In the latest instalment of his nostalgia series, Steven Mullington interviews regular Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe attendee John Sandys and asks him about his favourite Arc moments down the years.
Arc fans on Twitter were really impressed recently with your coloured winners chart dating all the way back to 1962. How many of those races have you attended in person and when did you attend your first ever Arc?
JS: The reason for the list was that it charted the Arc winners from my year of birth. The Arc has always had a mystical fascination for me and many others. I’ve attended 15 Arcs in all, my first being 1986, which coincidentally was the best.
Who is your favourite Arc winner ever? Why did that particular victory capture your imagination?
JS: My favourite Arc winner is Dancing Brave. The atmosphere on that Arc Sunday was a match for any I’ve attended since.
Considering there was no Eurostar back then it’s astounding the amount of supporters Dancing Brave had on the course. To this day I’ve never experienced anything like it.
It was weird listening to others talk of the TV coverage on my return. Only after seeing the Channel 4 recording did I understand. My eyes were glued to the beautiful pink cap of Pat Eddery.
Like me you’ve attended the Arc weekend at both the old Longchamp and the new ParisLongchamp. Briefly tell me the pros and cons of both set-ups. What do you like/dislike now – if anything at all?
JS: The old Longchamp I found easier to navigate and there was an olde-worlde charm about it. Plus, the tree in the media centre was a wonderful addition. However, the stands were in severe decline and badly needed work on them.
At the new Longchamp, I love the addition of the Arc garden area. It’s a wonderful place for families (weather permitting) with plenty to do and lots of refreshment areas.
There is plenty of room at the front of the grandstand during the summer months and you have a great view of the racecourse.
Have you met anyone famous at the Arc down the years? Maybe a trainer/jockey or owner, or even a celebrity for that matter?
JS: My Derbywalk pal Pat Larkin and I always go for the weekend and thoroughly enjoy the wonderful fayre on offer on Arc Saturday.
In 2015 (Golden Horn and the last Arc at the old Longchamp) we were hanging around on the Saturday evening, just having a leisurely post-racing drink, when we found ourselves chatting to the delightful Olivier Peslier.
He was so happy to chat about past Arc wins and his hopes for the following day. Although he didn’t hold much hope for ‘Frine’ his Arc mount on the Sunday, he did have a huge fancy for his mount Make Believe in the Prix Foret.
I of course knew better, thinking Limato was a certainty. Make Believe beat Limato by a length and scuppered all of my horse racing online bets…Oops!
What words of advice would you give to an Arc weekend newbie and first time visitor to the fixture? We all know meeting is crammed full of Group races galore, but what about the Paris experience itself? It’s all about the ambience right?
JS: Most important would be, if at all possible, attend on the Saturday too. Use it as a ‘getting your bearings’ day. Arc Sunday is normally very busy, so knowing your way around is a huge help.
Don’t get the race timings mixed up. Ensure you either pick local times, alter your watch and stick to them, or do the opposite - just don’t mix and match.
Lastly, please have a bet on the Pari-Mutuel (French Tote). Gagnant-Place = each way. It’s Iots of fun – just like Grand National betting!!!
Look out for ‘TheDerbywalk Twitter guide to Arc weekend’ leading up to #QPAT22. There will be lots of hints and tips for things to do in and out of the racecourse, plus plenty of recommended places to eat and drink during weekend.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*
FIRST PUBLISHED: 5th September 2022