Auteuil Hippodrome - Paris

At 7:30 am near the Porte d'Auteuil, a gaggle of early-risers in overcoats and caps study the form guides and racing newspapers at the side of a take-away truck, eating merguez sandwiches with Harissa paste and drinking their first glass of red wine for the day. As the sun begins to warm, more visitors arrive and argue over tips and gossip while the chefs in aprons yell jokes and insults at the regulars: "Another wine for the fat bastard at the end!" Since the 19th century Auteuil has been the home of some of the best steeplechase racing in the world, where a half-starved Hemingway used to regularly win and more often lose, where people from every country still make pilgrimages for the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, the most prestigious race of its kind in France with a prize-money purse of €850,000. Compared to its more glitzy and internationally famous flat-track rival Longchamp, which hosts the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Auteuil is a welcome change from the suffocating crowds and exorbitant prices visitors usually expect from first-class racing (or practically any racing in England). As the day draws to a close, the underground rumble of hooves can be felt as the exhausted runners climb a steep rise against the sunset, the steam from their nostrils visible over the embankment before the jockeys' helmets finally appear, galloping into the final stretch of the last race. Many people have gone home already. A group of women spill their drinks and scream for joy as their pick crosses the line, while the remaining crowd tear up their tickets and make their way to the Metro, or for one last glass at the bar. JD
 
 

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