France Galop is encouraging racegoers from Britain and Ireland to make the trip to ParisLongchamp next month for the 100th edition of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
The 12-furlong showpiece is an undoubted highlight of the autumn — and after it was contested with just a limited crowd last year because Covid restrictions, officials at France Galop are eager to celebrate the race’s centenary with a bigger audience in attendance.
Plans are in place to deck out the track in the silks of the 99 previous winners of the race, with former winning riders set to be invited as France Galop acknowledges a landmark occasion.
France Galop's general manager Olivier Delloye has outlined requirements for British and Irish fans to attend the fixture, where face masks will be required indoors and outdoors wherever social distancing is not possible and proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test is a necessity.
In a press conference via Zoom on Monday, he said: “The number of daily cases is decreasing every day — so people who are keen to come to France, especially in the Paris area, I think provided they are themselves vaccinated, should not be afraid about the situation here.
“There’s no limit on capacity this year. All that people need to go to the races is to show this ‘health pass’ — either showing you are fully vaccinated, or you can show a negative PCR or antigen test — and we will be offering the service of antigen tests at the gates of ParisLongchamp.
“It’s obviously much easier for British racegoers if they are vaccinated, knowing there will be no quarantine going back home for them. This trip to Paris for the Arc would be much easier for those who are fully vaccinated.”
Given travel restrictions can be changed at short notice, Delloye confirmed a refund policy is in place should the situation change.
He added: “Should there be any change in England as far as restrictions are concerned for people coming back from France, obviously we will reimburse people who purchase their ticket ahead of the event.”
Delphine Violette, sales director and marketing of France Galop, admitted to concerns the crowd could be down on the 2019 total of 42,000 if people believe a trip to France will prove difficult.
She said: “We noticed that 50 per cent of fans are from England and Ireland — and we fear that with Covid, people will not come because of some restrictions. That is why we are explaining that it will be easy to come to ParisLongchamp, if you are vaccinated of course. We invite people from England and Ireland to come back to the Arc.”
Of advanced ticket sales, Delloye added: “They are definitely behind our 2019 figures, but that is the same for French spectators as well — I think the trend is consistent on both sides of the Channel.
“We felt that from England it’s not obvious you can go racing without any limit of capacity and under what conditions, so it was important for us to share the information.”
This year’s Arc is shaping up into a clash of the titans — with dual Oaks winner Snowfall currently heading the market for Aidan O’Brien ahead of Charlie Appleby’s Derby and King George hero Adayar and the Dermot Weld-trained Tarnawa, who was victorious at last year’s Breeders’ Cup.
Mishriff, Hurricane Lane and Wonderful Tonight are also prominent in the betting, with Saiydabad the shortest-priced potential French runner at 20-1, leading Delloye to think visiting racegoers will be cheering home a familiar winner.
He added: “It’s a little early to be sure of the line-up for the race, but we definitely hope to gather the likes of Tarnawa, Mishriff, Adayar, potentially Hurricane Lane and some others.
“We are looking for the big French runners this year, and I think we are a little below what we are used to providing for the race in the last few years, so it looks like it will be an English or Irish Arc this year, unless Mr (Andre) Fabre unveils a great horse — as he can do.”