An Afternoon at Auteuil
22, 2007 -- We got an invitation we weren't
entirely sure about -- the chance to go to Auteuil
racetrack. Situated in the Bois de Boulogne in the heart of
Paris, Auteuil is filled with history and was haunted by
many an impressionist artist in the late 1800s, including
Degas, looking to paint both the lively social scene and the
powerful animals at work.
We'd been to Auteuil many years ago on a gloomy, dismal
day when the place seemed so down-at-the heels that we
wondered why anyone would bother to come here. When Gina
Rarick, our local horse racing buddy, suggested an outing on
a Sunday afternoon, we were for a few seconds a bit
reluctant -- why would we want to go back to Auteuil? But this was for what is considered the
Grand National of French steeplechase racing, le Prix de la Président de la République, starring some of the most daring
and graceful athletes in the world. To be able to see them
in action, with someone who knows what to look for, could be
a great opportunity. So we said, pffff
(that's the French pushing of the lips), mais oui, avec
We arrived at the track to see that it has been
renovated, spruced up, and in fact made to look every bit as
good as its sister tracks in the Parisian region. The
steeplechase aspect was awe-inspiring as we watched the
horses work. The array of hurdles and jumps is amazing -- la
Haie (the bush), the Brook, the Rivière du Huit, the
Bullfinch, the Oxer, the Double Barrière, the Rail Ditch and
Fence -- and they're put together in succession in a different way for each
race to create a challenge to rider and horse alike.
Many a horse crosses the finish line without a rider,
something you rarely see in flat racing. And many a horse
and rider don't finish the course, using good judgment as to
when to call it quits rather than risk injury. Interesting,
different, but still everyone is hoping their horse comes in
and pays well...so not that different after all!
Well, we won't be skipping the weekly steeplechase race
at Saratoga anymore after this excursion. There's lots to
see and much more to learn on this front.
Joe and Gina have a serious discussion up in the owners' box.
The race is on. The tote is up.
The Rail Ditch & Fence jump is the most difficult at Auteuil.
Nicknamed the Juge de Paix (Judge of Peace), it is
strategically placed to bring out the best (and worst) in
horses and riders.
The horses take the water jump,
on saute la Rivière du Tribune.
And then they jump one in the other direction -- go figure, the
horses seem to run every which way to make the course as
challenging as possible.
"I have NO idea..."
Duc d'Anzy, trained by JP Gallorini, took an early lead in the
Prix de la Republique, and came in fifth among 20, in the money
for its owners but not for those of us who bet on him.
Game finish by number 6...sans rider.
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