The Museum of the Horse

The comeback track

 

The race track was built in 1834 by the last owner of the chateau; the Duke of Aumale. Though it is hard to believe today, this historic race course was almost closed down in 1994 at a time when the organizing body behind it; France Galop endured great financial difficulties.

To avoid any such fate a public interest group was formed in 1998 to ensure a lasting development of Chantilly.

Its two main forces are the state owned cultural organization, l’Institut de France and the Aga Khan who have been instrumental in saving the entire area for the future – a wish that the Aga Khan had expressed when he was contacted about restoring the track.

 

So far, the race course has undergone the most noticeable changes. Until 1994, there were only seven race days a year but when a new track was built in 1997 the annual meetings went up to 20. A new grandstand, paddock and weighing room were all completed in the past decade as part of a nearly €24 million facelift.

Last year, a synthetic track was inaugurated as the first of its kind among the Parisian race courses which means the season can be extended to 36 meetings a year.

With 107 trainers in the Chantilly area and some 3,000 horses this option would seem handy.

The most famous stables are situated on Chemin des Aigles – the racing equivalent of the chic shopping avenue Montaigne in Paris – with some of the country’s best horses that are trained by the likes of Jonathan Pease, John Hammond, Alain de Royer Dupré, André Fabre, Corinne Barande-Barbe and Pascal Bary.

Most important renaissance collection after the Louvre

 

Chantilly is not just an equestrian work of art. The castle – which has been the location of feature films such as Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette – boasts France’s most important collection of rennaissance art after the Louvre.

 

The collection was created by the Duke of Aumale who returned to his home country after a 22-year exile in England following the Revolution.

Today his paintings hang exactly as they did during his time, without any specific themes or chronologic order.

As he had no living children, the Duke – who was a member of both l’Academie Francaise and l’Academie de Beaux Arts – donated the entire domaine to Institut de France, in order to create a memory of his family.

To restore the castle, the gardens, The Great Stables and the original Museum of the Horse, the Aga Khan and private investors have donated altogether €70 million.

So far, some 300,000 people visit the chateau each year and another 160,000 come to see the equestrian shows. 

When the Longchamp in 2016  closes for renovations, Europe’s richest race – Qatar Prix de l’Arc du Triomphe – will be held at Chantilly.

 

www.domainedechantilly.com

 

Round-about horses

 

 

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