Idyllic Deauville

 

Horses by

 

the sea

 

 

The horses were always a part of Deauville’s dna. The race course was built before the church and the traditions continue with a new, equestrian complex and a string of events that celebrate the Year of the Horse. 

 

By Camilla Alfthan, all photos OT Deauville  

 

 

In the beginning the area was just a stretch of windy sandbanks situated in front of the British Channel. But in 1859 Deauville was bought for 800.000 gold francs by the Duke of Morny and his three business partners.

Their ambition was to create “a world of luxury and elegance” in near reach of their Parisian home turf.

In just three years, they built the characteristic Normandy houses which have become synonymous with Deauville.

With only 4,000 inhabitants – and as much as a quarter of a million guests throughout the year – the town has become an intimate luxury destination laden with joie de vivre, elegant hotels and, of course, horses.

 

As a visitor, you wake up in the mornings to the cloppety sounds of hooves as race horses walk through the streets to train on the sandy beaches just as the polo ponies and with just one rider for an entire lot. As the sounds of the horses blend in with the sounds and the scents of the sea and the sun rises in the horizon, Deauville quite simply becomes a magic place.

 

For those who witness the scene daily it is a ritual that has existed for quite a while. The race course was built before the church in 1864 and its location must have been ideal. The famous writer, Gustave Flaubert described the marschlands as “flat and in the shape of a race course”.

 

Today, there is not just one but two tracks; Touques and Clairfontaine with flat racing, steeplechase og harness racing.  Among the highlights are August’s Darley Prix Mornay and the Barrière Grand Prix – flat races that take place while there’s also polo in the middle of the turf.

 

”The horses brought everyone to Deauville.” 

 

When you look at all the many different equestrian activities, it is also fitting that Deauville’s mayor used to own a company that sells thoroughbreds.

 

”The horses brought everyone to Deauville. When Morny created the town in 1860  he was so passionate about the races that he organized them immediately,” tells Augier who himself discovered racing through his best friend at school whose family owned a stud farm. Augier soon got a job in their company that sold thoroughbreds in Deauville. He ended up running the business and later became the owner of what is now known as Arqana; the bloodstock industry’s second largest auction house in Europe.

 

“Anyone who has anything to do with horses comes to Deauville in the summer,” says Philippe Augier who in 2006 sold off his business to dedicate himself to the evolution of Deauville.

 

As the mayor, he runs his town in the same way as he ran his company – by investing in horses to assure the future.

 

Three years ago, he inaugurated an equestrian complex that combines the various disciplines of the sport. In 2014 season there will be 80 competitions, including nine international ones.

 

As all the facilities are fully booked there will be none of the World Equestrian Games that are held in the area, though the major sponsor of the event, the Alltech, has booked the entire Hôtel du Golf.

 

“Anyone who has anything to do with horses comes to Deauville in the summer.” 

 

“Everyone loves Deauville and professionals always bring their families here to come and enjoy themselves. No other place has as many top hotels and restaurants as we do,” tells Augier. The town’s closest competitor for the title as “Capital of the Horse”, Chantilly which is just half an hour away from the center of Paris, still has a few lengths to catch up on in this regard.

 

The most luxurious in the lot is the Royal Barrière which is facing the beach where the horses train in the mornings.

 

”The people in the equestrian world are very different, too, but when you look at the audience they first of all like the horses. So the basic idea with the equestrian complex is to get people interested in all the different, activities and even let certain professionals discover something new,” continues Augier, who organized cross overs such as a race with show jumpers instead of jockeys.

 

 

A day dedicated to the horse was inaugurated last year and there was even a Goldikova Day for the 14-time Group One winner who became the first horse to have a memorial placque in Deauville.

 

When the races are such an important part of Deauville’s identity it is not coincidential.

 

Riding high

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