Every once in a while I like to try something new, something different. Since I have never experienced a horse race, we went to the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela, in Madrid. A little adventure, as I didn’t know quite what to expect. I bought tickets, dusted the binoculars, donned my fancy hat, and on we went.Ascot it was not. All kinds of people, amongst which many children, crowded the place. Fancy attires and comfortable daywear all mixed and mingled on the grandstand and lawns. And, some rituals they have at horse races! I anticipated walking on grass, so I was wearing comfortable shoes, but I never expected that walking around was part of the game.
Let me summarize the routine. You go to the parade green where they show you the horses, first led by their grooms, and then mounted by their jockeys. After a good look at both the horses and the jockeys, taking into account their results in previous races, and the favorites, you decide on which horse (or horses) to bet. This all took about 20 to 25 minutes.
When the horses leave the parade green to go to the track, the spectators have around 10 minutes to place their bets at the betting booths. You can do so for as little as 1 euro, and there are different wager types. Now, I’m not a gambler, but we were at the horse races! And thanks to my dad’s advice I made a profit of 47%. In less than 3 hours! Maybe we should go more often…
After placing the bet at the teller’s or automatically, you go to the grandstand or the rails and wait for the horses to get into their respective stalls in the starting gate. They take their time. No rush. No pressure. When the bell is rung to indicate that the stall doors are opened, you cheer your horse on as loudly as you can. The race itself lasted approximately 2 minutes, depending on the distance. After they pass the finish line, the winner gets the price, horses and jockeys go back to the paddocks, and all starts over again (with other horses and jockeys, naturally). It’s a world of its own.
Afterwards, you can stay for lunch or drinks. As most people left, and it was a nice early spring Sunday afternoon, we decided to have a drink and walk around, to take a good look at the hippodrome without the coming and going of people. We enjoyed the day at the races very much. So much so, that I wouldn’t mind going again. And in summer there are horse races at night! Maybe I’ll go to one of those. Without my fancy hat, of course.