It was a beautiful afternoon at the Hippodrome de Longchamp yesterday, first time I had ever been to the races. (The closest I'd ever been before was getting stuck in traffic before the Preakness parade in Baltimore.) And how lucky we were to go with a group guided by Gina Rarick, a former writer for the International Herald Tribune, turned horse trainer. She explained it all to us, shedding light on everything from how to read the program to making sure we knew which older man in the group of owners was the Aga Khan. I had no idea the track was so big (despite having been by there many times before -- on foot, on a bike, and in a car), that the saddles were so diminuitive, that the jockeys sometimes don't have any experience with a horse before race day, or any of the differences between the sport in France and in the U.S. We watched four races and got a peek behind the scenes at the jockeys weighing out after the race, the horses being led around the presentation ring before, and even a look at the stables and training area.
The minimum bet at Longchamp is 2 euros and with my ignorance, I wasn't even willing to risk that. But there are races there again next Sunday (the 23rd) for those who are more game. And visit Gina's Web site at http://www.gallopfrance.com/ if you want to learn more.
Thanks to Mark for organizing.