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A day at the races: big draw for the 1st Charity Mile...

A day at the races: big draw for the 1st Charity Mile in Cagnes

By Nancy Heslin - February 23, 2017

At the Yacht Club Thursday, Gareth Wittstock and François Forcioli-Conti, President of the Côte d’Azur Racing Society, draw names of horses to match with associations for the Charity Mile race. Photo: Axel Bastello / Palais Princier
At the Yacht Club Thursday, Gareth Wittstock and François Forcioli-Conti, President of the Côte d’Azur Racing Society, draw names of horses to match with associations for the Charity Mile. Photo: Axel Bastello/Palais Princier

This coming Saturday, the “Prix Princesse Charlène de Monaco-Charity Mile” race takes place at the Hippodrome in Cagnes-sur-Mer, in association with the Côte d’Azur Racing Society.

The Charity Mile began in South Africa in 2006 and has developed into a Group Two competition, a hot ticket on the galloping calendar.

Now, after months of preparation for HSH Princess Charlene’s first Charity Mile, including the Princess personally choosing the eighteen local charities and foundations, the draw matching an individual horse to an association was held out at the Monaco Yacht Club on Thursday morning, with Gareth Wittstock, the Princess’s brother, and François Forcioli-Conti, President of the Côte d’Azur Racing Society presiding.

Photo: Axel Bastello/Palais Princier
Photo: Axel Bastello/Palais Princier

In a brief speech, Mr Forcioli-Conti thanked Princess Charlene for her involvement, and for lending her name to the event, which will help to revitalise the sport at a local level.

Saturday’s Charity Mile at 3:05 pm will be preceded by one of France’s most distinguished horse races – the Défi du Galop – which should get the crowds fired up.

French jockey Christophe Soumillon, ranked number two worldwide according to Longines World’s Best Jockey, will be competing Saturday and the winner of the 1st Charity Mile will be awarded the Princesse Charlène of Monaco prize. A donation of €50,000 will be made to eighteen charities.

The Cagnes-sur-Mer racetrack is one of the most important in France, as many trainers use this for pre-season training thanks to the favourable climate of the Côte d’Azur.

British-born John Hammond, who has been a thoroughbred horse trainer in France for 30 years, is a fan on the Hippodrome in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Speaking by phone, he told Monaco Life, “It’s the one place in Europe with sunshine all year round, and it’s well run.”

With its all-weather surface and unique seaside setting, the Hippodrome in Cagnes has more individual race days than any other racetrack in France. “It’s very cosmopolitan” Mr Hammond said, “and well-known to the expat community from Antibes to Nice to Monaco.”

Based in Chantilly, in northern France, Mr Hammond has trained several Group One champions, including the winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the country’s most famous race. This 2,400-metre event, described by some as more fun than Ascot, usually falls on the first Sunday in October and is popular with Brits.

Horse racing is a fascinating mix of nature, business and the unknown, Mr Hammond explained. “To those who’ve never been, I say, ‘Come along, it’s fun, you’ll enjoy it. It’s always been known as the Sport of Kings, but it’s the King of Sports too!’

“This particular race is a great initiative, a brilliant innovation. Good on the Princess!”

Mr Hammond, unfortunately, is not able to attend Saturday but was quick to emphasise that the Côte d’Azur racing community and Hippodrome are “touched” by the Charity Mile initiative, which has never been done before. “Princess Charlene’s name adds prestige and a connection to this event. It’s fantastic for the charities and new and exciting for the racing world.

“And as a handicap race, it will be very competitive to see who has the right horse with the right conditions on the right day.”

Entry to the Charity Mile, the Défi du Galop and all other races on Saturday is €4.50 (free for under-18) and there’s plenty of free parking. The day kicks off at 1 pm.

 

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