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Away from the Whip – Madrid’s La Zarzuela

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  • #20167
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17722

    I spent the weekend in Madrid, finalising a deal for a new book and reviewing a show. In my absence I notice that the Big W debate has developed nasty new flavours with the banning of McCoy, who managed not to get a second one in a walkover at Southwell today; that the BHA are “constantly monitoring” the situation rather than doing anything about it; and that the damp-squib Breeders Cup passed without much of note except for the unbridled joys of Family O’Brien.

    Yesterday I finally managed to do what I’ve been hoping to do on one of my many trips to Europe’s proudest city: I went racing at Madrid’s beautiful Hipódromo de la Zarzuela. With vistas of the city to the south east and the snow-capped sierras to the north the one mile, left-handed oval bounded by the River Manzanares has a breathtaking setting, but the most taking part of the view has to be the extraordinarily gaudiesque, white art-deco grandstands.

    [attachment=1:3iuxh6a8]zarz01.jpg[/attachment:3iuxh6a8]

    Dating from the 1920’s, these three fantastic structures fell into disrepair under the Fascist dictatorship, when of course racing was banned as the Work of the Devil. But hard work from Spain’s racing aristocracy (plus plenty of hard cash from the liberal government) led to the restart of racing in about 2003, since when it has gone from strength to strength. Two of the three stands are now fully (and wonderfully) restored, with all modern appurtenances, and the third is almost ready.

    The racing’s improving too in both quantity and quality: last month Ryan Moore visited La Zarzuela for the first time, riding the winner of the (listed) 2yo race which is the centrepiece of the track’s Autumn season. Yesterday there were seven fiercely competitive races, worth around 7000-10000€ each to the winner, whilst the big race – a 12F conditions race for 3yos – was worth 31,000€.

    [attachment=0:3iuxh6a8]zarz02.jpg[/attachment:3iuxh6a8]
    [i:3iuxh6a8]
    [continued in second post][/i:3iuxh6a8]

    #376625
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17722

    This was won in good style by a powerful and attractive colt called

    Achtung

    , ridden by none other than

    Oscar Urbina

    (who’s now resumed his original Spanish style of

    Oscar de Urbina

    ) and it was a joy to see him riding so well, and as strongly as ever. He had a double on the card and judging from the reception he enjoyed as he entered the (temporary) winning enclosure he is evidently a great local, popular favourite. As you can see, Spanish TV (Sports Channel) were here: they covered the first five races, with oodles of paddock interviews.

    [attachment=0:9bce7zta]zarz05.jpg[/attachment:9bce7zta]

    He’d had a good week: with two winners down at Mijas, one at Seville to add to his double here things are going very well for Oscar again. I can also report that he’s finally going to tie the knot with his girlfriend of 17 years come Christmas time. Good luck to them both. It was great to be able to cheer the great

    Soviet Song

    ‘s jockey home once again.

    Altogether

    La Zarzuela

    is well run, finely laid out and with a beautiful covering of turf, as well as a central all-weather and training track. The atmosphere around the plane-tree shaded paddock is friendly and relaxed (most in the French style), and everyone is very approachable (more like the Irish style in that). By the time of the big race the stands were packed.

    La Zarzuela

    is clearly gaining ground as a great family day out for the

    madrileños

    , and on this showing it’s easy to see why. This will certainly not be my last visit, for sure.

    [attachment=1:9bce7zta]zarz04.jpg[/attachment:9bce7zta]

    #376628
    Slowly Away
    Participant
    • Total Posts 398

    thanks for that……….very interesting !

    #376629
    ricky lakericky lake
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2358

    Quality Sir , well done , a bloomin good read

    Ricky

    #376640
    Mr. PilsenMr. Pilsen
    Blocked
    • Total Posts 1684

    Even though I’m much more a fan of the winter game, think I could be persuaded to vist that track. Probably cheaper entrance money than the likes of Wincanton and Exeter as well.

    #376645
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17722

    Even though I’m much more a fan of the winter game, think I could be persuaded to vist that track. Probably cheaper entrance money than the likes of Wincanton and Exeter as well.

    It was just £7.70 (9€) entrance (5€ for kids, students and OAPs) with free and regular buses to the nearest Metro/bus terminal at Moncloa. No "reserved" stands areas for trainers and owners either, but everyone enjoying the spectacle together:
    [attachment=0:1wy2dukh]zarz03.jpg[/attachment:1wy2dukh]
    One of the pleasant features of the day was the number of children to be seen obviously loving the whole experience, and fascinated not by the bouncy castles but by the racing itself. One six year old who’d got his dad to put a euro on Oscar in the big race to win six was positively ecstatic with joy – and got a special tip of the cap from the Great Man.

    70 horses in 7 races, 81,000€ prize money…. wonderful what a Tote monopoly can do, even for a small racing nation such as Spain.

    Equiano

    will not be the last Spanish-trained Group 1 winner we’ll be seeing, that’s for sure.

    #376652
    jose1993
    Member
    • Total Posts 1228

    Fantastic read, Pinza.

    I don’t know if La Zarzuela quite has the hidden beauty of Southwell, though. :wink:

    #376677
    seanboyce
    Member
    • Total Posts 255

    Enjoyed that.
    Glass of Rioja. Affordable Cuban cigars. What’s not to like!

    #376823
    AngloGermanAngloGerman
    Member
    • Total Posts 602

    Escellent read Pinza, thanks for that. The Gran Criterium which I covered for the Racing Post is on YouTube, and even if people don’t speak Spanish, you can see the quality of the presentation:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrmnBnP2V8M

    I was really impressed by the whole coverage, and I got the impression that Spain is one of thoss countries really on the up in terms of racing. Apart from Equiano, there are several decent Spanish trained horses winning races in France, and the winner of the Gran Criteruim, Matusalen, is unbeaten in four races and could turn out to be one of Spains best ever horses.

    #376854
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17722

    I got the impression that Spain is one of thoss countries really on the up in terms of racing. Apart from Equiano, there are several decent Spanish trained horses winning races in France, and the winner of the Gran Criteruim, Matusalen, is unbeaten in four races and could turn out to be one of Spains best ever horses.

    Yes indeed – I heard much talk of

    Matusalen

    at the weekend. They’re very excited about his prospects. One thing which impressed me was the love the crowd has for the "regulars", even where those animals aren’t brilliant. Lots of applause for quite a few individual horses as they returned to the paddock after the race. I like that!

    #376855
    CavCav
    Participant
    • Total Posts 4811

    Cheers, Pinza. Love the stands. Nice to see kids enjoying themselves in such a pleasant environment.

    #376857
    JJMSportsJJMSports
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2036

    Lovely write up Pinza, was nice to read.

    #376863
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17722

    Thanks for the nice comments! I can’t resist just

    one

    final picture (not mine, as I was standing around the other side) of

    Oscar Urbina

    coming into the winner’s enclosure on

    Achtung

    last Sunday. It captures the moment just before he threw his goggles to a little

    chico

    who was applauding him wildly. A nice touch from the jockey.
    [attachment=0:12ary5sg]zarzuela_10.jpg[/attachment:12ary5sg]

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