There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse.
– R S Surtees
Matt’s knowledge and sheer enjoyment of horse racing caused him to create a “bucket list” of races he wants to attend. He’s already been to the Belmont Stakes, but also on his list: the St. Moritz race on ice in Switzerland in February, the Dubai World Cup, the Kentucky Derby, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The Kentucky Derby will probably be achieved last, as Matt only wants to go if he has his own horse entered in the race. 🙂 With our stay in Paris came the opportunity to cross off one item on his bucket list, so on Sunday we set out to see the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe!
Though we were tired from the week of activity, we awoke early on Sunday to get ready for the races. We wanted to be there on the earlier side in order to secure tickets and possibly seats. Of course we dressed up; Matt in dress shirt, tie, sweater and suspenders, and me in a bright green dress. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a hat, which would have fit in perfectly with the women in the crowd. We looked great nonetheless. We took the Metro out near the track and then a free shuttle bus to the front gate. Luck was on our side, because there was no line at the box office. We secured our entrance tickets and breezed on into the grandstand.
It was an absolutely beautiful day for horse racing. The sun was shining and it was around 75 degrees with a nice breeze. We immediately grabbed a snack and went in search of seats. We were in luck; we found seats in the second level, third row, near the finish line, overlooking the track. Perfect. And the best part is they were located in the shade of the level above us. From these seats we could see the mansion and windmill overlooking the track on the far left end, as well as the entry point for the horses to the right. Needless to say, at least one of us stayed in those seats at all times so as not to lose our great fortune! We also went to take a look at the beautiful paddock. Set among trees and sunlight, this area of the track was a favorite among race-goers, as it was constantly packed with people watching the horses get ready.
The races prior to the Arc were both interesting and exciting. They featured everything from long 2 mile races to short 5 furlong sprints. A band came out at one point and marched down the home stretch while betters everywhere were weighing the odds and picking their favorites. Matt knew a horse in the race prior to the Arc named Goldikova, who won the mile in the Breeder’s Cup 2009. So, he placed a win bet on her and joined all the other spectators whose bets were keeping them on the edge of their seats. Sure enough, she won the race, beating the “men” and giving us a winning ticket. The main race, however, was the most exciting of all. Though we didn’t know much about the horses in the field, it was the excitement and anticipation of the crowd around us that kept the energy high. The Arc ended up being a great race, with the whole pack coming into the final stretch together, only to have the winner, Workforce, pull ahead just before the finish line. Around us people were on their feet shouting, clapping, and yelling. I loved every second of it!
So our last full day in Paris finished with a bang. We got to experience and absolutely gorgeous day in the comfort of a seat, watching one of the most beautiful creatures duke it out to the finish. With one item crossed off Matt’s list, we went back into the city for a final meal in a truly French restaurant. We ordered wine, kicked back for a couple hours, and enjoyed the music and food. It was bittersweet packing up that evening, for Paris had been good to me for nearly 9 days. I enjoyed the people, the sights, the food, and the shopping, but part of me was ready to come back to our little home in Dublin. Who knows where we’ll go next and when that will be, but for awhile I intend to enjoy autumn in Ireland.