The Champ de Mars Race Course in Port Louis (not Paris) offers thoroughbred horse racing every Saturday from March till December. It's the oldest race track in the Southern Hemisphere and the second oldest in the world according to all I've read. It celebrated its 200th birthday in 2012.
So instead of doing boat work on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we opted to take a long walk over to the race course. It's a fair walk, but it was also market day in town, so we left around 10am and wandered through the marketplace. We thought it was crowded the other day when we went. Today was sheer bedlam. Elbows everywhere ... people packed tightly trying to get from A to B and maybe buy a tomato along the way. We passed on purchases, but enjoyed watching and taking photos.
We arrived at the race track around Noon and thought we were early, but it was crowded already. We giggled a bit when we read the sign “No Parking on the Track” as we entered.
We bought our tickets: David 175Rps (~$6). Only men pay. Women enter for free. When we passed through the gates, we were amazed at the open-aired interior … behind the stands. It was like an oasis. Huge ficus trees shaded the area and beyond all the betting booths, there were all sorts of small restaurants, places to sit and eat and drink. The crowd milled around. It seemed a festive occasion.
The horse-racing was great and quite a different excursion for the day. We were invited by the racetrack staff to share a Visitor's Box, so we were quite comfy … out of the sun, with great views from the third level. An attentive Indian fellow, dressed in a business suit, checked in on us frequently and asked if we'd like a tour of the paddock area. Well, sure. Why not? We met the GM of the racetrack along the way and had a nice chat. We had no inkling why we were afforded such amenities and special treatment. We don't look rich, however we had taken showers earlier. We didn't question it ... just went with the flow and smiled.
We didn't do any betting, but we did buy a program and did virtual betting on each race and kept track of our wins and losses. It's good thing we didn't do any betting.
The races were fun to watch. Depending on the length of each race, the starting gate was placed in a different location. The races were pretty exciting. No problem if we couldn't see every aspect of the race from our vantage point, we had a large flat screen TV in our box to consult if needed. Mostly, however, we preferred standing up, craning our necks and screaming for our virtual bet to win ...or place or show.
We left after the sixth race. As we reached the exit, a gate closed just in front of us. We watched men spreading grass on the track. Now we understood the reason for the sign we'd seen previously. We were actually crossing the live track to exit and they closed it just before each race. I climbed up on a short wall right at the gate. We heard the bugle sounding the start of the race and could feel the thunder of hoofs before we actually saw the horses. And then, there they were … right in front of me … and my camera. Awesome.
Didn't win any money ... didn't lose any either. Thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I'd call that a good day.