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Sunday, 09 December, 2018

After two years away it's time to get racing at renamed ParisLongchamp

Historic venue has been closed for an extensive rebuild since October 2015

ParisLongchamp: hosts racing on Sunday for the first time since October 2015
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Like Newmarket's Craven Meeting, the reopening of Longchamp each April is a major rite of the racing spring in France.

But this Sunday's meeting represents much more for the future of the sport and its adminstrators, as the home of the Arc opens its historic gates for the first time since the completion of a €140 million revamp which has been two years in the making. 

Gone are two iconic, yet faded, 1960s grandstands, replaced by a single entity designed by the renowned Paris-based architect Dominique Perrault, whose most famous landmark in the capital is the Francois Mitterand National Library.

Not all of the new public facilities will be fully operational for the first day, with France Galop opting to use the first four meetings at what will now be known officially as ParisLongchamp being used to bed in the venue before the grand opening on April 29, the day of the Prix Ganay.

Dominque Perrault's grandstand is designed to "lean in" to the action on the track
A look at the recent records of the Group races staged on the opening day gives an indication of how the French Pattern has been in a state of make do and mend since the bulldozers moved in the day after Golden Horn's triumph in the 2015 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Both the Prix d'Harcourt and the race for which it acts as a key preparation, the Prix Ganay, have been staged at Saint-Cloud.

The Prix La Force has enjoyed a real odyssey, having also started its exile at Saint-Cloud in 2016 before being transferred to Chantilly in 2017 (and losing a furlong off its distance in the process).

"Everything went very well away from Longchamp but this racecourse plays a very important role in our Pattern races and gives added value to the French system," said France Galop chief executive officer Olivier Delloye.

"It has always been France Galop’s flagship racecourse and the very fact we can have the programme back to the way it was in 2014 and 2015, and to have Arc weekend and its seven Group 1s back at Longchamp is important. 

"It's a return to the natural state but I personally think it gives us a boost, especially in the eyes of the rest of the racing world."

Frankie Dettori receives the acclaim of the Longchamp stands after Golden Horn's Arc last October

French racing professionals will be keen to reacqauint themselves with the traditional Longchamp track layout, with its familiar rise and fall and famous false straight.

While extensive work has been carried out on the turf and drainage, the 'footprint' of the various courses remains untouched. 

After a successful trial at the end of March, officials will be utilising an 'open stretch', a cutaway rail shortly after the home turn which will give an extra six metres of room and is designed to cut down on hard luck stories and give a fair chance to all runners, regardless of where they are drawn. 

One thing French racing will be hoping for now the major racecourse in Paris has become operational is a change of luck over the weekend of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which this year takes place on October 6 and 7.

French trainers appeared to suffer a form of homesickness when it came to the two meetings staged at Chantilly, winning just two of the 14 Group 1 races staged. 

Timeline: How Longchamp became ParisLongchamp

June 2012 - France Galop reach agreement with Paris authorities for a new lease on the land for Longchamp and Auteuil racecourses to run until 2056.

April 2015 - New Longchamp given green light by France Galop adminsitrative council. Bouyges will be the main building contractor charged with realising Dominique Perrault's design

October 2015 - Longchamp closes for €130m redevelopment, with plans to re-home Arc at Chantilly in 2016 and reopen in time for 2017 race.

March 2016 - After six months of demolition and site-clearing, Stephane Pasquier lays the foundation stone for the new grandstand.

November 2016 - After a successful first Arc away from Longchamp, the France Galop administrative council decides the original timescale presents too much of a risk and votes to stage Europe's richest race at Chantilly again in 2017. The budget is now €140m

March 2018 - Successful test 'races' take place behind closed doors

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I personally think it gives us a boost, especially in the eyes of the rest of the racing world

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