by Ben Curtis
After around a decade of closure due to lack of sufficient public interest, Madrid’s Hipódromo horse racing track reopened last year. Today marked the beginning of the new season, which runs through to July 19th. This is an extremely pleasurable way to spend a Sunday morning, especially a sunny one like today’s! There are five to six races through the morning, running from 11.15 to 2 p.m., though arriving around 10.45 gives you time to find your way around and get your first bets down.
The betting is where the fun lies. The minimum bet is 1 Euro, and you can place a range of different bets which are initially somewhat complicated to master. A Ganador bet is easy, you bet on the winner, but won’t reap huge rewards if your horse comes in first. Better is to go for a Gemela reversible, where you pick the first two horses past the post, and win no matter what order they come in. A Trio no reversible means picking first, second and third past the post, in the right order – get that right and you stand to win a lot of money. There are others, but that’s as far as I got! One thing I noticed is that if you don’t bet on a particular race, it’s really a lot less fun to watch.
What is strange is that there is no way to work out the odds before you bet. Whereas in the UK you know that a certain horse has odds of 5 to 1 to win, and can work out your winnings when you place your bet, here you have to wait until the race is over and the payouts for each type of bet are placed up on a board behind the paddock.
So, you spend the morning wandering from the paddock (to check out the horses and riders as they saddle up), to the track, to the betting booths, stopping every now and again for a beer or Butifarra sandwich, people watching, cheering on your horses… great stuff. My total winnings for the day? Zero. I lost a grand total of 12 Euros, and it was worth every centimo! There are more photos from the day over at Flickr, and a short video below (from our Spanish videoblogging collection!)
Info: The Hipódromo is on Avenida Padre Huidobro (map), 8 km from Madrid just off the A6 (take the 8 km exit). You can get there by car, taxi or bus (No. 162 from Moncola bus station). A basic entrance ticket cost 9 Euros, and tickets can be bought in advance from entradas.com Pick up a program when you arrive to find out who is racing and when, and what bets you can place on each race. More info at hipodromodelazarzuela.es