Horse racing has officially restarted in France after being cleared to do so, despite a last-minute scare.
The first event took place yesterday at Paris’ Longchamp racecourse, following an eight-week absence.
Disgruntled figures from within French football had urged the government to rethink their decision to let the sport resume. However, President Emmanuel Macron didn’t give in to their demands.
Horse racing will initially take place behind closed doors, with other safety restrictions also in place.
No fans present
The return of horse racing means that France is the second European nation to announce the resumption of sports in some way, shape or form – following the introduction COVID-19 restrictions. In Germany, the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga were both recently given the green light to return on 16th May.
The Prix de Fontainebleu was one of the events to take place in the French capital yesterday, with no fans present. The Summit claimed first place, with pre-race favourite Victor Ludorum enduring a disappointing day.
In addition to the non-existent crowd, few personnel were granted access to the track. Each jockey was obliged to wear a face mask, while other strict social distancing measures were enforced.
Along with the Prix de Fontainbleu, the Prix Saint-Georges also went ahead. Outsider Batwan finished first, ahead of Gold Vibe. 2019 winner Sestilo Jet, who was also the bookies’ favourite this time around, ended in third.
France Galop Chief Executive Olivier Delloye tweeted his thoughts on the return of horse racing. These were as follows.
“Certainly we run behind closed doors… But what satisfaction to see this first race finally arriving.
“Thank you to the great teams of France Galop for their incredible work and thank you to all of you for supporting us.”
Personnel within French football were far-from-pleased with the government’s decision to let horse racing return. Football itself is suspended until September, as are all other team sports in the country.
France Galop President Edouard de Rothschild confirmed that footballing figures had lodged a protest on Saturday.
“We were absolutely crystal clear about the restrictions we will be putting in place, so on the technical level we had a very good case.
“However, an issue then arose about French football not restarting at the same time racing was set to resume, albeit behind closed doors. There was some lobbying and, yes, people compared football and racing, saying: ‘Why are they allowed to restart when we in football are not?’
“That created an issue at the highest political level but the president and prime minister ultimately made the positive and favourable decision on Friday evening.”
Ligue 1 recently announced an early end to the season, with Paris Saint-Germain winning their seventh title in eight seasons. Marseille finished second, while third-placed Rennes took the final Champions League spot. At the other end, Amiens were relegated to Ligue 2 alongside Toulouse.
The final table was decided on a points-per-game basis. Amiens are not happy with the outcome and have taken a full-page advertisement in national newspaper L’Equipe to express this. They were four points adrift of safety with 10 games left. Lyon have also threatened legal action after they finished seventh and missed out on European football.