Even though horse racing dates back thousands of years, the sport isn’t popular in every part of the world. The origins of modern-day horse racing are traced back to Great Britain, and their colonial invasion helped to spread the sport to different nations.
When it comes to Africa, horse racing is just starting to emerge in most countries. With that said, some of them already have a good horse racing scene that is present for decades. Let’s go through the list of countries in Africa that have accepted horse racing as a sport and have turned it into a tradition over the past couple of years.
Which Country Has the Best Horse Racing Scene in Africa?
Unfortunately, horse racing isn’t very popular in Africa, at least not as much as in countries like the United States, Great Britain, Japan, and France. However, there are still some regions that have embedded horse racing into their roots and now have many different races and rich horse racing culture.
Such countries are South Africa and Mauritius.
Horse Racing in South Africa
Horse racing in South Africa isn’t something new. In fact, the sport dates back to as early as 1795 when the locals accepted the sport during the British rule in the country.
At the time racehorses were called Capers, and they were dual-purpose horses where that were used for carrying army remounts and racing during the weekends. The biggest rise in popularity of the sport was during the time of Lord Charles Somerset in 1814, which was a big fan of Cape racing. He established a government stud and organized the importation of hundreds of stallions just to create a good horse racing climate.
After a couple of years, we’ve seen the birth of many new horse racing venues bringing the popularity of the sport sky-high.
During that time, the most popular races were July Handicap, as well as East Cape Derby, and Algoa Cup. However, just like in different parts of the world, horse racing has changed and evolved into a rather different sport nowadays. The most notable difference between the horse races in the past and modern-day horse racing in South Africa is the distance that the horses run.
Most races in the past were run over a distance of 1600m, but modern-day horse racing requires more action, which is why most racecourses were increased to 2200m.
Today, South Africa is a rich horse racing nation, with plenty of professional races organized throughout the year. Plus, South Africa is one of the few African countries where you can learn how to bet on horse racing online, as long as you do it in regulated websites.
Some of the biggest South African horse races are:
Queen’s Plate is one of the oldest races in the country dating back to 1861 when it was organized to honor Queen Victoria. Since then, we’ve seen some great horses running in this event like the Rocket power and Sea Cottage.
South Africa Derby
The British influence goes far deeper when we are talking about the horse racing scene in South Africa just because this Classic is equivalent to the world’s most popular sporting event, the Epsom Derby. Like the British Derby, the South African Derby is a vital part of South Africa’s Triple Crown, which also includes the South African Classic and Gauteng Guineas.
The Derby has been created in the late 1800s and since then it has become the country’s most prestigious horse race.
The Sun Met
This horse racing event also known as Africa’s Richest Race Day takes place at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town. This horse racing event dates back to 1883, and was initially run as a handicap, but soon promoted to Grade One status when its popularity started to grow.
Horse Racing in Mauritius
Mauritius also has a popular horse racing culture and has very notable races organized throughout the year. The most popular race is the Champ De Mars Racecourse, which is also one of the most popular horse races in Africa that gathers more than 20,000 people every race, and the odd thing is that this race is organized a couple of times per year.
This is also the oldest racecourse in the entire southern hemisphere, which proves that horse racing was present in Mauritius a long time ago.
So, even though horse racing in Africa isn’t very spread across different countries, the influence from these ones we covered today really helps to build a healthy horse racing scene in the continent. Some countries have already started incorporating horse racing as a sport and in the future, we will see an even richer horse racing culture in Africa.