Prize money in France is the most attractive in Europe, and is supplemented by premiums for French-bred horses. Average prize money is 24,691€, with 4908 races run each year, 244 of which are stakes races.* The French-bred premiums are 64% of the prize money for 2, 3 and 4 year olds, and 43% for 5 year olds and up.
Racing takes place throughout the year, with all weather racing during the winter months on our doorstep in Chantilly and in Deauville, and racing on the grass and all weather in the Riviera town of Cagnes-sur-Mer. Once the main season begins, so does racing in Paris, with the big races being run at Chantilly, Longchamp, Saint Cloud and Maisons-Laffitte. During August the racing moves to the Normandy seaside tracks of Deauville and Clairefontaine.
The majority of French-bred yearlings pass through the Arqana sale ring at Deauville, in August or October. The sale in August coincides with the month-long racing festival that is held there. There are also plenty of claiming races throughout the year, at varying levels.
The cost of owning a horse in France is also helped by the travel allowances provided for horses trained in France running in PMU races, which are as follows:
From 10-400km 0,255 x km + 33€
Over 400km 0,13 x km + 133€
Over 900km 317,5€
The cost of entries is also significantly lower than in the UK, and full details can be seen on the France Galop website at www.guidedesproprietairs.com as well as details on registering as an owner in France.
Full statistics on French racing can be found at www.panoramagalop.com
Suave Dancer was John’s first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner in 1991. He won the race as a 3 year old, having also won the Prix du Jockey Club easily and produced a scintillating performance to win Irish Champion Stakes that year. He was also the Cartier Champion 3 year old of that year. He was ridden by Cash Ammussen, who was stable jockey at the time, and was owned by Henri Chaloub, who also owned the globe trotting Dear Doctor, who won Group races in four countries including the Arlington Million in Chicago. Suave Dancer’s life-sized statue can be seen at Longchamp racecourse.
Montjeu won both the French and Irish Derbies (by four and five lengths respectively), as well as the Prix Niel, before become the second Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner for John in 1999 at the age of three, and was voted World Champion, with a Timeform rating of 137. He stayed in training at 4, and won the Group 1 Tattersall Gold Cup in Ireland, the Grand Prix de Paris, and the King George at Ascot. This was arguably his most devastating performance, when he cruised into the lead, and won pulling up by a length and a half from Fantastic Light. Its a race worth re watching on Youtube for any racing fan who has a few minutes free! He retired to stud at the end of his 4 year old year, and went on to become probably the best producer of Derby winners of the modern era.
‘We were of course blessed to have the privilege of training one of the best mile and a half horses that has been around for several decades. The mighty, mercurial Montjeu. For those who have not watched it, have a look at the film of him winning the King George. The expression ‘winning on a tight rein’ is often overused, but not here. Indeed, our biggest problem on the day was to get him to consent to walk in to the paddock. Saddled and resplendent he consistently refused, even when given a ‘lead’ by another horse as suggested by Her Majesty the Queen who had come up to see him being saddled. A murmur was going round the paddock as the ‘jockeys up’ call had been given and the odds on favourite was yet to be seen. He was being led up by my head man, Didier Foloppe, who was immaculate in new suit and shiny shoes. I gave Didier a wink, told him to take one more turn then gave him a leg up and into the paddock he went with Didier on board in suit and tie! It was my lasting regret that no one took the photo; it would have had pride of place over any passing the post winning shot. Sadly, although he won so easily he picked up an injury on the firm ground and was never quite the same horse afterwards.
His star game that he brought to the party was a scintillating turn of foot coupled with an ability to switch off in the early part of a race and of course the capacity to stay. Much as he was a handful in the mornings and even more so in the race preliminaries he made life easy for the jockey once the stalls opened. No better example than the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh when the only way to get him in to the paddock was via the racecourse itself, ie in reverse. Rather cockily I told Mick Kinane to hold him up till late and wait for a split between horses rather than coming wide. Trapped behind a wall of horses with under a furlong to go, I was feeling a total berk, when he slipped through the narrowest of gaps quickening in three strides then won pulling up. Mick’s first words when he came in were ‘I wanted to kill you a furlong out’ I had every sympathy saying that I felt likewise at that moment!’