The French Racing has commenced on Monday after the France presidenot Emmanuel Macros gave it a nod but no celebratory hugs, trainers and jockeys wore masks as French racing resumed under the shadow of coronavirus at the fabled Longchamp racecourse.
While France’s Ligue 1 football and Top 14 rugby leagues have been cancelled until September, racing benefited from being quixotically labelled an agricultural pursuit.
It restarted only after reported last-minute lobbying persuaded President Emmanuel Macron to give it the go-ahead.
However, strict rules were laid down including being held behind closed doors, a far cry from the near 50,000 crowd that greeted Waldgeist, the winner of Europe’s most prestigious race the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, last October.
Leading French trainer Nicolas Clement said sacrifices had been made but his initial reaction was positive.
“It was encouraging, the French Jockey club [France Galop] have pushed the boat out by getting it up and running,” he said by phone from his stables in Chantilly.
“It is for less prize money, but you take what they give you. Considering the circumstances with people dying and other sports suspended or cancelled, we are very fortunate.”
Clement, who burst onto the scene with Saumarez winning the Arc in 1990, said the scene in the paddock would take some getting used to.
Longchamp put on a 10-race card with several group races, while there were also meetings at Toulouse, Compiegne and a trotting fixture as well. Their example will have been watched closely by British racing authorities who on Monday inked in a possible return on June 1. Another racing powerhouse, Ireland, has tentatively mooted June 29.