When and where will the race return in France?
There were three meetings on Monday, starting with flat racing from Longchamp in Paris where the first race was 9.55 in the morning, jump racing from Compiegne (14:35) and mixed meetings from Toulouse (4.50 in the afternoon). It was a steady stream of 30 races in a 12 hour period, a party after starvation for visitors who had been using cold turkey rations for two months.
How does the French racing ‘huis clos’ (behind closed doors) work?
In short, horse racing is open only for work, not recreation; You can only stay while working. One gate will open and people enter and exit. Only two people per horse are allowed so there are no owners, racing managers, or breeders. The jockey has to wear a mask but can pull it down during the race. There are no open indoor areas except the weighing room. No bath, no sauna.
When British racing starts again it will be a gentle approach. Is that the French way too?
Not. Nothing is slow, catch the monkey slowly about this. That’s not hanging around. There are three Group races, including the Guineas trail at Longchamp. Some of the great weapons came out with France’s best old horse Sottsass, the Derby winner, walking in the Prix d’Harcourt while Victor Ludorum, a two-year-old unbeaten Group One winner, entered the Prix Fontainebleu.
Are there any last minute obstacles?
As in Germany and Ireland, racing falls under the jurisdiction of agriculture rather than sports – I have never seen Christophe Soumillon, a multi-millionaire jockey, described as a farm laborer, but so it is. Only in France, however, one sport (soccer – off until September) can be jealous and question whether the others (racing) should be allowed back. It caused a tense negotiation with the Government until Friday but everything was fine and it ended well.
Where can I watch this live sports party?
All three meetings will be broadcast on Sky Sports Racing. There will be a studio presenter, a French racing expert on Skype while one of the five accredited journalists at Longchamp is Katherine Ford, who will conduct interviews from two meters and will do her own filmmaking.
Will the British Horse Authority watch?
Undoubtedly. Its main task is to outline the implications of the Prime Minister’s speech for the resumption of our own racing. But already in discussions with France and Ireland about the logistics of reopening and best practices.
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