In Spain there are no bookies in the high street and although online betting is growing, most of the money changes hands on-course. To make life a little more complicated, prices do not appear on the monitors at the course until about ten minutes before the race. With each race scheduled on the half-hour we had just enough time to watch the race then go to the paddock and view the next group of horses, then on to one of the betting booths to place a bet and back to the stand just in time for starter’s orders. Apart from rendering the hospitality tents surplus to requirements it also meant that when we looked at the horses in the paddock we had no idea of the odds on any of them. So our expertise was surely tested, having to rely on the form and breeding of the horse, the shape of its neck and hind quarters, how it behaved in the paddock or, in my case, whether it had an amusing name or the jockey looked a friendly sort. By the way, unlike in the UK, races include both male and female jockeys. After making a decision on the horse you arrive at the betting booth to see the price offered with very little time to change your mind if you don’t like the odds.
Minimum bet is one euro and in addition to just betting on the winner there are a whole series of familiar combinations which appeared very popular, such as place bets, 1st and 2nd reversibles, doubles and trebles etc.
Ticket prices range from €9 to €30, available at the course on race day from 10am onwards. The most expensive ticket gives you access to the stand by the finishing line and a number of hospitality tents, a different place to park your car and entrance to the inner paddock where you can view the riders and horses close up. We paid the extra to get access to the paddock, only to find that while the horses and riders paraded round a small circuit we were on the inside of the ring and those paying €9 were on the outside. Unless in my ignorance one side of the horse is more important than the other, it doesn’t warrant the extra cost.
What is worth extra is the stand by the finishing line. Especially if it is your horse with the daft name that makes a late run in the final furlong to come thundering through and nick it at the line in a photo finish.
During the spring season from March until June, race meetings take place every Sunday at 11am and from late April onward on Friday evening. There is also a summer season from July to August with races on Thursday evenings.
Only ten minutes’ drive from the city centre up the A6 at Aravaca. There is also a free bus service from Moncloa on race days or bus 162 Moncloa – El Barrial.
Prices: €9, €12, €30 available at the course on race day, online at www.entradas.com or tel: 902 488 488