The racing season is starting on 21 April in Mauritius. It’s a period when race-goers are plunged into the search for every hint on the performance of horses, stables and jockeys. As from Wednesday when the provisional entries for the races appear everybody’s attention is focused on the tipsters. On Saturday evening all this business comes to a standstill when the race is over. Yes, more than a sports racing has become a lucrative gambling business. But it’s also an opportunity for a get together in a festive ambiance. People of all walks of life, men, women and youngsters in their diverse colored apparels invade the stands from where they can have a clearer and safer view of the race events.
Racing is organized in Mauritius by the Mauritius Turf Club since 1812. It was the British Army Colonel, Edward Alured Draper, who initiated this event. He was backed by Sir Robert Farquhar, the then Governor of the island. The first race meeting was held on 25 June 1812 when the Champ de Mars racecourse situated at Port Louis was inaugurated.
31 weekly meetings are scheduled this year with the four traditional classics (the Duchess of York Cup, the Barbé cup, the Maiden Cup and the Duke of York Cup) and the two meetings of the International Jockeys’ Day. The season will end on 2 December, with the majority of meetings fixed on Saturdays.
The races contribute largely to the socio-economic development of the country. Lots of small businesses involved in the sale of foodstuff, fancy articles and in gambling operations make their living on the race occasions. Special magazines are issued, both free and paying, to provide tips and turf news to punters. A significant number of police officers are mobilized to regulate traffic and maintain law and order in the race precincts. But this doesn’t prevent pickpockets to proliferate around the race course. They operate in gangs mainly at the gambling terminals and in agglomerations where people will hardly identify them. And when the cheat is done it’ll be too late. I’ve been one of their victims some ten years ago. I had bought two winning tickets from different bookmakers. I had already cashed in one of them. I had to forge my way through the mass to encash the second ticket when my first winnings were pickpocketed. I couldn’t believe it.