Mauritius Uncovered

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Mauritius Uncovered
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Horse racing in Mauritius

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Horse racing is one of the traits that characterises Mauritius and has been going on since 1812. It receives a lot of media coverage with live shows on the radio and TV and now a number of magazines too cover horse racing. In an attempt to bring the French colony and the British colony together when the British regained possession of the island during that time period, Colonel Edward Draper decided to organise race courses in Mauritius. The idea was well received and the Mauritius Turf Club was thus founded in 1812 and today Mauritius prides itself in having the oldest history of race coursing in the world.

The race courses are held in Port Louis at the Champ de Mars race course which itself is an oval shaped space of land with a circumference of 1298m nestled at the foot of lush mountains. Races are run from a distance of 1365m to 2400m as from the point where the flag raising is done annually. To help in racing matters, provision of rails around the track has been done and a Penetrometer is used to give the exact state of the land before and on the race day. On average, about 50,000 people attend a race course and so there has been the installation of stalls and stands for this purpose. There is also a photo finish system which has been upgraded with cameras to help in devising winners and monitoring the races.

The race season begins in May up to early December with 8 courses held each Saturday starting at 12.30pm and ending at 5pm. The most exciting events are the Maiden Cup (run over 2400m) and the Gold Cup (run over 1600m) while the Duchess of York Cup is the first race of the season run by new horses; all in all there are 4 main classics and 6 semi classics. One of the reasons as to why Mauritians enjoy race courses so much is because of betting. Though in the past betting was organised for win bets only via the bookmakers, today it has gained more ground thanks to the Tote system with the availability of lotteries (Poupard, Merven) and all sorts of betting can be done either directly at Champ de Mars, by telephone or through bookmaker companies.

Horse training used to be done in the early morning at the Champ de Mars itself but now it has been relocated at the Guy Desmarais Training Centre in Floreal which offers a much cooler climate for this activity. All horses are checked for drugs before and after racing via urine analyses; they are screened at the laboratory of the Mauritius Turf Club or sent abroad for cross analyses. In the past, because of import difficulties, bringing horses to Mauritius was quite a business but now with the ease of travel, horses are imported privately from France, Britain, Australia and a larger percent from South Africa (mostly thoroughbred species) by stable owners. At the end of the season or when the horses get too old for racing, they are sent to hotels or are used by owners for leisure riding; this is quite a common business on the coasts where people can ride horses on the beach.
yonne Published 14 Jun 2011

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