7 Days, 6 Nights, 2 Classics, 1 Memorial

I don’t have much use for business travel. For one thing, there is often work involved. Or else it’s some conference, where you are teased by a flight into some nice town and a smooth ride in a black car to some grand hotel, where you put on a name tag and sit around some too-cold ballroom listening to panel discussions while everyone around you checks their email. But every once in a while you get lucky.

I’m flying to France this Friday evening so I can spend the following week working out of my company’s Paris office. I had minimal input into the work dates (“any time after Memorial Day” was my lone request), but once they were set at June 2nd through 6th, I knew I had struck gold. You see, my company allows its employees to fly in during the prior weekend on these sort of trips, so that you can be fresh as a croissant on Monday morning. And I knew that this year the Prix du Jockey Club (aka, the French Derby), will be run on Sunday June 1st.

[If you are not familiar with the dump they call the Hippodrome de Chantilly, you can get a pretty good look at the place via this video of Intello’s win in last year’s Prix du Jockey Club. He’s the one with the big blaze, carrying Peslier in blue with white cap and sleeves, prominent throughout.]

If my flight arrives on time and I can get things sorted out quickly at my hotel, there is also a Saturday card at Longchamp that may be too tempting to resist. And if all this fortunate timing was not enough, I will be making the Chantilly trip with an old college friend who has been living in Paris for more than twenty-five years and is my equal when it comes to l’amour de poulains et pouliches.

Two horseplayer at the back door to Longchamps, 1992.

Two horseplayers at the back door to Longchamp, 1992.

Obviously, going to work the day after the Prix du Jockey Club will be somewhat of a letdown, but when was a non-holiday Monday ever any good? But this first week of June figures to be rich with anticipation, as Belmont Park is prepped for what could be its biggest day ever. I return to New York on D-Day. The next day I will be out at Belmont Park, taking in a second classic race in the span of one week.

Despite all appearances to the contrary so far, this post is not just me crowing about my good fortune. I wanted to post this so that any subsequent posts about France would not seem to come out of le bleu. But also, I wanted to encourage any horseplayers out there with the means and the inclination to take a racing holiday in France. Arc weekend at Longchamp in early October gives you Paris at a splendid time in the calendar, and the best two straight days of rollicking racing this side of the Breeders’ Cup. If summertime racing is more your style, Deauville, on the Normandy coast, is a brilliant mashup of Del Mar and Saratoga.

And should you get homesick, there is a seaside property just a short drive from Deauville that is officially a part of the United States. It’s also a nice reminder that, yes, 9/11 museum, we once knew how to create a proper memorial. And on this Memorial Day, just 12 days shy of the 70th anniversary of the allied landing, this place deserves a plug as much as anywhere.

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