The Prix de Belgique, with 60,000 euros to the winner, is often called "the prep of the preps" for the 1 million euro Prix d'Amerique, since there are few who have their horses at 100 percent two weeks before the race. The Prix d'Amerique is set for Jan. 27 at Hippodrome Paris-Vincennes and thus the Prix de Belgique was contested Sunday, Jan. 12, at the Vincennes track in Paris.
The winner was the Swedish-bred Yarrah Boko, but the Swedish hope Maharajah (Viking Kronos) also caught the savvy observers as he was not used 100 percent. Maharajah started with a 25-meter handicap over 2,850 meters and was jogging at the back of the field for all but the last portion of the race. He finished ninth, timed in a mile rate of 1:57.4, and looked great, as he has all this fall.
As for Yarrah Boko, the son of Coktail Jet out of a Pine Chip mare (Big Blue Kitten) started 25 meters ahead of Maharajah and won in a narrow finish ahead of Roxana de Barbray (Speed Clayettois) and Royal Dream (Love You), who finished late but very well on the inside to take third.
The time for Yarrah Boko, who was driven by Pierre Vercruysse for trainer Trond Andersen and owner Jan Erik Andresen, was a 1:58 mile rate over 2,850 meters.
Believe it or not, there is another big Swedish hope for the race. An hour after the Prix de Belgique, Raja Mirchi (Viking Kronos- Dame Lavec), who raced in the Peter Haughton Memorial at the Meadowlands as a 2 year old, was a totally superior winner of the 120,000 euro Prix Tenor de Baune. He was timed in a mile rate of 1:57.1 over 2,700 meters. Raja Mirchi challenged for the lead when the field passed the grandstand and after that he was in control of the race all the way to the finish.
The winners of the Prix de Belgique and Prix Tenor de Baune both earn tickets to the Prix d'Amerique, as does the winner of the Criterium Continental.
The French hopes for the Prix d'Amerique are Ready Cash and Royal Dream, but another to watch is Un Mec de Heripre 1:53 (Orlando Vici-I Love You Darling). On Saturday at Vincennes he turned in another impressive victory when he won the Prix de Croix, with 60,000 euros to the winner. Fabrice Souloy is the trainer and Matthieu Abrivard was driving the 5-year-old to a 1:59.4 rated win over 2,850 meters. This was his third straight win during the winter-meeting (plus Criterium Continental).--By Lars G. Palm