Monday, May 10, 2010
Horse Racing in France
In advance of our fund raising bike tour of French race tracks, we would like to share some of our views on French horse racing. Why would we be doing this, apart from serving a great cause? What fascinates us about French racing? Is the handicapping and betting different than in the US?
In future posts we hope to answer these and other questions, and invite questions from readers of this blog.
One keys word for me in thinking about French racing is variety. There is variety in "pistes", or racing surfaces, from track to track. At some "hippodromes" the running is in a clockwise direction, at others they race counter clockwise. Most pistes have uphill and downhill sections, and eccentric shapes, rather than a standard oval. Some tracks have races run on a straight course up to a mile or longer in distance, and also include dips and rises along the way.
Most surfaces are grass, and races are never taken off the 'turf.' If there has been lots of rain, which is not uncommon in France, horses do get bogged down in the going. During dry periods, the racing surface can be overly firm, although at the bigger tracks the pistes do get watered to protect horses from too hard a surface. Handicappers may be wondering how to compare a horse's races and running times from track to track given all of this variety. Such variety can lead to confusion, and also inspire creativity.