Face Time Bourbon back for Prix d'Amerique double at empty Vincennes

Paris (AFP) –


Face Time Bourbon is favourite to defend his title in Sunday's Prix d'Amerique, the harness trotting showpiece which for the first time in its 101 year history is being held without spectators.

Last year a record near 40,0000 crowd watched Sebastien Guarato's champion take the coveted one million euro ($1.2 million) prize at Vincennes, French trotting's hotspot in the east of Paris.

First run in 1920 in tribute to American soldiers who fought in World War I it has been held every year apart from in 1940 and 1941 when it was cancelled during World War II.

This year's edition goes ahead against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, with strict social distancing restrictions forcing Vincennes to close its doors.

While the hippodrome's cavernous stand may be empty Face Time Bourbon will still have plenty of company with 17 rivals lining up to try and prevent him emulating his sire, Ready Cash, who won successive Prix d'Ameriques in 2011 and 2012.

And fresh from a seaside excursion to freshen him up Guarato approaches the race with the feeling his stable star is in the right place to repeat his 2020 heroics.

"Face Time Bourbon performed really well in his three prep races. On Monday he worked at the seaside in Cabourg. He's in super condition," his trainer told AFP.

Guarato, trainer of the 2016-17 champion Bold Eagle, added: "He is now ready to retain his crown."

Swede Bjorn Goop, who guided Face Time Bourbon to victory 12 months ago, is once again the driver in the sulky for the ultimate test over 2,700 metres.

Heading the opposition is Davidson du Pont, second best in 2020 when favourite and from the powerful stable of Jean-Michel Bazire, who as driver or trainer has won the race four times.

Another with a serious shout is Bahia Quesnot, the courageous 10-year-old mare "with two hearts" says her trainer Junior Guelpa.

She takes her place just seven days after landing the final warm-up contest, the Prix du Cornulier.

It's a "daring gamble" acknowledges her handler with only two horses managing the double - Jag de Bellouet in 2005 and the trotting legend Bellino II who achieved it not once but twice in the mid 1970s.

"Bahia Quesnot has come out of her last race well. She's had a session with the osteopath, her muscles are perfect.

"She's got the mind of a champion, and never gives up," said her trainer.

Other obvious dangers include the Swedish challenger Power, Diable de Vauvert, the eight-year-old whose full potential appears as yet untapped, while Belgian driver Christophe Maertens is hoping Victor Ferm can spring a surprise as one of the less fancied contenders.