5 things to know about horse racing in Mauritius
Mention horse racing and you’d be forgiven if Mauritius wasn’t the first place that springs to mind. But the equestrian sport has an island history stretching all the way back to 1812, when the Champ de Mars Racecourse in Port Louis was inaugurated by the Mauritius Turf Club – making it the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere.
Champ de Mars remains the only racecourse on the island, and major racing events are regularly attended by crowds in excess of 20,000. In fact, a trip to the races is unquestionably one of the nation’s favourite pastimes so to help you fit in with the locals, here’s five key things you need to know about horse racing in Mauritius:
1. The most popular event of the season is the Maiden Cup, run over the classic distance of 2400 metres. The race takes place on a Sunday in early September and is as important a cultural sporting event to Mauritians as the Grand National is to the British.
2. Four ‘classic’ and four ‘semi-classic’ races are run during the racing season, plus other meetings added in recent years. The season kicks off with the Duchess of York Cup - a race reserved for newly imported horses, most of which come from South Africa though some are also acquired from the UK, France and Australia.
3. The Champ de Mars race track is relatively small – 1298 metres in circumference – with races run on distances from 1000 metres to 2400 metres. Since opening in 1812, the course has been continually improved, ensuring a better galloping surface for the horses.
4. The racing season in Mauritius runs from late March to early December, when it closes in spectacular fashion with the International Jockeys’ weekend, a meeting of jockeys from all over the world. Riders are split into four teams: Mauritius, Europe, Rest of the World and Former Champions, and compete over 14 races. With spectators dressing up in their finery for the two-day occasion, it’s an unmissable event on the Mauritian social calendar.
5. Opened in 2002, the Crown Lodge was formerly a racing stewards’ private box, but has now been transformed into a swish visitors’ facility allowing for a VIP racing experience. As part of your package, you’ll meet the local trainers, jockeys and owners who visit the lodge, and have access to a free open bar. And with a prime position next to the president of the Mauritius Turf Club, you’ll get the very best views of the finish line.
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