Horse racing is an immensely popular sport in France as the country hosts some of the most significant races in the world. Over the years, the country has produced some of the most pronounced horses, jockeys, and trainers who have earned recognition in their own right.
As home to the most spectacular racecourses, France organises several horse races each year. The organisation of these events and others aspects of management, including horse riding, training, and breeding, is overseen by a central authority, the France Galop.
Like any other horse racing region, the Group One races are the most prominent thoroughbred races in France. If you are curious to learn about the biggest horse races in France, here is your chance to find out.
Let’s look at the five biggest horse races in France.
Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe
The Prix de L’Arc Triomphe is to France, what the Kentucky Derby is to the US, the Melbourne Cup to Australia, and the Grand National to the UK. It is inarguably the biggest race in France that attracts the largest number of spectators, bookmakers, and bettors. It is recognised as one of the most significant flat horse races in Europe, with a purse of €5,000,000 in 2021.
The first Arc de Triomphe race took place on 3rd October 1920. The race usually takes place on the first Sunday of every October at the Longchamp racecourse. It is a Group 1 flat horse race that runs over a distance of 2,400 metres (equal to 1.5 miles) and is open to thoroughbred runners ages three and older.
The latest record for two consecutive wins was made by Enable, who won the race in 2017 and 2018. This year, the race is scheduled to take place on 1st October.
Prix du Jockey Club
The Prix du Jockey Club is a Group 1 flat horse race that is open to three-year-old fillies and colts. Also sometimes referred to as the French Derby due to its similarity to the English Derby, the race was first held in 1836.
The race runs over a distance of 2,100 metres and takes place in early June in Chantilly. The purse for the Prix du Jockey in 2022 was €1,500,000, while Vadeni led the race.
Prix de Diane Longines
If we were to rate races based on glamour and style, the Prix de Diane Longines would be the uncontested winner. Launched in 1843, the historical Prix de Diane is a Group 1 flat horse race that takes place in early June at the Chantilly racecourse, one or two weeks after the Prix du Jockey Club.
Also sometimes referred to as the French Oaks (similar to The Oaks taking place in the UK), the race runs over a distance of 2,100 metres and is reserved for three-year-old fillies. With a purse of over €1,000,000, the mega event features various activities for families, including games and rides. It is a great event for families to come together to have a picnic and enjoy themselves.
Prix Jacques Le Marois
The Prix Jacques Le Marois is another historical race that first took place in 1921. With prize money of €1,000,000 in 2021, it is easily regarded as one of the top races, which occurs in early August each year at the Deauville racecourse.
The race runs over a distance of 1,600 metres and is open to thoroughbred fillies and colts aged three and older. The winner of this prestigious race gets an invitation to the Breeder’s Cup Race that takes place in North America.
Poule D’Essai Des Pouliches & Poule d’Essai Des Poulains
In 1840, the French launched their version of the 1000 and 2000 Guineas horse races held in England, the Poule D’Essai for colts and fillies. In 1883, the Poule D’Essai was divided in two separate races, the Poule D’Essai Des Pouliches, which was restricted to fillies and the Poule D’Essai Des Poulains, which was reserved for colts only.
The two classic French races occur at the beginning of the flat horse race season at the Longchamp horse racecourse. Both races run over a distance of 1,600 metres and are open to thoroughbred runners ages three or older.
The winner of the Des Poulains can go on to compete in the Prix du Jockey Club, while the winner of Des Pouliches can go on to compete in the Prix de Diane. With a purse of €600,000 (Des Poulains) and €500,000 (Des Pouliches) in 2022, these two races are one of the most prominent races in France.
So, there you have it, the biggest horse races in France! Another noteworthy race is the Grand Prix de Paris, which also takes place in the Longchamp racecourse and is open to horses three years and older. With prize money of €600,000 in 2022, the 2,400 metres long race is also one of the most prominent races happening in France.