The Prix de Diane horse race takes place against the stunning architectural backdrop of the town of Chantilly, France’s equestrian capital.

The town of Chantilly gave its name to silk lace and pastry cream. It is famous for the château, which served as the residence of the aristocratic families of Montmorency, Condé and d’Aumale for five centuries, and rivals Versailles in opulence. Their library, housing 30,000 folios, even includes the first printed edition of the Gutenberg Bible. The art gallery displays original works by Raphael, Botticelli, Poussin, Delacroix, Ingres, and Watteau. Overall, the collection of art objects is only surpassed by the Louvre. Equally famous is the sprawling 8,000-hectare landscape park, a masterpiece by the brilliant André Le Nôtre. But there’s more to see here than just these attractions.

Chantilly is often called the equestrian capital of France. Prince of Condé, a passionate horseman, who believed in reincarnation and thought he would become a horse in his next life, built not just stables but actual palaces on his estate. The complex of buildings, constructed between 1717 and 1735 by Jacques Aubert, truly resembles a royal residence with its main 186-meter building featuring a large dome and high arched windows adorned with winged figures and coats of arms. Inside, above the stalls, one can admire intricate stucco work, ceiling paintings, and crystal chandeliers.

Today, Chantilly preserves the traditions and aesthetics of human-horse communication. The town is home to High School of Riding and a unique “live” Horse Museum. Various equestrian shows and tournaments are held, and the racecourse hosts 200 races each year. The most stylish of these races is the Prix de Diane. The trophy named after the goddess of hunting, has been contested every second Sunday in June since 1843, and remarkably, only purebred mares compete for the main prize. The day’s program includes nine races in total, covering a distance of 2,100 meters with a prize fund of €1 million. In addition to the cash reward, the jockey, trainer, and horse owner receive watches from the latest collection by Longines, the official timekeeper of the races for many years.

In the equestrian world, this is a Group 1 (top level) world championship for three-year-old mares. On the social calendar, the Prix de Diane is a must go event too. In these rational times, where else can you show off a fancy hat? Although the dress code isn’t as strict here as at Ascot — there are no rules on dress length and men aren’t required to wear tailcoats — attendees still dress very elegantly. Interestingly, there are hairdressers on standby throughout the day to assist ladies whose hairstyles may have accidentally disheveled. A special prize is given to the wearer of the most extravagant hat.

At Chantilly Racecourse

The Chantilly racecourse can accommodate 35,000 spectators. Tickets are available for a wide range of budgets: you can watch the races from the stands, the lawns, or the VIP section. Service packages range from picnic baskets for lawn dining in the Diane’s Village section to private tents offering meals prepared by famous chefs and helicopter transfers (40km to Paris). In essence, for the general public, the Prix de Diane horse race is an opportunity to enjoy a splendid time. If anyone knows how to put on a show, it’s the people of Chantilly.

Photo: press-office