From Paris with love. by @NiamhTownsend - StateSide6

From Paris with love. by @NiamhTownsend

From Paris with love.


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This weekend, I was fortunate enough to fly into Paris for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, hoping that I would be one of many racing fans making the trip to France to watch the brilliant Enable win an unprecedented 3rd Arc.
I have not visited Paris for years and arriving early at the airport on Friday morning meant that I had plenty of time to see around the historic city before any racing began later that weekend. With my aunt, uncle and cousins living in the outskirts of the city it meant that we were able to not only able to have a family gathering, but we were also able to go to one of the biggest occasions in the racing calendar in the process, which definitely appealed to me! 
A first visit to Longchamp on Saturday (for a very affordable price) allowed my family and I to gather our bearings around the racecourse and learn where everything is ahead of the big day on Sunday. Not only was it a great opportunity to get a lay of the land, but we were also treated to some top-class racing which was headlined by a pair of Group 1’s towards the end of the day. It was a rreal treat to get to see Anapurna add another Group 1 win to her tally, and I was also delighted to see Technician get another win under his belt that afternoon. Perhaps it is the proximity to one of the world's most beautiful cities that makes Parislongchamp such a special racecourse, the view of the top of the Eiffel Tower over the treeline across the racecourse from the grandstand serves as a constant reminder of the world-famous culture surrounding racegoers.
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A big topic last weekend was the weather, the rain poured in Paris and there were big concerns that a great occasion may be marred by the vast amounts of it. On both the Saturday and Sunday mornings, we spent much of the time checking the weather forecast, willing the rain to come to an end as it didn’t seem to want to stop. But on both days, somehow, it’s as if someone turned on a light switch and the sun decided to appear throughout the afternoon to make two great days of racing even better. However, the rain had taken its toll and given the Longchamp turf a good beating – the very soft ground would play a big role in upsetting the favourites in the big races on Sunday, including Enable.
Much was written this weekend about the lack of facilities to cope with the large crowds at Longchamp this weekend, and while the queues were long on the Sunday, I found that this did not impact what was a truly wonderful weekend of racing and the staff at the racecourse were immensely helpful and welcoming. For a young woman whose French is non-existent, I was able to find my way around with minimal difficulty or help from my relatives, which I believe highlights Longchamp’s credentials to be a truly global racecourse.
Racing fans from around the world gathered at Longchamp on Sunday to enjoy a stellar day of racing, highlighted by 7 Group 1 contests (including the Arabian World Cup) which were headlined by Europe’s premier race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It was very clear that Enable had deservingly drawn in most of the attention leading up to the race, and Longchamp was littered with the pink, green and white synonymous with Prince Khalid Abdulla’s champions of the past and present.
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I was able to get a front-row seat to watch the horses around the parade ring ahead of the big race, and it was just incredible to be able to get within an arm’s length to one of the best horses we have ever seen hit the racecourse. Her grand entrance was marked by ripples of applause across the crowd, making it abundantly clear how highly regarded Enable is among racing fans around the world. Once the horses had made their way out to parade in front of the stands there was a sudden rush to get a position in the packed stands, I made my way down to stand by the rail in and amongst the crowds. It was as if the ground shook when Frankie asked Enable to go for home at the 2-furlong marker, as the cheers were deafening, everybody willing the pair past the winning post. But, when Waldgeist drew level with her and quickened past, shouts of shock and dismay preceded an eerie quiet around the course. 
It is harsh to say that Waldgeist did not deserve to win that Group 1; he has been consistently brilliant since he first hit the racecourse as well as considerably unlucky that Enable should come along to spoil his party on multiple occasions previously. Pierre-Charles Boudot rode with admirable skill and determination that weekend, stealing the show with an incredible six wins across the two days, and let’s not forget the simply legendary trainer Andre Fabre who needs no introduction and is unsurprisingly the leading trainer at Longchamp. Although it was disappointing that Enable was unable to register a third win in the Arc, she was admirably brave in defeat and lost no respect or adoration from her fans – I have never heard such a loud reception for a horse that finished second as she cantered back past the stands and returned to the parade ring. I am still so grateful to be able to say that I saw this champion in person, even though she may have been beaten, and if this is the last time that she was seen on the racecourse I believe it will still be an “I was there” moment.
As for Parislongchamp, what an incredible racecourse! I loved my first visit and would recommend it to anyone considering going themselves. It is such an easy course to find your way around and adapt to – my mum is already considering a second weekend visit for the 2020 Arc, and I would not say no!

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