Champ de Mars Racecourse, Mauritius

This Port Louis course is the Southern Hemisphere’s oldest and the world’s second oldest horseracing venue and actually started out as a training ground for the French military troops before the Mauritius Club was founded in 1812. The Club then established the course around Port Louis before the end of the year with the aim of promoting unity between the French settlers and the British who had taken over the administration of the Island as one of its colonies. The sport has since become very popular in Mauritius, attracting not just locals but also participants from neighbouring countries.

The Maiden Cup is the most prestigious race on the island. Other races at Champ de Mars include the Barbé Cup, the Duke and the Duchess cups. This last race is usually reserved for horses that are newly imported. Most are from South Africa but others come from as far as France, Britain and Australia.

The horseracing season in Mauritius begins in late March and runs until late November. The private lodges give the special feel that must have been the aim when in previous years the permanent Box Seats were reserved for the Governor, the Mayor and the Mauritius Club officials.

The heat demands that you get out with a hat for protection but the salty breeze from the Indian Ocean touches the humidity. The flag hoisting ceremony when Mauritius attained its independence in 1968 was held at Champ du Mars and so have the annual celebrations ever since. Snuggled in and enclosed by beautiful hills, the Racecourse is quite the experience – a touch of history and the colonial era in a bubbly atmosphere that radiates with sophistication and class. King Edward VI has been immortalized within the racecourse in a statue done by the famous Prosper d’Épinay. The Malartic Tomb is a monument in honour of a French Governor.