Two days after laying out plans to resume horse racing amid the coronavirus pandemic, French officials released a schedule of Group (Grade) 1 races that provide a different look from a traditional French racing calendar.
France Galop, the country’s racing governing body, announced the schedule pending the planned resumption of racing on May 11. French President Emmanuel Macron has extended his country’s lockdown until that date.
Should racing resume that day, it will begin at the renovated ParisLongchamp and the opening-day card should feature several Classic trials, highlighted by the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt. That is a prime Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe prep race, although France Galop announced entries for that race will now come in mid-June. Normally, they come in May.
The organization said in a statement that the May ParisLongchamp meet will feature 14% more races between May 11 and 31, compared to the original meet book. There are 22 races for 3-year-olds, five handicaps, and four claiming races. There are 24 other age races, including 19 handicaps and five claiming races.
Revised Group/Grade 1 French Race Dates
- May 11 — Racing restarts with Classic trials, including the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt
- June 1 — French 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, Longchamp
- June 7 — Grand Steeple Chase de Paris and Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil, Auteuil
- June 13 — Prix Alain du Breil and Ferdinand Dufaure, Auteuil
- June 14 — Prix Saint-Alary and Prix Ganay, Longchamp
- June 28 — Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, Saint-Cloud
- July 7 — Prix du Jockey Club and Prix de Diane, Chantilly
- July 12 — Prix Jean Prat, Deauville
- July 19 — Prix d’Ispahan, Chantilly
- Aug. 2 — Prix Rothschild, Deauville
- Aug. 9 — Prix Maurice de Gheest, Deauville
- Aug. 16 — Prix Jacques le Marois, Deauville
- Aug. 23 — Prix Jean Romanet and Prix Morny, Deauville
- Sept. 13 — Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris, Longchamp
Other preps that day include the main trials for the two Guineas, the Prix de la Grotte and the Prix de Fountainebleu. There’s also the Group 3 Prix de Saint-Georges, a sprint race.
While ParisLongchamp should be the spotlight track on opening day, tracks in Toulouse and Compiegne are also expected to open on May 11.
First Two Classics Move From May to June
The 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas remain at ParisLongchamp, and remain the first high-profile French races, but are expected to move from their customary May date to Monday, June 1.
Other notable Group 1 races include the Prix Saint-Alary and Prix Ganay (June 14/Longchamp), the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (June 28/Saint-Cloud), and the French Derby (Prix du Jockey Club) and Oaks (Prix de Diane), July 7 at Chantilly.
Another change involves the July 19 Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly. Normally a race for older horses, it opens to 3-year-olds for this year only.
Deauville dominates the August slate, with four Group 1 races: the Aug. 2 Prix Rothschild, the Aug. 9 Prix Maurice de Gheest, the Aug. 15 Prix Jacques le Marois, and the Aug. 23 Prix Jean Romanet and Prix Morny.
Flat Races Take Priority Over Jumps
France Galop canceled several races, including the Group 2 Prix Niel, a key Arc prep. The Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris takes its place on the ParisLongchamp schedule on Sept. 13. Other scrapped races include the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam and several jump races.
Staying on the jumps calendar is the Grand Steeple Chase de Paris and Grande Course de Haies d’Autell, which are scheduled for June 7 at Auteuil.
All races will take place behind closed doors and numerous safety measures are in effect. Primary among these are mandatory quarantines for any horse or jockey based outside France, and a ban on their ability to race until the end of May.
Even with the resumption of top-level racing, bettors face difficulties making wagers until more elements of French society open up. PMU cafes and their betting windows — the country’s main off-track betting facilities — remain closed.