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Edouard Boutolleau: Auteuil’s Key Man

09 October 2021

Edouard Boutolleau started his career in equestrian as a rider then responsible for an equestrian site. Today he is the supervisor of Auteuil racetrack after mastering his racing skills in the training centers of Chazey-sur-Ain and Maisons-Laffitte. He reveals all the secrets of the French “Jumps’ Temple”. 

How would you describe Auteuil racecourse? 

Auteuil is a unique track in France in particular because of the difference in height of its course. There are hillocks, descents, which makes this track very technical. The obstacles are among the biggest in France with higher odds than all the obstacles in regional racecourses. To give you a few examples: the big open ditch is 1.60m high and 3.70m wide, the rail ditch 1.70m with 4.10m wide. The tribune’s river is 5.50m wide, it is the largest in France. The height of the bull finch is 1.90m and 3.20m wide. In the steeplechases each one is unique, and we have 12 different courses. 

As for the hurdles, there are 9 courses with 10 hurdles spread over the track: these are very standardized 1.10m high by 1.20m wide. 

Does the track itself have its own specific features? 

It is the only intramural racecourse in Paris. The Auteuil ground is artificial since the earth that composes it has been brought back. Since taking office a year and a half ago, I have learned to know this track. Every day, I step on it and walk around it. This avoids surprises. 

The ideal track is an index of 3.9 minimum, which is very soft going, as regular as possible, thanks to perfect watering. 

The racing program runs from spring to fall, and therefore covers both rainy and drier periods. 

During heavy rainfall, newly installed drainage facilities help manage excess water. When the weather is dry, we set up a very precise watering regime and only at night, depending on the needs of the track. 

For watering, we have two outdoor basins and underground basins filled with water from the Seine collected via a pumping station with filter. The outdoor pools are also loaded with rainwater. Each of the 445 sprinklers located around the track is independent and the whole system is computer controlled. In all, there are 17 hectares of trails to maintain. 

How many people are involved in the maintenance of Auteuil? 

There are 16 people in charge of maintaining the racetrack and the numbers can rise to 22 people in the middle of racing. The track alone requires a lot of activity. Between meetings, filling can only be done manually. After each meeting, we walk the entire track to fill in the footsteps of the horses. When meetings come one after another, you often have to string or unrail portions of the trail. 

In all seasons, the work on the tracks never stops: you have to mow, roll the grass, reseed regularly. Natural obstacles, such as the double barrier, the large open ditch or the medium open ditch, are made up of privet tanks. They are changed every four meetings. To take care of this, and also the flowers of the racetrack, we have a nursery. The bull finch is in brooms that we command all year round. The tight heather of the mythical rail ditch is replaced every three years. There is real know-how to maintain all the obstacles. The Auteuil team does an extraordinary job and does it with a lot of passion. 

How does it work on race days? 

The Auteuil teams are responsible for preparing the boxes in the stables to welcome the starters before the race meetings. In the event of hot weather, misters are set up in the stables to facilitate the recovery of the horses. Everyone is attentive to the safety and well-being of the horses, before and after the race. 

During the race meeting, the groundsmen take care of the approaches and landings of obstacles. The staff are spread over the entire course, and they are trained in the management of the hazards of a race and for example they can recover a dropped horse. They have radios to communicate with me. In addition to the teams, there are ambulances as well as three veterinarians and a farrier who are ready to intervene at the slightest incident. 

Auteuil is an historic racecourse, but it is also a racetrack looking to improve? 

We must constantly seek to improve and that is what we are doing at Auteuil. The racecourse is ISO 14000-1 Environmental Management certified. For the maintenance of the track, we are going organic with a total cessation of chemical fertilizers in 2022. And we are also working to improve animal welfare with this year the installation of rubber mats on the ground in all boxes to prevent horses from slipping. Obstacle safety is continuously improved. As well as the facilities and equipment for handling accidents involving horses or jockeys.