France Galop unveiled a revised fixture list for horse racing in 2021 in the country this week with the aim of resuming on 11 May.
The sport comes under the remit of the French ministry of agriculture and not sport, so that means it is not subject to the nationwide ban laid down by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe which lasts until 1 September.
Despite its Paris location, Longchamp will host the opening fixture of the French flat season proper with four Group races. These include an early Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe trial in the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt for older horses over 10 furlongs.
There are also French Guineas trials on the 11 May card in the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte for fillies and Prix de Fontainebleau for colts both over a mile. It remains to be seen if foreign runners make or are allowed to take up entries in these three-year-olds only contests.
The first French Classics – the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and des Poulains – are also to stay in Paris at Longchamp with a 1 June date. Races of this calibre are usually run on weekends, yet the French 1000 and 2000 Guineas are now pencilled in for a Monday.
Jumps racing takes something of a backseat in the revised France Galop fixture list, but the French Grand National (Grand Steeple Chase de Paris) and French Champion Hurdle have their weekend slot on Sunday, 7 June at Auteuil – also in the capital.
There is Group 1 action back on the Flat at Longchamp seven days later with the Prix Saint-Alary for three-year-old fillies and Prix Ganay for older horses. The former race can be a stepping stone to the Prix de Diane – the French Oaks – at Chantilly.
July 5 sees that and the other Classic in the annual France Galop calendar, the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby), take centre stage. Much of the midsummer programme remains out of Paris, though, with top Group racing centering on Chantilly, Deauville and Saint-Cloud.
Deauville retains its six Group 1 races, starting with the Prix Jean Prat for three-year-olds over seven furlongs on 12 July.
The Prix Rothschild for fillies, Prix Maurice de Gheest sprint over six-and-a-half furlongs, Prix Jacques Le Marois for milers, Prix Jean Romanet for older fillies and mares, and Prix Morny for juveniles mean there is top class action at that track almost every weekend in August.
France Galop have made some alterations to the regular fixture list, however, and weren’t able to save every race. Chief among the races to be axed is the Group 2 Prix Niel.
This Arc trial for three-year-olds is replaced by delaying the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris over the same course and distance at Longchamp from its usual midsummer slot until 13 September.
The thinking behind this appears to be giving foreign horses every chance of having a run at the venue prior to the Arc which remains in its traditional slot. France’s most famous race is due to take place on Sunday, 4 October this year.
Entries for the Arc won’t close until around the middle of June with no firm date established. This allows France Galop to monitor the situation for international entries into one of Europe’s most prestigious races.
Another notable change to the programme sees the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly on 19 July open to three-year-olds just for this year. The nine furlongs contest is normally for older horses only and run at Longchamp.