Sports Listings / Plan ahead

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The Independent Online
The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, traditionally held on the first Sunday in October, is France's most prestigious horse race and the two-day meeting at Longchamp, in Paris's famous Bois de Boulogne, is the most important in the French calendar.

The Arc de Triomphe pits Classic horse against Classic horse in a field that often comprises winners of the Derby, the Irish and French Derbies and the French Oaks and its English equivalent. It is now accepted as the middle-distance championship of Europe because of the sheer quality of entry, even though the run up the hill at the start of the 12-furlong race can spell defeat even for a horse like Generous as in last year's event. The meeting, in fact, offers 10 Group races over a weekend that has had good weather for the last 12 years.

Longchamp is in the Bois de Boulogne, north-west Paris, between Port Maillot and Port Dauphine on the Peripherique, Paris's ring-road. From the centre of Paris, The Vincennes-La Defense is the line on the Metro or Reseau Express Regionale (RER) to take to Port Maillot, where a bus or taxi makes the five-minute connection to the track. Charles de Gaulle airport has a direct tube link with Port Maillot. The course does not have an information service, so it is best to contact the Societe d'Encouragement, the French Jockey Club, for advice. Admission price is FFr50 (pounds 5.25).

Horseracing Abroad, of Sandwich, Kent, is a travel company specialising in trips to race meetings, trainers even travel with it, and for Longchamps, has several tours on offer. The day trip, flying from Gatwick to Paris, includes transfer to and from the track and admission and costs pounds 149. Staying one night costs pounds 251, including flights from Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted. Two nights start at pounds 295, three at pounds 335, rising to pounds 772 for the luxury hotel bracket.

Horseracing Abroad also leases its own private grandstand at Longchamp, entry costs pounds 35, though you have to travel with the company to use this facility. Here Tote Credit can be used for betting. Otherwise, the French equivalent of the Tote, the Pari-Mutuel, is the only other means of backing a winner at the track because bookmakers are illegal in France. The company also organises trips to the heart of Paris for spouses not interested in racing.

CIGA Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, Longchamp, Bois de Boulogne, Paris, 4 October.

Societe d'Encouragement, 46 Place Abel Gance, 92655 Boulogne Cedex, France (Tel: 010 33 1 49 102030).

Horseracing Abroad, 15 Market Street, Sandwich, Kent CT13 9DA (Tel: 0304-612424).

French Government Tourist Office, 178 Piccadilly, London W1V 0AL (Tel: 071-499 6911 - recorded information only).

Details of forthcoming events with information on ticket availability and venues should be sent to The Sports Desk, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB or faxed to 071-956 1894.