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Famous International Horse Racecourses From France, Germany, and Australia

Pushing for home in the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp racecourse in Paris

Pushing for home in the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp racecourse in Paris


The idea of creating a major race course in the chic park—the land of the Bois de Boulogne in the very heart of Paris—is said to have been thought up by the Emperor Napoleon III. The Emperor, along with his friend, the great French owner-breeder Comte Frederic de Lagrange, was keen to establish a race course and a race that would attract a bigger public to racing and contribute towards encouraging breeders to breed horses of quality and stamina.

From its opening in April 1857, the course brought new prosperity to racing and a new classic race. This was the Grand Prix de Paris, restricted to three-year-old colts and fillies, first run in 1863. This race is the equivalent of the British St. Leger, within the classic pattern of three-year-old racing. But as a race of 3,200 metres (one mile seven and a halt furlongs), it is a tougher test for staying thoroughbreds, being run much earlier in their careers at the end of June.

The first winner was, ironically enough, a British horse called The Ranger, just inside the ornamental iron gates is the magnificent statue of Gladiateur, one of the greatest racehorses ever produced in France, if not in the world. Gladiateur's record of winning the British Triple Crown and the Grand Prix de Paris, in 1865, still stands today.

Known to French race fans as the ‘Avenger oi Waterloo', Gladiateur is reputed to have won the 1866 Ascot Gold Cup by 40 lengths. The course was modernised in 1966, when new stands were built with elevators to take racegoers up to their boxes or to the members' stand. New restaurants and bars were sited around the landscaped lawns behind the stands. The paddock is one of the most attractive in the world, and on big racedays, its impeccably square cut low privet hedge and white-railed perimeter is crowded with visitors from all over the world.

The running surface is grass, with a sophisticated watering-system. The round course measures 2,400 metres (one and a half miles), and there is also a straight course of 1,600 metres (one mile) over which is run the Grand Criterium, France's top two-year-old race.

For most international racegoers, it means the home of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, one of the richest races in the world, run over 2,400 metres for three-year-olds and upwards of either sex. The 'Arc' is generally accepted as being the Championship of Group Pattem races in Europe, with the winner usually gaining the title of European Racehorse of the Year.

This is a race that needs a tough, naturally balanced horse with a good turn of speed which it can sustain over the short run-in. Most of the winners have come from a good position on, or just before, the final turn, and it is rare for a horse to come from behind to win the 'Arc’. One of the greatest horses to win this race was the Italian horse Ribot, who won it in 1955 and 1956.

Chantilly, France

Cite du Cheval is an attractive town, some 30 miles north of Paris, close to Le Bourget Airport. The course is sited on a 60-hectare (approx. 24,7 acres) open park area between the small, but charming Chateau, and the main Route Nationale which runs through the town.

The Forest of Chantilly, with its network of sand and grass rides and training-gallops, borders the back of the grandstand and paddock. The surface is grass, with a round course, a horse-shoe shaped course, and a straight track.

Idyllic scenery at the Chantilly racecourse in France

Idyllic scenery at the Chantilly racecourse in France

In the early 1830s, it supplemented and eventually replaced the racecourse in the Champ de Mars in Paris, where French flat racing first started in 1834. It is the home of two French classics, the Prix du jockey Club (French Derby) and the Prix de Diane (French Oaks). the Prix du jockey Club, founded in 1836, is run over 2,400 metres (one and a half miles).

Horses owned by Lord Henry Seymour, one of the fathers of the French Turf, won the race four times. The last of these was Poetess, by Lord Seymour's imported stallion Royal Oak, who became one of the greatest broodmares in France. Eleven winners of the race have come from the Haras de Fresnay-le-Bufiard, the Normandy stud owned by M. Marcel Boussac, ex-President of the Societe d'Encouragement and one of France's most important owner-breeders in post-World War II years. The French Derby is run on the second Sunday in June.

The Prix de Diane, for three-year-old Ellies, is run on the first Sunday in June over a distance of 2,100 metres (one mile two and a half furlongs). Famous winners of this classic, first run in 1843, include Allez France (1973) and Pawneese (1976).

Deauville, France

This seaside town nestles in a sheltered area of the Channel seaboard on the north-west coast of France, within easy driving distance of the busy port of Le Havre, and of Paris. The track has its own airport, at nearby Touques, and with its Casino and sandy beaches, it is a favourite holiday-centre for Parisians.

Each year in August, practically the entire Paris racing fraternity emigrates there for some six weeks of jumping and Flat-racing, and a mid-term working holiday. All the leading stables send their strings for this summer festival.

Coming round a corner at the Deauville racecourse

Coming round a corner at the Deauville racecourse

An aerial shot shows the shape of Deauville racetrack

An aerial shot shows the shape of Deauville racetrack

The Hippodrome de la Touques, was created in the 19th century by the Duc de Morny, who was also responsible for the administration of the first running of the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. Since 1900, the course has been administered by the Societe d’Encouragement. The Societe transfers its offices from Paris to Deauville for the month of August, and, apart from a meeting at Vichy, no other important races are run elsewhere during this period.

The Deauville Yearling Sales are held close to the course in August and, from 1977, were changed to two sessions on the lines of the major British and American sales. The better-bred two-year-olds are on offer at the second session.

These are among the most important sales in Europe and attract buyers from all over the world. One important factor which has contributed to the success of these sales, is the generous premiums now paid to breeders of French horses that win races in France.

The most important races are the Prix Morny and the Grand Prix de Deauville. The Prix Morny, named after the Duc de Morny, is a Group race for two-year-olds and the 1976 running was won by the Aga Khan's Blushing Groom (Irish-bred, Red God

Runaway Bride), who had earlier won the Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laiiitte and then went on to capture Longchamp’s Grand Criterium. The Grand Prix de Deauville, a Group I race, is run on the last Sunday and was won in 1976 by Ashmore, the first outright winner of the race for three years as in both 1974 and 1975 the horses first past the post were disqualified.

Before the meeting starts there is international show jumping at the Hippodrome, and during the meeting, international polo is played in the centre of the course. With its Norman-style grandstand, lawns and paddocks bedecked with flowers, Deauville has a charming and delightful holiday atmosphere. The course is all-grass and is flat and oval, with some tight turns.

Baden-Baden, Germany

Situated at Iflezheirn, a small village just outside the spa town, this attractive course is the Ascot - or Deauville - of German racing. It was created in the mid-19th century, largely through French influence - being only a short drive from the frontier at Strasbourg, on the Rhine. The course is grass, flat, left-handed with a circuit some one-and-a-quarter miles in distance, but it's narrow, so this creates problems with a large number of competitors. The maximum number of runners is restricted to 18.

The main meeting is held in September, in conjunction with the auction sales, and the principal races are two of the most important in the calendar, including Germany’s outstanding two-year-old race, the Baden-Baden ‘Futurity’. This is run over 1,200 metres (six furlongs) and was first held in 1859.

On the last day of the September meeting, the Grosser Preis von Baden is run over 2,400 metres (one-and-a-half miles). The race was instituted in 1858, but perhaps it is the 1974 running that will go down in Turf history for it attracted so many runners that the race had to be run in two divisions. The French horse Meautry won the first division, and the German Derby winner Marduk won the other.

Steeplechasing is also staged here and the course includes a six-foot high Bullfinch, which the horses jump through, and a massive Bank. The principal steeplechase is the Grosser Preis, run over a distance of nearly three miles with 16 obstacles.

Cologne, Germany

The course and training centre is only a few kilometres from the industrial city centre, and is one of the prettiest in Europe, It is laid out on a flat, oval shape, flanked by trees which screen the racegoer from the concrete and iron formations that surround the outer perimeter of most 20th-century cities, It has a grass surface which rides fast, but requires a handy, well-balanced horse to cope with the sharp bends.

The course is bordered by a small, wide privet hedge instead of the usual white rails. From a jockey's point of view, this is a very safe system for there is no wooden, iron or plastic barrier on which to break a foot or toe.

Being the headquarters of German racing, it not unnaturally stages the country's richest race, the Preis von Europa, which is run in October over 2,400 metres (one-and-a-half miles) and is open to three-year-olds and upwards of either sex. Steeplechasing and hurdling, once thought to be the best form of horse-racing in the old days in Germany, is also well catered for. The hurdles are trestle supported brush fences and the steeplechase fences are planted privet hedges, well trimmed and cared for.


There are some 700 racecourses spread throughout the country, the majority of these are no more than bush tracks and offer few facilities. These tracks bear a marked contrast to the luxurious city courses centred around Sydney and Brisbane on the East Coast and the other main courses based at Adelaide and Perth. During the racing programme the horses are moved from centre to centre as in the United States, because of this the courses are used as training areas.


SilkDepartment on December 02, 2011:

When talking about Australian racing and in particular Australian racetracks as is noted above please do some research !!! There is no mention of Melbourne, not only being the no.1 racing centre in the country but also having unquestionably the biggest and best racetrack, Flemington, not only in Australia but most probably the world. Flemington regularly averages total attendances of over 400,000 for the 4 days of the world famous Flemington Spring Carnival over the space of a week in the Spring. It is on the 2nd day of this carnival that one of the worlds oldest and greatest races is run, the Melbourne Cup. Melbourne is also home to 3 other racetracks. Caulfield is home to Australia's greatest 2400m race the Caulfield Cup as well as numerous other big races such as the Caulfield Guineas. Then there is the unique Moonee Valley racetrack, which hosts the WFA Championship of Australasia the 2000m WS Cox Plate. There is also Sandown racetrack, which also hosts some big races but is mainly used in the winter. A glaring oversight