Wednesday, 22 July 2009

World's Weirdest Racetracks: #5

Named after the first regular horse racing venue in Paris, this is the only racecourse on Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean. Almost by default, this makes it the most important track within a radius of more than 1000 miles.

It would also be the most remote racecourse in the world if it wasn’t for the couple of (amateur) racedays held on Madagascar. With 787 square miles of area (less than a quarter the size of Rhode Island) and topped by a steep peak, plain land is scarce on the island, which required the Mauritius Turf Club to build this one-of-a-kind racecourse. One of the smallest turf racetracks in the world, Champ de Mars is only 1200 meters in circumference and so squeezed in between residential zones that there only was room for an extremely thin grandstand.

Racing is usually conducted every Saturday afternoon from April to December, and is the most popular sport in the nation. Because attendance numbers are far in excess of the grandstand’s capacity, the track's infield looks like Pimlico’s during the Preakness even for the most pedestrian of cards. On major racedays virtually every inch of the infield is packed with either parking cars or fanatical fans, some of whom can't possibly be able to watch the race from their position. All of this combines to add one of the most impressive atmospheres in world racing to an already weird racetrack.

Mauritius doesn’t have a breeding industry of its own, most of the horses are SAF-breds. In fact, most or all of the 13 trainers currently listed on the MTC’s website are imports too.

Extra points are awarded for a passionate racecaller who delivers with a trademark Mauritian Creole dialect and an equally passionate audience, all of it combining to make racing on Mauritius a unique experience and sort of a traditional start into Saturday’s racing for European bettors, who are treated with the Mauritius simulcast before British racing starts.

Watch the 2006 edition of the Indian Ocean's most prestigious race, the Maiden Cup (which is not a Mdn race)


  1. i had a feeling champ de mars would make your top 5.

  2. I have NO idea what the race-caller said in the last few hundred meters. But there sure as heck is a new place added to my "bucket list" of racetracks to visit before I die.