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Maisons-Laffitte 
April 2007

April 20, 2007 --  On a gorgeous Friday afternoon in April, we were treated like royalty as we toured Maisons-Laffitte, just a few minutes north of Paris by train. Gina Rarick, an American journalist who has lived in France for more than 10 years, stables several of the horses she trains at a picturesque 'yard' in Maisons-Laffitte, just across the street from where she lives with her husband, Tim.

Though not the first trip to Maisons-Laffitte, it was certainly the most fun-filled one. (My previous journey three years ago was in search of Jimmy Winkfield, a classic chateau [see right] and a good place to eat lunch! I scored one out of three that time.) We started with a quick visit to the yard, where the owners of the stable were having lunch in the interior oval.  Gina introduced us to her three equine friends, the mare Spooky, Roy de Gabaud, and Tommy.  All three of these horses race hurdles and steeplechase, and Gina works them every morning without fail, building their strength and keeping them in racing form.  And then she goes to her regular job as a financial writer for the International Herald Tribune.  Gina's story is amazing, too long to tell here, but suffice it to say that this is a woman who knows what she wants and is willing to invest whatever energy it takes to get it.  She's made a solid name for herself in this racing world, in spite of the fact that she has several strikes against her:  She's a woman, she's an American, and she's not from a horse-racing background.

We had a lovely lunch under the plane trees at the Rond du Poniatowski, called Rond du Pont by the locals, then sauntered across the street to the racetrack. We walked through the stables, in the presentation ring, to the owners' box, even into the jockey room where we ran into Christophe Soumillon, one of France's leading jockey's, as he was changing silks. Oops!  And then we watched the races, all of them on the turf, all of them in the opposite direction from America, and all of them much longer than the races we see at home.  What a great way to jump headlong into French racing!  And it's not over yet...we're off to Auteuil on Sunday to watch the Grand Prix du Président de la République, sometimes called the French Grand National, a major steeplechase stakes race that just happens to be running on the day of the presidential election!
 


Salut!


The 'yard' where Gina's
horses are stabled.


Joe is introduced to Spooky.


Roy de Gabaud is a big boy,
and quite a jumper.



Gina has brought Roy back to
racing form and hopes to enter
him in a race at Auteuil in May.

 


Tommy is a colt, with a bit of
that boyish enthusiasm...
he's very game and strong...
he may soon be leaving the
family jewels on the cutting room
floor before too long.
 

At the track, the tote board looks more like a little league scoreboard -- it's all part of the charm of Maisons-Laffitte, where they've been racing horses
for hundreds of years.


 

Maisons is also where Jimmy Winkfield, the Black Maestro American jockey (who twice won the Kentucky Derby at the turn of the last century) rode, lived, trained and died.  He's buried at the cemetery there.


And down the stretch they come...
 


...in the opposite direction...
 


...beautiful no matter which way they run!
 

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