Europe's richest race is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
Takes place October 7
Returns to a newly redeveloped Longchamp Racecourse
After a $145 million facelift, Paris’ Longchamp Racecourse will once again host Europe’s richest race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Sunday.
The prestigious race has been held at leafy Longchamp since the days of Napoleon III more than 150 years ago, and after a two-year residency at Chantilly while its home was redeveloped, it’s back.
The winner of the “Arc” – a one-and-a-half-mile test of speed and stamina for three-year-olds and above – will earn five million euros ($5.7 million), making it the third richest horse race in the world behind the Pegasus World Cup and the Dubai World Cup.
Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to attend this weekend’s two-day meeting, which commands a total purse of 9.7 million euros ($11.1 million).
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Based in the wooded Bois de Boulogne area in western Paris, Longchamp closed it gates in October 2015 to undergo its significant upgrade.
The new grandstand offers “transparent” views both east and west. On one side, visitors will have 180 degrees of unobstructed views of the racecourse and the Eiffel Tower, and to the west, racegoers can enjoy views of the River Seine.
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The French architect behind the design, Dominique Perrault, writes: “The main challenge of this project is for it to be able to host the (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe), which draws up to 60,000 spectators, under exceptional conditions, while also welcoming a much smaller crowd on ordinary racing days.”
Perrault is also the designer behind the athletes village for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics as well as the Olympic Tennis Stadium in Madrid which is the home of the Madrid Open.
Two grandstands dating back to the 1960s have been replaced by a single 10,000-seater grandstand at Longchamp.
“The public is always in visual contact and proximity to the horses and professionals, without ever coming into direct contact,” Perrault says.
With solar panels and heating generated from geothermal energy, the new design is also eco-responsible.
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The history of Longchamp Racecourse
1857: Longchamp racecourse opens in Paris’ leafy neighborhood, Bois de Boulogne, after Champ de Mars was no longer fit for purpose. 1863: The Grand Prix de Paris is created by the Société d’Encouragement, France’s former governing body of horse racing. It becomes the most prestigious event until WWI, where three-year-old thoroughbreds competed over 3,000 meters.1870: The racecourse is bombed for the first time during the Siege of the Paris in 1870 and a new wooden grandstand which can hold up to 5,000 spectators is erected.1904: The wooden stands are rebuilt in stone.1914-18: Longchamp undergoes a major transformation during WWI, it becomes a stockyard, then a field hospital and then an airfield.1920: The first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is held. Its name was chosen to pay tribute to the French soldiers who served in WWI.1943: During a spring race meet, the course is bombed a second time after the Germans had set up an anti-aircraft battery at the viewing lawn.1962-67: The stands are rebuilt again in a similar style to what it replaced. 2015-18: The grounds close temporarily to undergo a major renovations.2018: Longchamp Racecourse reopens with a brand new single golden grandstand and a revamped paddock complex which was designed by French architect, Dominique Perrault.
“It will really be a green bubble for Parisians, just 10 minutes from L’Arc de Triomphe,” Olivier Delloye, who heads governing body France Galop, told CNN Sport last year.
Perrault says the inclined stand, which slightly overhangs from its base, is inspired by the movement of a galloping horse, and its color scheme is inspired by the reds and golds of autumn leaves in October, its busiest time.
Visitors also have the choice of three dining areas, from fine dining with panoramic views to an affordable garden party-themed restaurant and a French gastronomy brasserie.
With racegoers flooding through Longchamp’s gates each October, the remainder of the year the stands have previously remained largely empty. Around 30 race meetings are held there annually, attracting just a few thousand spectators each time.
Sot it’s hoped that the new grandstand will attract business when racing events aren’t being staged.
Currently, the racecourse also doubles as a music festival venue in the summer months, hosting events like Lollapalooza and Solidays.
Despite the major upgrade, the rest of the racecourse, dating back to 1857, remains unchanged.
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Nonetheless some trainers have voiced concerns about the state of the track following Arc trials earlier in September.
John Gosden, British trainer of defending champion and this year’s Arc favorite Enable, told Racing UK that he had “enormous concern” about the ground and suggested it might not have received the attention it should have during the development.
Enable has also won a string of races including the Cheshire Oaks, Epsom Oaks, Irish Oaks, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
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Gosden says the filly’s biggest threat will be trainer Williams Haggas’ Sea of Class, a winner of the Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks.