Let’s learn a little bit about history. But not just any … .. the one of the Champs de Mars, the racecourse that was built in the English era.
The fabulous idea of the English
In 1812, after the victory of the English against the French, Colonel Edward Alured Draper, arrived on the island. To improve the understanding between them and to win the esteem of the French who remained on there, he found no better idea than to introduce horse races.
The British governor, Sir Robert Farquhar, then thought that it was an excellent idea and gave his approval for the construction of this racecourse and the creation of a club, which will be named the Mauritius Turf Club, in the same year. Sir Robert Farquhar was known for his willingness to keep a flawless understanding between the French-Mauritians and the English, his wife being herself a French, Maria Latour. Moreover, galas were often given.
Thanks to him, buildings such as the Theater of Port-Louis were built to allow the inhabitants to have access to fun and cultural moments. Thus it is without much surprise that the construction of the Champs de Mars was quickly completed. Following the governor’s recommendation, the racecourse was built around the tomb of the infamous Count of Malartic, the same one who denied freedom to the slaves.
Nestled at the foot of the mountains surrounding the capital, the Champ de Mars track follows an elliptical layout, with a length of 1298 m and a width of 10 m 50 to 12 m. The track is relatively small. The races are currently contested over distances ranging from 1000m to 2400m. For the record, the 1500m is also called Draper’s Mile in honor of Colonel Draper. Since its development in 1812, the Champ de Mars track has been constantly improved. A race consists of eleven starters maximum.
The track is maintained with great care. With the introduction of new distances in recent years, several modifications have been made to the runway: the finish line has been moved, the track has been widened on the inside and has also been extended to specific locations.
Mauritians and Hippism
The great bourgeoisie of Mauritius, invited by the Mauritius Turf Club, met, then, in the lodges provided for this purpose, to attend the races. By the British tradition, women were dressed in their best clothes and hats and the men were in a tuxedo … .. the British touch in its purest form.
For others, it is very folkloric. Horse racing is the most popular sport activity in Mauritius. The atmosphere is picturesque, lively and noisy, especially around street vendors and bookmakers. There is an average of 20,000 spectators at the edge of the slopes on race days! All communities on the island are in an incredible atmosphere, and everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, carefully follows his favorite horse by shouting encouragement. From the finish line crossed, the calm is back, and everyone does his accounts.
Four classic races and four semi-classic races are held during each horse racing season. Recently, several Domestic Group Races have been added to this list. The Maiden Cup, contested over 2400m, remains the most popular and prestigious event. The first classic race of the season, the Duchess of York Cup, is run early in the season and is reserved for horses that have never competed in the Champ de Mars. Classic days draw around 25,000 people.
During your visit on the island, a short tour to the Champs de Mars is a must. Being able to attend exciting races, in a lodge is possible …… Let’s bet !!!!