Monday, June 30, 2014

A Colorful Day at the Races !

The Prix de Diane is the yearly French prestigious Group 1 flat horse race  open to three-year-old thoroughbred fillies. It is held on the lovely grounds of the Chantilly Chateau in Chantilly and it is the equivalent of England’s famous Epsom Oaks Horse Race. The distance is 2,100 meters or about one mile and two and a half furlongs.

The Prix de Diane was established in 1843, and was originally restricted to horses born and bred in France. It has continued without interruptions except for the Franco-Prussian War, World War I and World War II. Amazingly it is was not cancelled during the Revolution of 1848, but was simply moved to Versailles. 

 This year more than 46,000 spectators made the journey to Chantilly for this annual event. The grounds were transformed into a splendid, giant garden party with a vast expanse of fancy baskets, delicacies, champagne flutes and candelabras. The imagination of the picnic goers is delightful to behold and yet they are completely surpassed in imagination by the parade of hats. You will not be an integral part of the festivities if you do not attend with a “joli chapeau”.

Julien Doré was this year’s featured musical artist playing rock and roll for the spectators. He is the 5th winner of the French reality TV show “La nouvelle star” (“French Idol”) and he plays the guitar and the ukulele. Julien is based in Paris and writes fantasy love songs perfect for this whimsical setting. (He is also the great-great-great-nephew of Gustave Doré, a well-known french illustrator of the 19th century.)

The “Village Diane” was speckled with little merry-go-rounds that offered food, wine, champagne and most certainly hats! There was also a very real merry-go-round. Most spectators choose the village area in the center of the course. This offered an inviting and roomy space for the elaborate picnics, tables, children and hat watchers. For the best viewing of the race, the Grand-Stand area was the preferential spot. 

Although you can drive to Chantilly, the easiest way is to take the RER from Gare de Nord. Extra trains will be running so there is minimal waiting time and it is a comfortable 45 minute ride. Don’t be too quick to buy your tickets since the ride is often free for this event. Once you arrive in Chantilly, small buses are waiting to take you to the park grounds. However, I believe that the ten minute walk though the small forrest, with all of the other party seekers, is a much more interesting way to get to your destination. You may buy your tickets ahead of time from the official website or you can wait in line. Although the lines are long, I found the event well organized and the lines moved quickly. You also have the option of taking your own picnic fare or you can buy food on the chateau grounds. The quality of the food was good and the price was reasonable (not cheap and not overly expensive). This year you could purchase a very charming picnic boxes full of goodies, as well as hotdogs, traditional french baguettes and cheeses.

In case you were wondering who the big winner was at the race this year, it was Avenir Certain. Avenir Certain is the French 1,000 Guineas winner, who completed a Classic double at Chantilly on Sunday with a strong charge down the outside in the home straight to carry her a full length clear of Amour A Papa.
Elegance was the theme of the day and Longines, who has hosted this event since 2011, did a fine job in keeping the traditions alive with added sparkle. The fact that the day was glorious enhanced the whimsical atmosphere. There is nothing like flue skies, balmy breezes and mild temperatures to make a perfect setting that much more desirable. 
Next year will be here before you know it, so there is no time like the present to begin preparations for that special “chapeau” for next year’s Prix de Diane!

For more photos please visit this article published in BonjourParis. You can also check out many other articles that have been published. Enjoy ! :

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