Horse racing is very popular in Mauritius and take over the week-ends of many ‘racegoers’.
It was established in Mauritius very early, the first races being held in June of 1812 at the Champ de Mars by the Mauritius Turf Club.
The Mauritius Turf Club is actually the oldest horse-racing club in the southern hemisphere and the second oldest in the world.
Having experienced a day at the races on many occasions and in many different ways (as well as in different countries), I can attest that the racing atmosphere here in Mauritius is one of a kind, and one that I really enjoy.
As a child, I would go there with my dad who is a passionate horse-racing fan and who seldom missed a day at the Champ de Mars.
He would also bring us sometimes to the training very (very, very!!) early in the morning and we would discover a Champ de Mars completely different than on racing days, quiet and asleep, only disturbed by the cli-ti-ki-clop of the horses going to the track for their training.
When we were young, we also sometimes went to see horse racing from “La Plaine” which is the middle part, inside the race track.
Even though you cannot see the whole race that way as the line of vision is very limited, when the horses do run right in front of you it is quite impressive, especially when you are a kid.
We’ve been back to watch races from there once or twice with the children who seem to enjoy it as much as we did before.
Another way to experience horseracing is from the tiered seating, either on the side of the racetrack or from the very top of the building.
Some people like to stand close to the finish line. They follow the race on the big screen ahead and closer to the end they jump up and down for a glimpse of the coming horses.
Shouts of support can sometimes be a bit impressive towards the end of the race, especially when there is a close finish.
The other way to experience horseracing is from the private lodges. These are the rooms found all throughout the building to watch the races. They are usually reserved for members of the Mauritius Turf Club or for members of the stables. If you are not a member of the MTC or of any stable, you may still assist to the races there through Mr Ritter’s ‘Crown Lodge’.
The attendance varies greatly from an ordinary race day to a bigger event. There is an entrance fee to pay to the MTC to get to the inside grounds. Women don’t usually pay except on ‘classic’ race days. Once inside, you have access to all public places inside the grounds.
The racetrack is not very long compared to those in other countries where you cannot even see the far end sometimes. However, I have been told that it is a very technical and tricky one.
If you ask me specifically what I like about a race day, I probably won’t even be able to answer back… I don’t bet or support a particular stable. I don’t know most of the horses and would never even be able to recognize any of them…
I do watch the races from start to finish and enjoy seeing the ballet of leading horses, even though I will not be able to tell you much of what has actually happened during that race afterwards!
It might be the childhood memories, or the lively and colorful atmosphere.
I like watching the horses go round in the paddock before they are saddled…
… and the anticipation of the starting race.
When I was a child, one of the highlights during the day was getting some dholl purris & samoussas some time during the day, and of course a chocolate ice-cream afterwards!
At the end of the day, we couldn’t go home without some ‘pistaches bouies‘ or ‘pistaches grillés’ (boiled and roasted peanuts).
Next to the peanuts vendors, there used to be lots of colourful toys that attracted our attention nearly everytime, but they are not there anymore. There still seem to be some around from time to time though:
And of course, we would do our own races once the last race was over, running around inside the grounds. We would climb on the starting blocks pretending to be horses. We would look for a winning ticket through the crumbled papers thrown all around (which of course we never found!)
And even though, there is not that much to do during a racing day apart going back and forth between the paddock and the races and putting in a little chat here and there, I usually feel quite worn out at the end of a day at the races!
The Mauritius Turf Club:
Address: Champ de Mars, Eugène Laurent street, Port-Louis
Tel: 212 2212
Racing season: From March to December
Prices – note that prices and conditions vary from season to season – In 2013 the prices were as follows:
Stand on a normal race day: Rs 175 for men & free for women
Stand on a Classic race day (only Maiden cup, Barbé cup & Coupe d’Or): Rs 300 for men & Rs 150 for women
The Crown lodge:
Tel: 5729 9621