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Just a Minute! Horse Racing

Columnist 'Just a Minute' - hapless Englishman in Ibiza discovers horse racing, Ibiza-style...

Pottering around my apartment the other day the phone rang. It was my friend Jorge asking if I fancied watching the horse racing with him that weekend.

"Ah, the sport of Kings".

My mind wandered back to a cold and rain-swept March in 2010. I was stood at the winning line for the closing minutes of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I'd backed Imperial Commander to win, and it was romping home at 6 /1. The unique sound of thoroughbred horses thundering towards me over the jumps was coupled with the mighty roar from the crowd urging on their particular favourite.

Unfortunately I'd only put a 'tenner on Commander's nose' so this feeling of triumph didn't last furlong. The satisfaction of collecting £70 from the bookmaker however, will last forever.

Running behind as usual, I parked in a dusty car park at 'Hipodrom Sant Rafel,' on a dull and overcast Sunday morning. I could hear the sound of a car exhaust blowing very loudly from within the high walled arena.
"Am I in the right place?"
It sounded more like banger racing than horse racing.

Walking trackside the source of the now deafening exhaust pipe became apparent. It was a white Trabant estate car or similar. Something that had clearly seen better days and which had, no doubt, been imported into Ibiza just after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. This Russian wreck was thundering around the inside of the course with five people stood up through a hole cut into the roof. These marshals and judges were careering around after the horses as they dashed around the course.

The horses however were not galloping, but trotting, and at a fair rate of knots too. These elegant animals performing high speed dressage strapped to a 'Heath Robinson' style, two wheeled cart in which sat the 'jockey'. It looked quite a sight.

The Hipodrom is an old, dusty building which has seen better days and could do with a little spruce up. The canteen area is sparse but served me up a good breakfast. I settled on a coffee and croissant, which was good, good to soft in places. There was excellent support for the event though. Ibicencos, their children and curious punters like me all enjoying the spectacle.

A local fire engine was driving around the course. With all the allure of a Soviet missile launcher it appeared a very cumbersome vehicle. It was spraying water and dragging a metal contraption behind it, weighed down with a large tractor wheel smoothing out the dust.

A grey overcast day, ancient Soviet vehicles and a dreary and characterless setting, I'd been instantly transported back to the Cold War era. Thoughts of Checkpoint Charlie, John Le Carré novels and bizarre code words spoken in a hoarse, foreign accent - "Red Foxx-your sedated spaniel is in need of a companion tonight?"

After a stewards enquiry two ponies were disqualified for foal play. They had been cantering, and not trotting, promoting the horse in 3rd place to the winners enclosure. One of our party cried out in excitement as he had now become an instant winner.

He marched off triumphantly with his betting slip in his hand. He returned with a look of utter bewilderment on his face. With his 10€ stake in one hand he showed us his winnings in the other. Two coins totalling fifty five cents! After much scratching of heads and applied mathematics we calculated the odds at an incredible 18/1 on!

Despite my initial observations, the odds turned out in our favour and the morning finished up an unbridled success. Four highly competitive races. The welfare of the horses was clearly a top priority, each well cared for and having clean stables behind the stadium. They appeared happy horses. We all agreed it was time well spent.

Organised by Federacio Balear de Trot and sponsored by amongst others DC-10, there will be further race meetings during the summer months. I understand these will be held on a Saturday evening, and will include a BBQ etc. So if you fancy doing something different, stop horsing around, rein in your urge to stay on the beach for the last rays of sunshine, get the bit between your teeth and give it a go.

Royal Ascot it won't be, but my tipster tells me the latest gallop poll confirms you won't be disappointed. It's a sure bet.

Just a minute!

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