Hot Dogs and Henna Tattoos at Europe's 'Most Prestigious' Horse Race

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Hot Dogs and Henna Tattoos at Europe's 'Most Prestigious' Horse Race

France's 93rd Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe had an "elegance contest," a losing horse named Ruler of the World, and more Qatari singing than you'd expect at a fancy sporting event.
October 31, 2014, 11:13am

In early October, Paris' Longchamp Racecourse hosted Europe's "most prestigious horse race," the 93rd Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (or just "the Arc" if you want to save yourself some time). The whole "most prestigious in Europe" thing is up for debate, but since Qatar signed a €5 million ($6.3 million) sponsorship deal with the venue in 2008, it's definitely one of the snazziest, up there with the Dubai World Cup and Japan Cup elsewhere.

Nowadays, the Prix is screened in about 200 countries, viewed by a billion people and welcomes around 60,000 visitors every first week of October. This year, horse owners, gamblers, wealthy jet-setters and people who like watching big animals run  around in circles flocked to Paris once again to take part.

As soon as I walked through the gates to the racecourse, it became pretty obvious that most of the visitors had no real interest in the horses. Which wasn't really too much of a surprise. Most were there doing business, busy being seen or simply trying to fill their Sunday with something that wasn't a Netflix binge or afternoon spent napping on the couch. It also felt a bit like a tourism expo for Qatar; there was an exhibition of Qatari outfits, a Qatari crafts workshop, and a lot more Qatari singing than I'd imagine you usually hear at the races.

Loading up with a hotdog, I wandered into a tent where an "elegance contest" called Beautiful Duos was taking place. I was looking Larry David-level normcore in jeans and trainers, so entering wasn't really an option. A shame, as the prizes were pretty great: a Citroën DS3 car for the winning couple, a holiday in Qatar for the runners-up, and Longines watches for the second runners-up.

With all these distractions, I completely forgot about the race that was taking place only a few steps away. Mind you, it didn't really matter: turned out I'd bet on the wrong horse-Ruler of the World-which is just further proof that you should never judge a horse by its clearly optimistic name.