Flat, Obstacles, Trotting
Approx no. of meetings
Rail from London (2.5 hours on Eurostar and then 52 minutes from Paris)
Bus from (Number 1 from Compiegne Station)
Railway station to Racecourse (1.2 Miles – Nice walk down tree lines boulevards)
Dependent on the meeting. There are fixed tote style betting both free standing and in the bar. The bar itself is a canteen style with fabulous friendly service and additional tables outside for when it is warmer. There is one stand which have both yellow and blue seating areas which may have come into some form of segregation on busy race days. The pre-parade and parade rings are both accessible and large enough to allow a good public view. There are stand-alone food stalls providing the usual fare at these events. The quality appeared good, but I saw no sign of a specific French influence.
We stayed in the hotel du Nord by the main station, it was quiet and good value. It is across the river from the main town. There are many other places to stay including chains like Best Western and IBIS.
Eating in town is also excellent from the friendly and reasonably priced George café to the top of the range Bistro du Terroir.
One the gate €5 for adults €3 for concessions. The paper program was in colour and free, amazing value.
(2) Return before challenge complete
22 April 2017– UK Tracks (22), Irish Tracks (3), Caribbean Tracks (1), French Tracks (1)
Rather like the first time we raced in Ireland or when we visited Barbados, a new country holds a certain amount of trepidation. What if things aren’t the same. What if you can’t understand what is going on. What if the locals hate us? Madam Hoof and I are made of sturdy stuff but even we felt a bit of trepidation when visiting the old foe. Madam Hoof tried to avoid mentioning Agincourt and instead looked at the closeness of the track to the twin idylls of Epernay and Reims. For those of you unaware, this would be the home of Champagne. From the word go, this was evident as a coup de champagne could be obtained from pretty much any hostelry at a good price and even at the track, often the place of massive price hikes, it was of incredibly good value, as was the local La Chouffe beer.
The track itself is just over a mile out of town, in parkland next to the gardens of the palace inhabited by the Louis’s and Napoleon. Spectacular, tree lined, grand avenues await you for your walk and it is worth the effort, even though there is a good bus service. You will find the locals parked up on the grass outside and you get tantalising glimpses of the white rails of the course as you walk up the road. As is often the case, there is a clear relationship between the golf course and the race track, (what else do you use all that land for when you are not racing.) What however is even more impressive is the building (now probably residencies) which was the clinic of a noble prize winning doctor; just stunning.
Inside the gates of the track everything is very quaint (in a good way) and atmospheric. The buildings are low rise and the place is like and airy with sufficient space to move around. We picked up the free colour race card and started to look at the form. The betting is in some form of organised totalizer format with a €2 minimum leg/stake. Although we struggled with the language when it came to better, the issues were not insurmountable as most of the boking clerks spoke some English (not to self, I must perfect my E/W bet in French). However, I did avoid any reference to Swingers as I didn’t want to start an international incident.
It is a long track and can be run a series of formats. I am dying to return and visit when there is trotting one day. The races tended to be on the longer side as this was a hurdles meeting (or obstacles as they say locally). The view from the grandstand was excellent and there is also a good repeater screen to see the more remote action.
All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable event. There were some differences from English racing, but that made it even more exciting rather than less. I would suggest you go out to France to try this if you have not yet. If you look at the number of Hippodromes on the French website, I think it will surprise you as there are far more than in England. Madam Hoof and I cannot wait to get back and enjoy the horses, the food the wine and of course the new found friendships.