Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Ascot vs L'Arc: The glitz and glamor of France's great monument

By Sheena McKenzie, CNN
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Fri October 5, 2012
"French chic" has become synonymous with the country's powerhouse fashion labels, including Channel, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent. "French chic" has become synonymous with the country's powerhouse fashion labels, including Channel, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent.
HIDE CAPTION
French fashion
Parisian chic
Model behaviour
A royal event
Movers and shakers
Meanwhile, across the Channel...
Hat's off
Picture perfect
World class
No Danedream
Japan's big hope
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Think "French chic" and the words elegance, style and grace spring to mind
  • That glamor will be on display at this weekend's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
  • Stark contrast to UK's Royal Ascot, which has a more flamboyant style
  • Prestigious race regularly attracts the "creme de la creme" of European society

(CNN) -- With names like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent under its belt, it's little wonder Paris has earned a reputation as one of the fashion capitals of the world.

If "French chic" has become synonymous with the elegance, grace and style of its country's powerhouse fashion labels and catwalk shows, this weekend that glamor will be out in force on a very different type of track -- the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Your average horse race this is not.

While Britain's Royal Ascot often displays images of Tango-colored ladies kicking off their heels, their French counterparts take a distinctly more demure approach to a day at the races.

A race-goer attends day five of the Royal Ascot races in Ascot, England, on Saturday, June 23. A race-goer attends day five of the Royal Ascot races in Ascot, England, on Saturday, June 23.
Royal Ascot 2012
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Royal Ascot 2012 Photos: Royal Ascot 2012
Escorted by police, Diane Crump makes her way through the crowd at Hialeah Park Race Track in Florida on February 7, 1969. She became the first female jockey to compete in a professional race in the U.S. Escorted by police, Diane Crump makes her way through the crowd at Hialeah Park Race Track in Florida on February 7, 1969. She became the first female jockey to compete in a professional race in the U.S.
Crump's historic race
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
Female pioneers of the swinging sixties Female pioneers of the swinging sixties
Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg's interest in horses does not stop at the movie set. He co-owned racehorse Atswhatimtalkingabout, which came fourth in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. He is also an investor in Biscuit Stables, the Delaware-based race trainers. Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg's interest in horses does not stop at the movie set. He co-owned racehorse Atswhatimtalkingabout, which came fourth in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. He is also an investor in Biscuit Stables, the Delaware-based race trainers.
Steven Spielberg
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
Celebrity racehorse owners Celebrity racehorse owners

"French dressing is less spectacular than Ascot, it's less extroverted," Arc spokesman Julien Pescatore said.

"The French style is very classic. It's about elegance, beauty and glamor."

Such was the clampdown on decorum at this year's Royal Ascot, organizers went to the extent of publishing style guides for race-goers.

Ladies were advised that all dresses were to be of "modest" length -- defined as "falling just above the knee or longer." Shorts and shoulderless dresses were also deemed a non-no.

While Parisian race-goers adhere to a more classic style, one fashion accessory appears universal -- the obligatory outrageous hat.

"The hat is an essential element of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe," says Pescatore.

"It started in the 1920s as a way to convey some eccentricity, to do some showing-off. Today that might mean a hat with the Eiffel Tower on top."

Read: Royal Regulations for Ascot's fashionistas

Set on the picturesque Longchamp racecourse in Paris, "the Arc," as it is known, prides itself on being Europe's most prestigious -- and richest -- horse race.

With almost €8 million ($10.4 million) in prize money on offer over the weekend, the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club-sponsored event attracts an elite clientele of royalty, world leaders and business heavyweights.

Each year the grandstands fill with the "crème de la crème" of European society, with Monaco's Princess Charlotte Casiraghi, the daughter of Princess Caroline, and Spanish model Irene Salvador some of the glamorous guests in 2011.

For the super rich wanting to beat the crowds, a helicopter flying from London to Issy-les-Moulineaux in Paris will take around one hour and 45 minutes -- and set you back a whopping £5,480 ($8,874).

That's not to mention the 15-minute car hire from Issy-les-Moulineaux to Longchamp costing another £200 ($323).

Read: How to pick a winner - horse racing's 'speed gene'

The Arc's slogan: "Ce n'est pas une course, c'est un monument" -- "Not so much a race as a monument," points to the grand imagery surrounding this uniquely French event.

French dressing is less spectacular than Ascot, it's less extroverted
Julien Pescatore, L'Arc spokesman

Founded in 1920, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe was named after the very monument built in honor of French allied forces during World War One.

This year will mark the 91st Arc, which has only been canceled twice in its illustrious history -- in 1939 and 1940 during World War Two.

Yet despite this emphasis on prestige, the Arc also remains one of Europe's most accessible races for the average punter, with general admission to Sunday's headline event costing just €8 ($10.4).

A ticket to Royal Ascot's grandstand, meanwhile, will cost you £75 ($121).

Read: Jockey who refused to stay in the kitchen

Arc organizers are preparing for a huge Japanese contingent this year, as horse Orfevre aims to deliver the country's first win at Longchamp.

The Japanese triple crown winner had been a co-favorite to win the race alongside Epsom Derby winner Camelot.

But its chances now look unlikely after drawing the far outside stall 18, where just one horse has won in the 92-year history of the race.

Nonetheless there will still be Japanese-speaking stewards at betting desks to assist the large numbers of Asian punters expected.

Read: Outbreak thwarts Danedream's Arc defence

It may be known as "The Sport of Kings," but come Sunday the Arc may also be referred to as the "Sport of Bakers" if French Derby winner Saonois takes the crown.

Bought by a prosperous baker for just €10,000 ($13,056) as a yearling, Saonois is now the other favorite to win the race after drawing the plumb stall of two.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure, the French crowd will be celebrating in style.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:41 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Sculptures in driftwood
You may have heard of Glorious Goodwood, but what about glorious driftwood? Meet the artist turning beach detritus into stunning sculptures.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
He's won six Olympic medals on two legs, but Bode Miller's future will ride on four -- can he replicate his skiing success in the "Sport of Kings"?
updated 8:47 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
As a jockey, Philip Blacker lived for the thrills and spills of horse racing. As a sculptor, his work captures the horror of World War I.
updated 11:12 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ever thought zebras couldn't be tamed? Think again. Gary Witheford has a remarkable way with wild animals -- which he proved after a pub boast.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
The internet went wild for so-called "horse yoga" -- but there was something deeper going on that reconnects humans with the animal world.
updated 9:23 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
The going is always soft and the only permanent building is a toilet block. It's the antithesis to the pomp of Royal Ascot ... welcome to Irish beach racing.
updated 7:07 AM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Each August, over a thousand tents and hundreds of horses converge on Little Big Horn River in Montana for the Crow Fair and Rodeo.
updated 5:57 AM EDT, Fri August 1, 2014
Show me the money! Hollywood star Tom Cruise was a big hit when he visited the Glorious Goodwood festival.
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Little-known outside the tribes of the Rocky Mountains in the American northwest, Indian Relay is a "magical" horse-racing relay.
updated 9:25 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
Now in his 50s, one of the world's most successful jockeys explains why he gave up acting to return to the sport that nearly crippled him.
Winning Post's Francesca Cumani is impressed by the all-round multitasking skills of Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien.
updated 4:53 AM EDT, Sat June 7, 2014
 An infrared camera was used to create this image.) A horse and exercise rider head to the main track for morning training at Belmont Park on June 4, 2014 in Elmont, New York.
More people have walked on the moon than have won the fabled Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing. California Chrome is seeking to square that score.
updated 7:37 AM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
A long history of controversy made him the "enfant terrible" of horse racing, but veteran jockey Kieren Fallon is looking for redemption.
ADVERTISEMENT