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An Afternoon at Auteuil
April 2007

April 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 plaisir!

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
.
 


Jumping galore!

 



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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