Faces of Africa – Horse Racing For Unity, Part Two

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Riddled with holiday goers all year round, this weekend however, the bustling city of Port Louis, Mauritius is hosting a very important event in the Mauritian calendar – Horse racing.

With a history spanning over two hundred years, horse racing is arguably the most popular sporting event in this Island nation. Beyond being just a sport, it is an obsession that has grown into a multi-million dollar industry.

The island of Mauritius is volcanic in origin and is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs

It is the race day, and two passionate trainers from divergent backgrounds, Ramapatee Gujadhur and Amar Sewdyal, have high stakes on the day.

Ramapatee says, “Horse racing here, short of anything better, is the national sport of Mauritius. We have a very wide range of followers, which cuts across class, communities and social status”.

Amar, was the most promising rookie trainer of last year, this year however, Amar is yet to replicate that impressive form.

After not fielding any runner in race one, he is preparing “Jama”, a five-year-old, for “The Indian Oil Scratch” and “Win Promo Cup”, the second race run over 1850 metres. He will be ridden by his most accomplished jockey Swapneel Rama.

Mauritius has about 400 race horses and 15 registered trainers

Also settled in for the race is Ramapatee Gujadhur. Arguably the most accomplished trainer of this generation, he has already lost in the first race of the day and would like to bounce back in style. For this race, he has paired horse “Kemal Kavur” with his number one jockey Daniel Stackhouse.

Both men are dying for their first big win of the year. The docks open and “Kemal Kavur” takes an immediate lead, with “Jama” and the other horses in the chasing pack.

At the three quarter mark, “Kemal Kavur” is still leading, with “Jama” out of pace with the chasing pack.

Finally, a win seems in the offing for Ramapatee. But with a few metres to go, one, then two horses zoom past “Kemal Kevur”, much to the disappointment of Ramapatee. “Jama” can only manage last place in this race.

Alexander Philippe is Amar stable’s veterinarian. His main work is to oversee the overall health of all the horses in the stable.

A veterinarian’s job is to ensure that horses are in good shape both physiologically and nutritionally

Alexander discloses,“Due to the issues arising from the track, we administer intra articular treatment to the horses. This is because horses develop a few joint problems”.

For the third race of the day called the “Indian Oil Petrocard Cup”, the horses will be racing across a distance of 1450 metres. Amar’s horse “From the Ashes” will be pitted against Ramapatee’s “Stock Broker”, among nine other runners. Amar badly needs a win, and has placed high hopes on this particular horse, because it is strong, and has shown great promise during training this past week.

The race starts with all the runners looking almost evenly matched. But as the race progresses, “From the Ashes” starts to fade from the leading pack.

A form of relaxation after a morning of training, the horses are taken to a sand box to play and relax

Meanwhile, “Stock Broker” is up to pace with the race leaders. With a few metres to go, he is even threatening for a win, but the leaders are able to hold him for a third place. “From the Ashes” finishes a dismal 9th.

In race four, Amar fields “New Hampshire” while Ramapatee fields “Malak El Moolook”.

Another dull showing for the duo, Ramapatee would finish third, with Amar a distance 7th in a turf of 8 runners.

After a disappointing start to the day, for race five Ramapatee has nominated “St. Tropez”, while “Wild Horizon” will be flying the colours of Amar’s stable. Both “St Tropez” and “Wild Horizon” are keeping pace in the middle of the pack.

With only a few metres to go, “St. Tropez” is starting to come up strongly on the shoulder of the leaders. Meanwhile, “Wild Horizon” seems lost in the maze of hooves trampling across track. Stronger and stronger, “St. Tropez” is now leading the pack in the race to the finish. And he has done it, “St. Tropez” has just won the “Indian Oil Servo Lubricant Cup”, run across 1450 metres. It is a gracious win for Ramapatee, with Amar nowhere near the podium finish.

This is a Hindu Temple. Ever since indentured labourers started to arrive in Mauritius from the mid 1800s, the country has grown to become one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world.

A much needed booster, Ramapatee heads into race six, the “Indian Oil Barbé Cup” totally psyched up. Run across 1600 metres, this is the ultimate race for the day.

Although Amar is not fielding any horse, Ramapatee has nominated 5 runners, among them the highly rated “Table Bay” to be jockeyed by Daniel Stackhouse.

The race is underway. One of Ramapatee’s horses is leading the park with the highly rated “Table Bay” among the chasing pack.

Two hundred metres and “Table Bay” is making a move. Galloping harder than ever, he is making strides towards the lead. One hundred metres away and he has ultimately taken the lead. From here, there is no stopping him from the Barbé cup. “Table Bay” has won it for Ramapatee when it matters the most.

For race 7 through to 9, Amar could only manage a best finish of position 4.

“Table Bay’s” win was the 20th time that Ramapatee Gujadhur triumphed in a classic race, since becoming trainer of the Mauritius’ oldest stable – Gujadhur Stable

“We won twenty races last year. This year we started out very quietly. It is because all my horses took part in a lot of races. They are tired, they have various injuries…When you win, everyone is happy and when you lose, you have to accept it because you were beaten by good horses,” comments Amar

Even though Amar did not perform as he had expected he would, in true sporting nature, he accepts defeat.

Ramapatee is relishing in his Barbé Cup victory, as he receives yet another classic cup for his almost overcrowded trophy cabinet.

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