We fought about the same position at that point and I was tough on Bazire, that’s for sure, but Bazire would have done the same thing if he had been in my position,” said Goop to atg.se after the race.
“I wasn’t sure at all that we would win the race after that incident. I hoped that we could reach the lead, but Junior Guelpa (driver of Bahia Quesnot) wanted to drive in front and we could rest with cover uphill. The I had to leave the cover with 600 meters to go and I opted to play out all my cards since I’m aware that the last turn is difficult for Davidson du Pont.
”Face Time Bourbon is just stunning and he solves every obstacle that’s put in the way. He never makes us disappointed and I’m really happy today, even though I miss the spectators here at Vincennes.”
Goop grabbed his third win in Prix d’Amérique. Readly Express in 2018 was his first victory and now he can look back at two consecutive wins with Guarato’s super trotter Face Time Bourbon.
Trainer Guarato danced in happiness when Face Time Bourbon crossed the wire as a winner.
“I was quite calm during the race’s first half, but it was a little bit surprising that Bahia Quesnot came to the lead and stayed in that position. Björn drove a perfect race with my horse and it was Davidson du Pont I was afraid of in the end,” Guarato said after his fourth triumph in Prix d’Amérique. Bold Eagle won the race in back to back 2016-2017 and Face Time Bourbon has now done the same in 2020-2021.
Bazire’s thoughts about his horse and the race in general were never cabled out in television, so we can basically just speculate on how he felt as runner-up this time, especially after the mentioned incident between him and Goop.
To French media Bazire said: “I knew Björn was going to put in his effort at the halfway point and I didn’t panic because my horse was doing very well too. I thought I would get close and beat Face Time Bourbon, but it didn’t turn out that way. There is no shame in finishing second behind a legendary horse like Face Time Bourbon,” he said.
The battle of southpaws — which the Prix d’Amérique 2021 really turned out to be — was won by Björn Goop this time and the future of Face Time Bourbon is still bright, so we can most likley look forward to another battle in 2022.
Results Prix d’Amérique 2021
1. Face Time Bourbon – Björn Goop (Sebastien Guarato) €450,000
2. Davidson du Pont – Jean-Michel Bazire €250,000
3. Gu d’Heripre – Franck Nivard (Philippe Billard) €140,000
4. Delia du Pommereux – Eric Raffin (Sylvain Roger) €80,000
5. Bahia Quesnot – Junior Guelpa €50,000
6. Diable de Vauvert – Gabriele Gelormini (Bertrand Le Beller) €20,000
7. Feliciano – David Thomain (Philippe Allaire) €10,000
Eric Raffin had a great day at Vincennes on Sunday’s card. In the $123,000 Prix Jacques Andrieu monté race, Raffin swept to the front on Franck Leblanc-trained Freeman de Houelle (Vigove) and flew away from the field at the backstretch, where Vincennes’ track mounts. That move meant checkmate and the opponents were never close at the finish. Over the distance of 2,850 meters (approximately 1.7 miles), Freeman de Houelle noted a strong mile rate 1:56.2.
In the $123,000 Prix Charles Tiercelin for 4-year-olds, Raffin was second choice with Jean Michel Baudouin-trained Hirnodelle Sibey (Gazouillis) and the duo hit the lead midway through the 2,100 meters long race. In front, Hirondelle Sibey defended herself well and held on to safe win in mile rate 1:55.1.
The newly established $123,000 Prix Bold Eagle for 5-year-olds was one of the most interesting races during the race card in Paris and with two of the best in the crop missing (Power and Gu d’Heripre both were entered in the Prix d’Amérique). Jerry Riordan-trained Aetos Kronos (Bold Eagle) had a suitable task ahead of him, even if the horse’s previous performance was weak. In the Prix de Croix, or rather ahead of Prix de Croix, many factors delayed the start and Aetos Kronos, who basically always performs on top, was far from his best.
In the Prix Bold Eagle, the son of Bold Eagle was back and in the hands of Jean-Michel Bazire Aetos Kronos performed well from first over. The manifold Group 1-winner fought bravely on the outside and came home in a mile rate of 1:55.3 over 1.3 miles.