AFAC and the French racing system top down

Special Horsereporter Report ~ France has long been a leading force in horse racing. In 1776 the first racecourse opened on the Plaine des Sablons followed by Fontainebleau and Vincennes. By 1801 Arabians were arriving from the Middle East and competing on French race tracks. Napoleon I had seen the lighter energetic Arabians carrying the Egyptian army and realized that the heavy breeds that the French army were using were not competitive in battles and on long marches. After he began importing Arabians, Napoleon oversaw the creation of the race courses in Tarbes in 1807 and in Tulle in 1808. The race trials then became the principal manner to select horses, used mainly at that time for military operations. Napoleon had the first volumes of the Stud Book of purebred horses created by 1838 – one for Thoroughbreds and one for Arabians. 

Yves Plantin and Veronique Briat stand with Robert Litt (lft)

Yves Plantin and Veronique Briat stand with Robert Litt (lft)

As the racing year 2013/2014 gets underway, we follow the development of French Arabian racing and take a look at how the French racing system is organized.imgres


France Galop

Association Française du Cheval Arabe de Course – AFAC – Private, non-profit

Association du Cheval Arabe – ACA

Pari-Mutual Urbain- PMU

Arqana – Public auction company

International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing – IFAHR

Pattern Racing and Handicapper Committee



At the top of the pyramid is France Galop, the French racing authority and the governing body of flat and National Hunt horse racing in France.

AFAC came into being in January 1998, and is the Arabian Racing Commission for the French racing authority under France Galop. AFAC’s mission is to inform, protect and ensure the promotion of French-bred purebred Arabian racehorses as well as to organize Arabian racing in France.

Association du Cheval Arabe – ACA is the French Breeder’s Association. ACA is in charge of the Registry.

The financial engine behind racing in France is the Pari-Mutual Urbain, known as the PMU. Working with France Galop and other racing groups in the system, this efficient betting organization distributes net profits according to a formula for each race discipline.

Arqana is a public auction company that works with AFAC for a percentage of profits.

The International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing IFAHR – is an independent non-profit organization that was formed to foster and encourage co-operation between all national and international Arab Horse Racing Associations throughout the world. There are now 27 member countries of IFAHR.

The Pattern Race and Handicapper Committee, created under the Executive committee of IFAHR, was established to standardize international rules for racing and recognize the status of Purebred Arabian (PA) races. It has expanded to allow handicappers to rate horses according to their performance and establish a global rating system.

Horsereporter takes a closer look at these organizations. You may print this for future reference. PDF 

France Galop –

France Galop was founded in1995 and is the governing body of flat and steeplechase (jump) racing in France. It is supervised under the dual Ministries of Agriculture and Finance, and the Ministry for the Interior oversees the regularity of betting operations.

The president is currently Bertrand Belinguier, elected for a four-year term. France Galop’s organization consists of a 12-member Board of Directors, and an oversight committee of 50 representatives. A staff of 450 helps maintain the administration and racetracks. The group has 9,715 members consisting of horse owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders, support members in the field of racing, and representatives of the regional racing bodies. Statistics support the fact that over 73,250 people, directly and indirectly, benefit from the racing industry throughout France.

France Galop drafts and applies the Rules of Racing, organizes and regulates races, awards the purse money, and maintains the racing facilities.

Functioning as racecourse director, France Galop manages the courses at Longchamp, Chantilly, Maisons-Laffitte, Saint-Cloud, Auteuil, Enghien and Deauville, and the training centers at Chantilly, Maisons-Laffitte and Deauville. On these courses, they organize some of the top racing events in France including: Qatar Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, Prix de Diane Longines at Chantilly, Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly, Gras Savoye Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at Auteuil, and the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp.

The main source of financing for racing programs comes from the net profit from PMU betting wagers, online and off. Other income is derived from association membership fees, entry fees, publications, use of training grounds, the lease of real estate, event Sponsorships,TV rights in France and abroad, and admission charges.

Pari Mutuel UrbainPMU – Philippe Germond , Président-Directeur Général

The 80-year-old French pari-mutuel betting system enables a return to the industry in more ways than the excitement of winning. The net profits are used for prize money, race track infrastructure, and breed incentives, to name a few. The PMU is a non-profit organization that operates under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Budget and Public Accounts. An economic interest group (GIE), the PMU is composed of 57 racing associations, among them France Galop for flat and jump racing, and the Societé d’Encouragement a l’élevage du Cheval Français for trotting.  The wagering net proceeds received by France Galop are then allocated to the appropriate racing entities including AFAC, while trotting receives their own funds.

In 2011, there were 7,027 races (4,792 flat and 2,335 National Hunt), run on 250 racetracks, including the trotting racetracks.

According to the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ analysis of racing statistics, €9,920,064,368 was the 2011 total betting turnover for the PMU with €947,835,621, or 9.6%, returned to racing.

In 2011, France Galop redistributed €240 million in prize money and owner’s and breeders premiums including €840,000 for Arabian racing. The remainder was used for operating costs of the PMU, Equidia (Racing TV), Geny Courses (racing magazine), France Galop expenses, racing associations, race track maintenance, etc. Approximately €8 million goes to help other equestrian sports in France through Fonds EPERON – Encouragements aux projets équestres régionaux ou nationaux.

Association Française du Cheval Arabe de Course – AFAC –

Horsereporter spoke with Yves Plantin, Chairman of AFAC, who has been instrumental in helping to guide Arabian racing in France for over 20 years. Plantin has long been an Arabian horse breeder and racehorse owner and owns Domaine Saint Hippolyte. Plantin and  AFAC Director Veronique Briat work from their office at the racecourse in Toulouse.

Yves Plantin explains how AFAC began: “Before 1998, AFAC was part of the Association du Cheval Arabe (ACA), the French Breeders Association. ACA is the administrative arm in charge of the Registry and the issuance of Arabian passports. AFAC is now the independent racing branch of the French Breeders Association as agreed to by the French MInistry of Agriculture.”

Some of the duties of AFAC include:

1. Establishment of the racing calendar, which runs from mid-February until the end of November, and overseer of the distribution of prize money in coordination with France Galop and the racecourses.

 2. Maintenance of AFAC website with up-to-date data including top trainers, owners, individual race records and videos of the races as well as a monthly digest, The French Purebred Arabian, co-edited by AFAC and Jour de Galop.

*Record example: 2012 records indicate Jean-Francois Bernard is number one trainer with 29 wins and 80 places out of 153 races.

3. “We also compile a Yearbook for each year in partnership with Noëlle Derré from Edimédia,” said Briat. “L’Abrégé des Courses de  Pur Sang Arabes en France includes all of the statistics for the year on Arabian racing in France – horses, owners, breeders, jockeys, trainers, stallions – as well as race results. This book also has all of the Group 1 PA race results abroad. We compile stallion statistics in the UAE, USA , GB and France, and publish them in the Stallion Book every year. These two yearly publications are sent to all of our members and to various owners, breeders, racing authorities, and racecourses abroad.”

4. Organizes the yearly Breeders’ Challenge. Members of AFAC may nominate their yearlings for €200, which will allow them to run in any of the four Breeders’ Challenge races without having to pay any entry fees for life. The 2013 Breeders’ Challenge races, held on October 30, 2013, at Toulouse Racecourse, had 4 races with prize money of  €45,000 each race.

“France Galop is the French racing authority for Thoroughbred and Arabian racing,” said Plantin. “We use the same tracks and management.”

“Twenty-five years ago there was no market for Arabian horses,” he continued. “The French have been breeding for speed for centuries, and horses racing do not have the same refined look as the show horses.”

Auctions were conceived as a way to sell and market Arabian horses. Since the success of that first auction, AFAC has partnered with Arqana auction house and receives a percentage of the profits from the sales.

According to Plantin, before 1993 England would not accept French Arabians for breeding purposes, but did allow them to run in England. This ban was lifted in 1993, which encouraged the exportation of Arabians to breeders and race owners, fueling the boon in Arabian racing enthusiasm and bringing about world-wide participation in French racing.

imgresFrance Galop may not have taken Arabian racing seriously in the beginning, but when some of the Middle Eastern owners promised sponsorships, Arabian racing began to take hold and the market for French racehorses grew. Now, the UAE and Qatar are top sponsors in races in France as well as other countries around the world. Qatar sponsors the richest Arabian race in the world in Paris, the Qatar Arabian World Cup, with prize money of €700,000, of which €350,000 goes to the winner.

In 1989. there were 15 races in France with total prize money of €79,300. The number of races reached 83 in 2013, totaling €2,660,000 in prize money, France Galop’s contribution of €840,000, and the balance coming from sponsors, entry fees and AFAC.

In 2013, Thoroughbred races were allocated €240 million, making the prize money for Arabian racing less than 1% of the budget for French Galop.

Veronique Briat has been the Director of AFAC since 2011. “Horses have been part of my life from an early stage. I started riding with my father when I was seven. I had worked in the Thoroughbred industry in England, France, and three years in the USA.” A job with Shadwell Stud in England introduced Briat to Arabian racing, and she said, “Then I was hooked.”

International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Federation Internationale des Courses de Pur-Sang Arabes IFAHR

Before 1999, European Conference of Arab Horse Organizations – ECAHO – had the authority for Arabian racing and Plantin was the head of the Arabian Racing Committee. As ECAHO had a primary interest in horses for show, the racing committee did not feel adequately represented.

In 1999,  Plantin co-founded the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing IFAHR – on the model of TB racing as an independent non-profit organization. He envisioned a group that better suited the specific world of racing with the purpose to foster and encourage co-operation between all national and international Arab Horse Racing Associations throughout the world. The eighteen founding member countries were Austria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Holland, Morocco, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States. By 2013, IFAHR member nations number 27. The current President is Sami Jassim Al Boenain.

Pattern Race and Handicapper Committee – smPatternCommittegroupIMG_1716

In 2005, the Pattern Race and Handicapper Committee was created under IFAHR by then President of AFAC, Jean Pierre de Gasté, who serves as Committee Chair.

In 2006, the Pattern Race Committee was approved by what is now the International Grading and Race Planning Advisory Committee (IRPAC), giving Purebred Arabian races the approval to have the same status as Thoroughbred races. Using the Thoroughbred racing model, progress has been made to standardize rules and regulations of races and publish statistics and results to help harmonize global ratings, thereby making a more level and accurate playing field and paving the way for more efficient handicapping of horses and Arabian betting.

For a two-year period, all group races of the IFAHR member countries were evaluated by the seven-member Pattern Race Committee, and races were validated according to their eligibility for Group PA status. Group PA (Purebred Arabian) races are given a rating from 1, the highest, to 3 based on the race history and quality of the runners. Those that were not validated continue to be called Group races in their respective countries and are known as local Group races.

With the creation of the website for the Pattern Race and Handicapper Committee by Izeta Selimanjin in 2011, member handicappers can view ratings and reports on all performances and input their own notes. France has more group PA races than any other country with 21 out of 58 – eight of these Group 1 PA races. In 2011, the Committee published the first International Ranking of Purebred Arabian Racehorses for Europe and the Middle East.

US Participation:

Kathy Smoke, Racing Committee Chair of the US Arabian Jockey Club contributes: “We have determined a process by which we can rate the USA Graded Stakes races here in the USA and work with the IFAHR Pattern Race & Handicapper Committee to equate the USA rating system to the International system.”

As funds are needed to develop the software for the integration, Horsereporter is advised that the project will move forward when these funds (approximately $10,000) are secured.

Association du Cheval Arabe ACA –

ACA is the Stud Book for Arabians in France. AFAC has two seats on the ACA Stud Book Committee (Yves Plantin and Jean-Paul Larrieu). All horses are registered through SIRE, which issues all passports and export certificates.

Arqana – French public auction sales company, CEO, Eric Hoyeau.

Additional Information:

France Galop website:

AFAC website:

IFAHR website:

The Pattern Race & Handicapper Committee website:

Haras Nationaux SIRE website :

Arqana website:




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