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Horse racing is a hugely popular sport in Paris, with several race courses where a number of high-profile races take place each year. If you are interested in watching an exciting sporting event in a historic setting in the city, what do you need to know?
There are several racecourses dotted in and around the French capital, but without doubt it is Longchamp that is the best-known and most intriguing. This 57-hectare venue is a popular flat racing spot with several tracks of different lengths at it.
The majority of the French group one races are held here each year, with up to 50,000 spectators gathering to watch the biggest and best events.
Its history can be traced back to 1857, when the Emperor Napoleon III was among the huge crowd as the first horse race here was run on April 27. Its position near the river means that rich and aristocratic visitors would often arrive here by private boat.
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It was recently re-opened in 2018 after a couple of years of refurbishment work. As well as numerous races throughout the year, it also hosts three classy restaurants and a rooftop lounge. Longchamp is occasionally used as the setting for other events, such as music festivals.
This group 1 flat race is run at Longchamp each July 14, which is the date of the Bastille Day holiday.
It is competed for by three-year-olds over a distance of around one and a half miles and rivals other great races like the Ascot Gold Cup in the UK and the Kentucky Derby in the US (click here to know more about the American race: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/winners).
The race began in 1863, when a British horse by the name of The Ranger won it. Until the 1920s, it was the most important horse race in France, and it remains a hugely popular event. In 2020, the global pandemic led to it being postponed until 13 September and it was then won by Mogul, ridden by jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot.
The next big race to be held in the French capital is also for horses from the age of three and up and takes place at Longchamp. In fact, the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe is now the nation’s most prestigious horse race and one of the top events across the planet.
This race happens on the first Sunday in October most years. It is currently ranked as the second richest turf race on the planet and has been won by many of the finest horses to take part in the sport.
Its history goes back to 1920 and it was originally created to help promote French thoroughbred standards. The very first time it was run, the winner was Comrade, who came home to a 150,000 francs prize.
The present prize fund is of $5 million, thanks to a sponsorship deal with the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club. It is run during the so-called Arc Weekend, in which seven group 1 status races are run, together with the Arabian World Cup.
2020’s event was won by Sottsass and jockey Cristian Demuro. However, Frankie Dettori remains as the most successful jockey in the race’s history, with six wins over the years since he first rode Lammtarra as the winner in 1995.
You might not associate Paris with horse racing, but it is a terrific city for watching a high-quality event of this type in an historic venue. Just be sure to arrange your tickets in plenty of time as the races we have looked at are incredibly popular among sports fans.
Credits photo@marco timelli