The first impression on arriving at the Hipodromo de Gavea in Rio is one of sheer luxury and enjoyment.
Whereas Goodwood has splendid scenery, La Zarzuela in Madrid a cosy paddock, Longchamp the fashion of Paris, the Hipodromo de Gavea takes you back to a previous existence where tradition & elegance reigned.
One definitely feels spoilt at Gavea and like when one discovers a new beach, you want to tell everyone about it but you also want to enjoy it for yourself !
The racetrack is 5 minutes from Ipanema beach, situated next to the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, part of which was reclaimed to build the course.
It has 3 left-handed courses, the outer turf track which measures 2,200m, the dirt racing track of 2,040m and another dirt training track of 1,700m.
Races on this very flat and galloping track are seldom run slowly and jockeys tend to present their challenge a little early at the top of the 600m straight.
Built between 1920-26, the Clubhouse Grandstand was first opened in 1926 and it still looks and is maintained to the high standards of those times.
Everything from the betting parlours, gardens, paddock to the many bars and restaurants is run with ultimate efficiency.
Above all, the track's employees are extremely friendly and will help you with placing bets, buying a book in the paddock restaurant or bringing you refreshments to your table during the racing.
With the political move to Brasilia in 1961, Gavea was no longer the focal point of Brazilian racing.
However, since 1992, the Jockey Club Brasileiro (JCB) has come under new administration centering around racing and off-track betting and has allowed Gavea to prosper once more.
The State of Rio has 93 OTB parlours with another 23 situated in the other states of Brasil.
Racing is held 4 times a week throughout the year on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. The season runs from July to June.
Although about 1,500 horses and 800 people are housed in the Racing Village on Gavea's backstretch, horses are also trained in the farms and training centers located in the cooler parts of Rio State.
Gavea has a flourishing Apprentices Academy with high standards of jockeyship which has produced great South American jockeys like Jorge Ricardo, Goncalinho Almeida and Alex Mota. See our Brazilian Jockeys section.
Oh, and the most important thing are the horses. A casual inspection of the horses in the paddock makes it quite clear why Brazilian thoroughbreds are so popular both with local, South American and US owners and breeders.
Famous horses to have raced abroad include Gentleman, Much Better and Riboletta to name but a few.