Style de Triomphe: Longchamp

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, one of the world’s foremost horse races, originated in 1920. Now over a century old, the course in the heart of Paris doesn’t get any less chic.

Aga Khan III, Longchamp, 1948.

On Sunday April 27th, 1857, a vast crowd, including the emperor Napoleon III and his wife, Eugenie de Montijo gathered to watch Longchamp’s first day of racing. The Royal couple made quite the entrance by arriving at the venue in a yacht which had cruised down the river Seine. They were joined in the Royal Enclosure by Prince Nassau, Prince Murat and the Duke of Morny, an avid racegoer. Non-aristocratic members of the upper classes were not permitted into the Royal Enclosure and had to be content with watching from their barouche carriages on the lawn.

Spectating in such decadent fashion at Longchamp today, particularly at Europe’s richest horse race the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, is not too dissimilar. Now held on the first Sunday of October every year, the race attracts the fastest thoroughbreds over a mile and half from around the globe. In flat racing terms the pinnacle middle-distance test that determines the horse’s class, that breeders over so many generations have been genealogically aspiring to. Located within the beautiful surroundings of Paris’s second largest park Bois de Boulogne, where pivotal figures of the impressionist art movement, Edouard Manet and Edgard Degas both painted horse racing scenes, it is certainly one of the most stylish sporting events in the global calendar. To put the magnitude into perspective, Lester Piggott - widely regarded as the greatest flat jockey of all time, when winning his first Arc in 1973 on Rheingold and usually taciturn and expressionless in interview observed, “this has been the biggest thrill of my career.”

Contributor

Freddie Anderson

Published

September 2021

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