What do the English Premier League and horse racing have in common in Mauritius? Both sports have a large, avid following and emphasise the British colonial heritage of our island.
Football, and the English Premier League more than any other league, ranks among the strongest passions of the Mauritian people. Whether weekdays or weekends, whatever the time of day or night a game is televised – especially when major teams like Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United or Chelsea are playing – there’s always thousands of fans across the island who remain glued to their TV screen in order not to miss a single minute of action. And it’s not a rare thing to hear firecrackers going off late at night as a form of celebration!
There is also a special atmosphere every weekend at the Champ de Mars, the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere and the second oldest in the world. The horse racing season usually runs from end March through early December and every meet attracts thousands of punters and screaming enthusiasts – the number of racegoers dramatically increases for classics like the Maiden Cup, the Duchess of York Cup, the Duke of York Cup and the Barbé Cup.
Horse racing has been a national passion since 1812, at the time of the British Governor, Sir Robert Townsend Farquhar. This grand spectacle of beautiful mounts, which sometimes have quirky names, can be enjoyed in the comfort of a private box, from the stands or right against the rails while munching on a snack grabbed from the various street food vendors around.
Besides the betting action, frantic spectators and commentators, race meets are also an opportunity for the gentlemen to turn up in their very best outfits and for the ladies to don their fancy hats and colourful dresses that are a hit with photographers.