Understand the races

The Major Races

The most prestigious thoroughbred races are labelled “Group 1” races. Each year, France Galop organises 27 of these on the flat, and nine over jumps.

On the Flat

The season is built around three big highlights.

From May to July, the Classics for three-year-olds take place, starting with the Poules d’Essai (Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches), two races for colts and fillies individually over a mile (1,600m). This is followed by the QIPCO Prix du Jockey Club and the Prix de Diane Longines at Chantilly over 2,100m one month later in early June. The third act of the Classic season takes place on July 14 at Longchamp (currently at Saint-Cloud due to the renovations) with the running of the Grand Prix de Paris (2,400m), also for three-year-olds. Shortly after this, the Classic generation must meet their elders.

The Summer Meeting at Deauville dominates the programme at the end of July and throughout the month of August. The Prix Morny is the first championship race for two-year-olds, taking place close to yearling sales. The Prix Jacques Le Marois, that is scheduled annually for the weekend of August 15, is one of top three races in the world over a mile. Three other Group 1s are programmed during this meeting.

Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
 The finish of the 2015 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.

The Grand Prix season returns to Paris for the autumn, with the highlight coming every year on the first weekend of October, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The preparation races for Europe’s richest turf race take place on Arc Trials Day three weeks earlier. These meetings are normally held at Longchamp, but due to building work, have been moved to Chantilly for 2016 and 2017.

Over Jumps

All Group 1 races over jumps take place at Auteuil, either in the spring or autumn.

In the early part of the year, from March to July, the best horses in each discipline from every age group (three, four, and five years old upwards) prepare their climb towards the summit. This takes place on the second last weekend of May with the running of the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, and the second weekend in June, when the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil takes place. In the summer, several other racetracks open their doors in the provinces.

The International Jumps Weekend, which takes place in the autumn at the beginning of November is also the highlight of the calendar. It is at this time that the equivalent of the Grand Steeple (Prix La Haye Jousselin) is run, as well as the Grande Course de Haies d’Automne. Auteuil doesn’t close its doors until the beginning of December however. Some jumpers may then go south for the winter to Cagnes-sur-Mer or Pau.

Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris
The 2015 winner of the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris 2015 clears the water jump.