This is a very special race meeting in a very special city and would encourage all with a genuine interest in this wonderful sport to make this trip at least once in their lives, it is well worth the effort.
Paris is a fabulous city and bears comparison with any other city in the world. It is rich in culture, diversity and history and there is lots to do and explore. There is no shortage of quality and cheap places to stay and to eat and it’s very easy to get around. I bought a three day pass for the Paris Metro to cover the three days I was there and it cost me just under €27 and covered me for unlimited travel around the city.
Despite what some say, this is also a friendly city as capital cities go. Make the effort to use a few French phrases and words and the locals will carry you the rest of the way.
Longchamp racecourse was closed for refurbishment in 2015 and was reopened earlier this season.
The track is an oval shaped, right handed circuit of around two miles with a (wide) straight of about three furlongs. The turn into the straight is downhill and sweeping and includes a ‘false’ straight before straightening up for home. There is a distinct advantage to being drawn low. There is also a separate 5f sprint track.
The view over the racecourse from the stands is very good and you can even see the Eiffel Tower rising up over the trees along the back straight.
You can get to Paris pretty much anyway you like, including flying and driving over and using the ferry. Personally, I recommend using Eurostar if the London Terminal at St Pancras Station is convenient to you. The journey time by Eurostar is around two and one quarter hours into Gare Du Nord station in the centre of Paris.
There are lots of organised trips you can buy into if you like. I have done so in the past and they are fine though the timetable isn’t your own and may not suit.
The course is located in the Bois De Boulogne in the west of the city. I know it can be walked because in the past, I have done it but it’s a fair way from the nearest Metro Station. Taxi is always an alternative too.
However, if you can get yourself to Porte D’Auteuil Metro Station, you will find courtesy coaches running to the course every few minutes. The coaches also take you back after racing to the same place. Easy!!
I think Longchamp is a fantastic venue but there are aspects of the facilities here that really need improvement.
There are a number of different enclosures here including reserved seating higher up in the grandstand. I was in ‘Pelousse D’Arrivee’ on both days and that was absolutely fine in terms of the view, particularly of the finish. (Note, there are two finishing posts here so careful you don’t cheer too early) There is plenty of space, certainly compared to other tracks.
The areas where this course really needs to improve is in its food and drink facilities on a day such as ‘Arc’ day. The queues and waiting time to get a pint or a coffee or food was just ridiculous and the course has had a bit of stick for this in the press. On Saturday it was just about fine and I guess it probably is on the other meetings on this track. The fare on offer is very good though the drinks are a little expensive. It was €7 for a pint and a hideous amount for Champagne if you wanted it. All the food on offer was really nice and ranged from waffles and crepes to burger and fries and the food wasn’t badly priced. But on a day like ‘Arc’ day when there are just so many people visiting from France, UK and Ireland and I guess elsewhere too, they just need to make an effort to make food and drink more accessible.
One thing I did like was for those wishing to bet on PMU, there are plenty of machines around for this purpose and also quite a few people walking around with mobile units that people could bet with.
I hope I’ve not sounded too negative. Overall, this is a very positive experience and the staff here were exceptionally welcoming.
I like this city and have visited it on a dozen or more occasions and have been to this meeting seven times now and will certainly do it all again, of that I am certain.
I tend to do ok financially on this meeting if I stay at home but for no reason it’s a graveyard for me when I come here. That looked like continuing on Saturday when apart from a short priced winner (Brundtland) I couldn’t find a winner. However, three ‘Well backed’ (by me) winners on Sunday soon put that right and more. It’s unusual for me to have anything other than small bets here but I did this time on Enable, Wild Illusion & Bayoun, all of whom I really fancied. I usually keep it to a minimum due partly to the very competitive nature of racing here but also because at this time of year the ground has usually changed and horses can just lose their form anyway. There are always a number of very fancied horses who just don’t deliver at this meeting and this year was no exception, Roques, Anodor and Polydream to name just three.
It was a privilege to see Enable win what was a fantastic race in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for the second year running. It’s a great achievement to come back from injury and win such a prestigious race after having just the one run. This is a testament to the ability and class of John Gosden and all involved.
I must too mention a fantastic run by Sea Of Class who was, in my view, brilliantly ridden by James Doyle from what seemed an impossible draw. I have heard many people criticise the jockey and I suppose it’s all about opinions but I really don’t see how much more he could have done.
That’s it for this year, a brilliant racing weekend!!