This year’s Arc was the first time I had been to a racing event outside of the UK and I was understandably excited. Not only was I flying to Paris to go racing but I was going to witness the first Arc at the newly unveiled Paris Longchamp, a venue which had over a hundred million euros poured into it. I spent a lovely couple of nights in Paris and the day had finally come to see my first Arc de Triomphe live. Transport was fairly simple with just a quick ride on the metro followed by a timely shuttle bus from Port Maillot station but it would be fair to say that was as far as the organisation went for this year’s event.
We got into the course without a long wait and were greeted by the enormous, and extremely gold, grandstand which we would be watching the racing from all day. Before the first race, we decided to buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion and enjoy the Marcel Boussac in style, which we just about managed to do. There was an enormous queue with one person at the tills taking orders and after about forty minutes of queueing, we managed to get our bottle. We rushed off to see the first race and were somewhat disappointed when Lily’s Candle got up in the dying strides to make sure all of our bets lost. It was, however, a great race and the atmosphere was quite gripping in the last furlong.
Before the second race of the day, the Group 1 Jean Luc Lagardere, we decided to get a bite to eat as it was well past 2pm, and what a fiasco that turned out to be. Having searched for a while we eventually found a well-hidden place to get food and took our place at the back of a large and completely unorganised queue. After another thirty minutes of queuing, we got to the front to discover they were out of hot dogs, beer and half of their selection of paninis. We gave up and went back to the rails just in time to see Royal Marine hold off Broome in a thrilling finish to the second race of the day. The Arab World Cup race was a fine spectacle but not one of the main attractions of the day for us so we decided we’d brave the queues again for another bottle of champagne and one of the remaining paninis, this took us another forty minutes only to discover that our food wasn’t even cooked!
The champagne helped buoy our spirits but it was the rapidly approaching prospect of the Arc that really kept us interested in the whole day and so we trotted off back to the stands to watch Europe’s richest horse race. The organisation was horrendous, the selection of food was awful and the lack of beer was very much disappointing, but when it got to 4:05pm local time, none of that really mattered as we were about to see the queen of Europe Enable attempt to defend her crown, and defend her crown she did. The Arc was a pulsating and brilliant spectacle which grabbed the crowd’s attention and didn’t let it go until well after Enable and Sea of Class past the winning post separated by the narrowest of margins. The Arc saved what could have become a car crash of a day and was one of the most exciting races I have ever seen, topping this year’s King George battle between Poet’s Word and Crystal Ocean. It was a privilege to see history being made before our very eyes.
The Prix de L’Abbaye, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment. They raced on the far side of the track and were barely visible throughout the race, especially at the finishing line where the majority of the crowd were none the wiser as to who won. The Prix de La Foret was an exciting race despite the shock winner though the extreme kickback from the track, on what had been described as good ground (with no further rain to change the going) was surprising and rather concerning. The final handicap produced another exciting finish though a majority of the crowd, including myself, had left by the time it was run.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable day though that enjoyment came purely from the perspective of someone enjoying good company and good racing, not a well-organised event. There is plenty to work on at Paris Longchamp and though I wouldn’t write it off completely just yet, it is probably only because of the calibre of racing I saw that I wouldn’t. The quality of horse will always be a crutch that will hold up the event but some improved planning, more food stands and better stocked bars would go a long way to making this the brilliant event it deserves to be.
Myracingtips had tips and previews for each race on the big day at Paris Longchamp and you can find all our free horse racing tips on site each day!