Chantilly – Five races at a French race meeting were postponed from Saturday until Sunday morning after a large group of protesters occupied the course for more than two hours.
A nine-race card had been scheduled at picturesque Chantilly, but it was possible to run only the first four after the lengthy delay.
Janine Hamilton, travelling head girl for British trainer George Baker, estimated the group to be 500-strong. She said the protest was not against Chantilly or French racing, but rather part of the “gilets jaunes”, or “yellow jackets”, movement, which was initially an objection to a proposed tax hike on petrol but has developed into a wider anti-government rebellion and caused major disruption across France in recent weeks.
Hamilton said: “This wasn’t at all about racing – it was to do with the problems they’re having here with tax and the standard of living. But it was an unusual venue to use with animals involved.
“The welfare of horses is the most important thing. It was very loud. The protesters had flares, drums and whistles.”
Recalling how the incident unfolded, Hamilton said: “They arrived just before the horses were about to go down to post for the first race. Initially racing was supposed to be delayed for 30 minutes, but that passed.
“They were nowhere near the horses. But the horses could hear them. They came across the course and congregated near the winning post. It was very loud.”
Baker said he had been sent a note from France Galop warning disruption was possible.
Hamilton said a large police presence arrived at the course to deal with the protesters.
Racing eventually got under way two and a half hours later than scheduled. – www.racingpost.com