The UK has the Grand National, the US, the Kentucky Derby. Montevideo’s big horse-racing event is the Ramírez Prize raced every January 6 since 1889.
The Ramirez gets Uruguayans glued to their TV sets, and more than 8,000 head to the Maroñas horse racing stadium for the big event.
The spectacular art-deco stadium is something right out of a Scott Fitzgerald novel and well worth a visit in its own right.
The Grand José Pedro Ramírez Prize starts this Wednesday January 6 at 2pm. And throughout the year horse races are held every Sunday afternoon and sometimes on Fridays. There is a small entrance fee.
How to get to the Maroñas race track
The track is right across town in a neighbourhood completely off the tourist path, the working class Maroñas barrio. You can get a bus (the 102 for instance) which takes 45 minutes from the city centre and drops you off right at the entrance. If driving following signs to the “hipódromo”. Exercise caution if wandering around outside the stadium.
Check the Maroñas website for meetings, as the racetrack is closed when races are not on. Note: The website programme shows races held elsewhere too. Mouse-over the day to see if “Maroñas” appears.
Hipódromo Nacional de Maroñas
Address: José María Guerra 3540, Montevideo
Phone: 2511 7777
More fun facts about Uruguay’s premier horse racing event – the Grand Ramirez Prize
- It’s been raced since 1889, the year before the Uruguayan Jockey Club was founded.
- José Pedro Ramírez was a lawyer, professor and journalist whose family owned the land on which the hippodrome was built. He was President of the Jockey Club at the time of his death.
- Nowadays you can have lunch and dinner in the stunning art-deco Jockey Club in downtown Montevideo as it is open to the general public.
- The race is always run on January 6 though it has been postponed three times because of major storms.
- The jockey who won the Ramirez most times is Uruguayan Irineo Leguisamo, considered the greatest rider in South America. He won the Ramirez the first time in 1926 and the last time almost forty years later in 1962! Leguisamo was from Salto, the same city as footballer Luis Suarez.
- The only woman to ride the Ramirez was the Argentinian Marina Lezcano who came in fourth in 1982. Lezcano won more than 600 titles throughout her career.
- The word in Spanish for a male jockey is ‘jockey’, for a woman jockey, it’s ‘jocketa’.
- The Ramirez is a ‘clean’ race. There have never been scandals, disputes over winners or cases of doping.
The Ramirez Prize is one of more than fifty carefully-selected annual events that you can find listed in The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo, out 2016.
Facts taken from an article in Spanish in El Pais, by Luis Prats Jan 3 2016
Photos: Jimmy Baikovicius