Racing: French couples to split

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The Independent Online
While several of Britain's most important races still search for a sponsor, the showpiece of the French season has hung on to a supporter it expected to lose, writes Greg Wood.

Despite being swallowed up by Granada, Forte will fulfil the final year of its three-year backing of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and the association may yet continue beyond 1996.

As a result of Granada's decision to retain control of Forte's Meridien chain of hotels, the conglomerate will add the "Meridien" brand name to the race title. The deal was unveiled in London yesterday by Louis Romanet, French racing's most influential administrator, who also had welcome news for British punters who have struggled with the workings of his country's pari-mutuel system.

It now seems certain that the rule by which horses in the same ownership are "coupled" - if you back one, you back both - in the French betting will be abandoned in time for this year's Arc, on 6 October.

Since Sheikh Mohammed, for instance, seems sure to have at least two runners, this is a welcome acknowledgement of the intelligence of Europe's punters, who can back both if they wish but do not need the French administrators to do it for them.

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