First trotting races officially run in France
Ephrem Houël (1807-1885), an officer at the French National Studs, instigated the first trotting races in France with the help of the Municipality of Cherbourg. Following a request by the town’s mayor in 1836, Ephrem Houël suggested organising races for locally-bred horses on the shoreline (from the bathing area to Tourlaville fort), but the runners were only allowed to trot. As they wouldn’t be galloping, there was more chance the runners would stay grouped together and therefore avoid a strung-out field. So on the 25th and 26th of September 1836, Cherbourg became the first town to stage a trotting event of the kind, and from the outset attracted huge crowds from neighbouring districts. The experience was tried out again in July and August 1937 and renewed every year thereafter.
The success led towns like Caen, Dieppe (1837), Saint-Lô, Angers, Boulogne-sur-Mer (1838), Langonnet (1839) and many others to follow suit.
26 trotting races run in France
100.000 francs in prize money distributed
The prize money is shared out between 300 winners across 45 different racetracks.
The Société Générale des Courses de Normandie is created
Its main goal is to promote trotting outside the lower-Normandy region, notably in Paris.
The Société d’Encouragement pour l’Amélioration du Cheval Français de Demi-Sang is founded
Forerunner of the ‘Société du Cheval Français’, the Society is founded at Caen on October 21st. The headquarters were subsequently transferred to Paris.
Trotting’s first official racing bulletin is issued
The official journal is still issued weekly today.
100,000 spectators at Vincennes.
Even if racing had already started a century earlier at Vincennes (in the Château’s park), Vincennes racetrack is inaugurated on March 23rd on the current site, which used to be part of the ‘Ferme Impériale’. Three jump events are on the racecard, watched by an enthusiastic crowd of 100,000 racegoers.
First trotting races run at Vincennes.
The ‘Société d’Encouragement pour l’Amélioration du Cheval de Demi-Sang’, officially recognised in in 1866 by ministerial decree, is granted the track concession from the City of Paris. On September 7th there are six races on the card. Three of the four trotting events are under saddle, and the other is a harness event. Two of the international races are won by Russian trotters. The track measures a circumference of 2,000 metres and the grandstand is built in wood. It was not until 1934 when the track would be exclusively reserved for trotters.
First Vincennes Winter Festival.
Initiated by Philippe du Rozier with a view to increasing the number of trots, the track launches a Winter Festival. Six extra meetings are organised between November 20th and February 15th. Thanks to the Festival, in 1910 Vincennes boasts 38 meetings annually. The figure increases to 68 in 1925.
First edition of the Prix d'Amérique
A year after the track was opened just after the First World War, the first edition of the Grand Prix d’Amérique is run on February 1st. Named in homage to the allies, prize money tops 20,000 Francs. Although open to foreign trotters, only 14 French-trained runners go to post. The aptly-named Pro Patria wins, and duly follows up a year later.
Almost everything comes to a halt
LThe number of trotters running throughout the year drops to 715 (there were 2,307 in 1939). It is not until 1947 that the pre-war figures are matched again, and not until 1977 that the figure climbs to over 10,000.
First evening meetings staged at Vincennes
More than 3,000 runners took part at Vincennes at the beginning of the first post-war decade. To cope with the rise in demand, the track launches its first evening meetings in June. Six races are on the card. The Parisian venue now boasts a 20-metre wide inside track measuring 1,260 metres in circumference. New stables are also erected.
A trotter clocks less than 1'15''/km at Paris-Vincennes
American-bred Classical Way causes a sensation in the 1981 Prix de France, the Winter Festival’s traditional follow-up to the Prix d'Amérique, clocking 1'14''2/km over 2,100 metres behind the mobile gate. He is the first trotter to record a time under 1'15''/km at Paris-Vincennes.
Inauguration of the new grandstand
Eight years after extending the lease with the Ville de Paris for a further 50 years, and following several years’ construction work (which did not impact races) the ‘Société d’Encouragement du Cheval Français’, presided at that time by Albert Viel, inaugurates its new facilities on January 11th, 1983. Costing 8 billion Francs, a new grandstand measuring 206 metres long by 65 metres wide sees daylight and the betting hall is enlarged. A huge 100m2 video screen is erected two years later, the first of its kind in the world.
First visit by a French President to Vincennes
For the first time since the track was created, a French President is present for the Grand Prix d’Amérique, along with 33,000 spectators. François Mitterrand awards the winner’s trophy to Roger Baudron following his win with the mare Queila Gédé, while hot favourite Ourasi has to settle for 3rd spot.
Vincennes’ outside track is redesigned
Following several years’ development, Vincennes’ outside track (‘Grande Piste’) is finally operational. The turns have been redesigned and raised by about de 6% (especially in the plain, downhill from the grandstand), while the downhill and uphill sections have been eased. The contour measures 1,975 metres. Times clocked per kilometre will go on to improve by about a second.
The 1'10''/km barrier is broken
For the first time ever, a trotter clocks less than 1'10''/km at Paris-Vincennes. The feat is achieved in the Prix de France – just like Classical Way 25 years earlier. Kool du Caux sets the new record in 1'09''8, while runner-up Kesaco Phédo clocks 1'09''9.
With 155 annual meetings, including about 60 evening meetings held on Tuesdays and Fridays, Vincennes has asserted itself as the flagship and showcase of French trotting. The grandstands, betting hall (3,000 m2), stables (170 boxes) and panoramic restaurants (100,000 meals served every year, making it the Capital’s most successful restaurant) have all been modernised. A giant 160m2 screen provides racegoers with ideal viewing conditions, meaning they keep close to the action before, during and after the race. 1,250 races are organised there every year, offering more than €70 million in prize money, including 20 Group 1s culminating in the €1m Opodo Prix d’Amérique. No trotting racetrack in the world provides a show like it, and none with as much prize money.