Organisers of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe appealed Monday to fans from England and Ireland to come over in their droves to attend the 100th running of the iconic race as the statistics surrounding coronavirus in the French capital are improving daily.
Unlike last year when stringent Covid restrictions meant only one thousand spectators could attend, the centenary race on October 3 at Paris Longchamp will be open to a capacity crowd of 42,000.
Olivier Delloye, general manager of French racing's governing body France Galop, said advance ticket sales from England, Ireland and France were down on 2019 when the course was filled to capacity.
The Arc is a rare event in the French racing calendar in that it draws a large crowd but relies hugely on English and Irish turfistes.
The Arc was first run in 1920 -- the name of the race seen as fitting after the Allies' victory parade at the famous Parisian monument following World War I.
The 1939 and 1940 editions were not run due to World War II but the race resumed from 1941 and has been won by some of the greatest horses to have graced the sport, including Italian champion Ribot in 1955 and 1956, French legend Sea Bird (1965) and race mare Enable (2017 and 2018).
Delloye said infections from Covid-19 in the Paris area were declining daily and racegoers coming from England did not have to quarantine when they return home.
"The numbers regarding Covid are fast decreasing every day," he told reporters on Monday.
"People ooming to Paris should not be afraid of the situation here in Paris. All that people need to know to gain access to the racecourse is to show a health pass," referring to the proof of either vaccination or a negative PCR or lateral flow test.
- 'Come back to the Arc' -
Delloye said spectators could under a Covid test at the gates and Irish and British visitors who pre-purchase tickets would be reimbursed if the situation regarding restrictions back home were to change in the interim.
"We noticed that spectators from England and Ireland will not come because of some restrictions and that is why today we are explaining it is easy to come to Longchamp," said Delphine Violette, Sales and Marketing director of France Galop.
"We invite England and Ireland to come back to the Arc."
Delloye said masks would be compulsory indoors and outdoors where social distancing was impossible.
Those who do make the trip will be surrounded by the silks of the 99 previous winners such as the present Aga Khan's famous green shirt with red epaulettes and a green cap which has been carried to glory four times, with the first being Akiyda in 1982.
France Galop are also endeavouring to have all living Arc-winning jockeys attend the race, including perhaps the greatest of all time, Lester Piggott, whose first of three victories came on Rheingold in 1973.
Delloye said a further carrot for English and Irish racegoers was that the winner of the 100th running was more than likely to be trained in either England or Ireland, based on present form.
"We are hoping for Snowfall and Tarnawa from Ireland and Mishriff, Adayar and Hurricane Run from England while we are desperately looking for big French runners!" he said.
Delloye said French hopes rested on Andre Fabre, who has trained an all-time record of eight Arc winners, "unveiling a great horse as he has done in the past."