Unknown to some, horse racing played a vital role in the history of the island of Mauritius. It brought peace in a time of war, and it has grown to become one of the most popular sports in Mauritius, second to football. Every Saturday the pavilion of the Champ de Mars is packed with spectators, waiting anxiously for the starting gates to open and a day of exciting horse racing action to begin. For the locals of Mauritius, horse racing is a part of their tradition and daily lives.
Mauritius was first discovered in the tenth century by seaman passing by the island on their travels. It was given the name of Dina Robin, until Portuguese explorers discovered it in 1498. By 1598, it was renamed by the Dutch, and the island exchanged ownership over the years until the British Forces overwhelmed the French in 1810, leading to squabbles and uneasiness between the French colonies and the British invaders. Colonel Edward Alured Draper arrived in Mauritius in 1812, and to calm the storms between the two sides he suggested a horse racing meeting. This led to the French and British getting together in June 1812 for an historical horse racing event that not only turned out to be a huge success but also was the inauguration of the Mauritius Turf Club.
The multicultural island is still united in horse racing, with the racecourse in Port Louis being the only thoroughbred horse racing facility available. There are twenty-three races held annually and each day of racing offers approximately seven events, with the fourth race of the day being the main race. There is a twelve horse maximum per race and horses are imported to the island. With more than sixty horses competing on a race day, there is an abundance of horse racing for spectators to enjoy. Most of the imports come from South Africa, with a few horses being purchased in France, Australia and England. A Totalizing System was introduced in 1990 to streamline betting operations. Today, horse racing is a thriving industry that has been supported and enjoyed by locals since the very first race.