By Duane Fonseca
France Galop have planned a bumper opening for the resumption of French racing on 11 May.
The body governing the sport in France has published a revised schedule for the recommencement of the sport following the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, but four Group contests highlight the opening day’s action as the wheels start to roll.
The opening day will host key trials for top races later in the year, with the feature of the opening day’s action, the Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt, one of the main preps for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt was won last year by Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby-schooled Ghaiyyath who carried William Buick in the saddle.
The main trials for the French 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, the Prix de la Grotte and Prix de Fontainebleau, have also been scheduled on the opening day along with the Group 3 Prix de Saint-Georges, which is a sprint.
All Group One races on the annual calendar have been rearranged with the French 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas taking place strangely on 1 June, which is a Monday.
Paris Longchamp has been pencilled in to host the Classics despite a warning it could put an undue strain on healthcare services in the French capital.
The Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary and Prix Ganay - both Group 1 affairs - will be run on 14 June, while the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud is set for 28 June. The French Derby and Oaks are a week later on 5 July, while the Prix d’Ispahan, which for this season only is open to 3yos, has been moved to 19 July.
A few important races have been scrapped as well like the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam, won last season by the Roger Charlton-trained Headman. The Group 2 Prix Niel on 13 September, another key Arc trial, has also been removed from the calendar with the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris taking its place.
The jumps programme has been reduced significantly to cater to more Flat races, with the Grand Steeple Chase de Paris and Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil both scheduled for 7 June.
Racing in France had been suspended from 17 March, but as things move forward, the season is expected to resume behind closed doors, with horses and jockeys based overseas unable to compete until at least the end of May.
Entries for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will be closed in mid-June, but no official date has been set yet.