French Horse Racing Tips
Horse racing in France takes place year-round, Flat and jumps. Along with Britain and Ireland, it is one of the three main racing nations in Europe.
France actually stages the richest race in Europe, the Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe at Longchamp in early-October. Longchamp is the most prestigious of the French racetracks, largely on the weight of the ‘Arc’, which is the dominant meeting in the French horse racing calendar.
Top French Horse Races
Other major French horse racing fixtures include:
Prix Du Jockey-Club
Otherwise known as the French Derby, this is a race for three-year-olds, held at Chantilly in early-June, around the same time as the Derby at Epsom. It is over a slightly shorter distance than the Derby.
Prix De Diane
Where the Jockey-Club is the French Derby, the Diane is the French Oaks. It is also run over 1m2½f (2100m) and is therefore shorter than the Oaks. It tends to be a little stronger, in relative terms, than the Jockey-Club as the true 1m4f colts often run in.
Grand Prix De Paris
Run on Bastille Day (July 14) every year, this is the modern French equivalent of the Derby. It is over the Derby distance of 1m4f (2400m) and it is common these days for horses to run in both races. Last year’s third, Japan, went on to win the Grand Prix De Paris.
Prix Du Moulin De Longchamp
One of Europe’s biggest races at a mile, it is held on Arc trials weekend in September. Champion milers such as Ribchester, Excelebration, Goldikova and Rock Of Gibraltar feature on its roll of honour.
Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere
Formerly the Grand Criterium, this is France’s premier race for two-year-old colts and is run on the same day as the Arc. Winners of the race are often the winter favourite for the 2000 Guineas or its French equivalent (Poule D’Essai Des Poulains)
Prix Marcel Boussac
Possibly the strongest race for two-year-old fillies in the world. Run over a mile on Arc day, winners include Zarkava, Found, Wuheida and Wild Illusion, all of whom went on to win major Group 1 prizes later in their careers.
Grand Steeple-Chase De Paris
Jumps racing in France does not enjoy complete parity with Britain and Ireland the way its Flat racing does, but there are still some major prizes including this 3m6f race in May, often billed as France’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Grand Course De Haies D’Auteuil
France’s biggest hurdle race, often referred to as the French Champion Hurdle even though it is over 3m1½f. Six of the last nine runnings have gone to British or Irish trainers.
Top French horse racing tracks
Most French horse races are run steadily and suit horses that are able to quicken, like great French champions Goldikova and Zarkava. Courses themselves are generally flat and fair. Here are some of the most prestigious.
The home of the Arc, Longchamp is a flat and fair track. The Grande Piste, used for the Arc, has sweeping turns and a false straight before the main one.
A right-handed, somewhat sharp track with four winning posts, Chantilly is famous for hosting the French Derby/Oaks and its unique setting beside the stunning Great Stables.
Deauville dominates the French racing scene in August, when it hosts all five of its Group 1 races. It is a fairly galloping track with a straight mile and an accompanying Polytrack all-weather course.
A triangular, left-handed course, Saint-Cloud suits gallopers more than most French racecourses and the Group 1 Criterium De Saint-Cloud in November is the stiffest stamina test a smart two-year-old can be expected to face.
The dominant jumps course in France, Auteuil hosts all French Grade 1 jumps races, all of which take place between May and November.
Horse Racing in France – Facts
French Flat racing is as strong as in Britain and Ireland. French raiders over La Manche tend to do as well as those crossing the Channel. This is not so true over jumps, where French-breds start training earlier and France is duly used as a bit of a breeding ground by deep-pocketed owners from Britain and Ireland.
The main difference in how races play out in France is in the running of them. The European tendency towards quick-slow-quick is most marked in France, where the ability to quicken is paramount. Many of the best French champions have had this ability.
It is also the case that the ground in France tends to be heavily watered, but descriptions such as tres souple (very soft) do not correspond directly to British or Irish descriptions, tending to overstate softness in relative terms.
How to bet on French racing in the UK
Which bookmakers offer betting on French Horse Racing?
The vast majority of British bookmakers offer odds on Group races in France and most offer odds on even more everyday fare these days.
French Horse Racing Odds
French horse racing betting is straightforward if you are in France: you have only the PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain), effectively a Tote system, to bet on. British bookmakers offer their own, fixed odds to British punters, although the ability to take PMU odds may still exist in certain places on request.
Where to find French Horse Racing Results
Most dedicated British horse racing sites in the UK will offer some sort of French results service. Attheraces provide a full service, while France Galop will also have full results and their site takes only a basic understanding of written French.
How to watch French Horse Racing from the UK?
Sky Sports Racing now provide an in-depth programme of French gallop racing and it is given due prominence on days when the British action is light. Sky Sports Racing is free on certain satellite providers’ service, and they are your best bet for live racing. It is also possible to access an in-depth bank of replays by signing up with France Galop and using their website.
Is horse racing popular in France?
Horse racing, both gallop and trot racing, is popular right across France. The major tracks are centred on Paris, while there is a high concentration in the northern half of the country.
How do you bet on horse racing in France?
Most British bookmakers will offer odds on a significant portion of French horse racing. It is also possible to enjoy the full French experience and bet into their PMU system, or at least at those odds.
What is the greatest horse race in France?
The Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe is one of the world’s greatest races, perhaps the greatest in Europe these days as the Derby’s importance has dimmed a little in recent years. It is staged at Longchamp on the first Sunday in October.
How do I place a bet in France?
Look for the green PMU sign outside of newsagents, tabacs etc. or go online to the PMU’s site. France has a tote monopoly, so the PMU is the only show in town.
How many Racecourses are there in France?
There are around 250 racecourses in France, gallop and trot, but the vast majority are provincial. There are 68 courses that provide fixtures worthy of national and international coverage.
Has any horse won the Arc 3 times?
No horse has won the Arc three times, although eight have managed to win the race twice. Enable came closest to completing the hat-trick when she was denied by Waldgeist in 2019. She will reportedly stay in training with the aim of securing a historic third Arc win in 2020.