Watch and listen: leading jockeys test out the track at redeveloped Longchamp
France's leading jockeys got their first taste of riding at the newly redeveloped Longchamp on Tuesday evening when participating in a test race aboard horses provided by Chantilly's AFASEC jockey school.
The purpose of the event was to gather feedback on the concept of the Open Stretch, a cutaway in the rail just after the turn into the home straight designed to lessen congestion as well as limit the ill-effects of a wide draw.
Reaction from all the leading riders to the Open Stretch was extremely positive.
Pierre-Charles Boudot said: "It was a conclusive test and what they have put in place isn't bad at all. There was unanimity among the jockeys that ten metres [for the Open Stretch] is a little too wide and you can find yourself a little too isolated on the track. But I think something like six metres would be beneficial."
Mickael Barzalona added: "The tests are a chance to refine the Open Stretch and I don't think it changes the shape of a race, which is good. It's a good initiative and I have no concerns about it. You have enough time to get your horse balanced once you straighten up. I think races will still be tactical but it should mean there are fewer incidents."
Stephane Pasquier was the man chosen to lay the foundation stone for the new €140 million development in the spring of 2016 and was also pleased with the test.
"Pierre-Charles [Boudot] was caught wide during the 'race' but once we levelled up he had as much chance as anyone in the sprint," said Pasquier. "I don't think it will mean French races are even slower to develop and I think it gives a chance to horses trapped on the rail and will help ensure the best horse wins."
Connections who may be eyeing a shot at the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and Poulains – the French 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas – will have a second reason to hope that the draw will play less of a part than has been the case in the past.
For the first time since 1986, the two Classics will be run over the Middle Course or Moyenne Piste, meaning a longer run to the bend.
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