Special Feature --- La Zarzuela Racetrack, Spain
Madrid re-opens October 23rd after a 9 year closure!....by Nick Higgins

See our new photo gallery of the re-opening of Madrid racetrack. ...or....
Check out some of the main Spanish horse racing personalities.

Racing at Madrid's Hipodromo de la Zarzuela kicks off again on Sunday October 23rd, 2005, after a 9 year break and JockeysRoom.com will bring news and photos of the inaugural day!

A unique opportunity arose for racecourse management groups worldwide in 2000. The tender for one of the most beautiful racecourses worldwide started in September, 2000 and ended up as a complete farce when it was declared null & void in October 2001.

The 25 year lease was first adjudicated and then taken away from Equalia, a joint venture between Antena 3 TV and the French PMU betting organization.

The government panel decided that PMU's real interest was to market French betting in Spain over and above the rehabilitation and management of Spain's capital racecourse.

The next "winner" was PEH, Proyectos Emresariales Hipicos, a consortium of local Spanish banks, Spanish racing people and Arena Leisure, Victor Chandler, Newmarket Racecourse Trust and United Racecourses.

However, the whole tender was abandoned by the State body, Patrimonio Nacional, who claim that they will be relaunching the tender under new conditions in 2003.

Instead, the government took the bull by the horns and in summer 2003, the state run organisation, SEPI, took a 90% stake and the state-run gambling organisation, ONLAE took the remaining 10%. A total of 9m of initial share capital has been drawn up for the new venture.

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To stress the importance of getting the racetrack back to life, a leading businessman, Calos Rudolfo, was appointed as the new CEO and his first prioritiy was to evaluate how long it would take to get the turf track back into operation.
The track launched its new web site in Feb 2004, and it can be seen at www.HipodromodeLaZarzuela.es

However, with the sudden change in government in March 2004, Mr.Rodulfo was replaced by a Mr.Gregorio Manez in line with the new Socialist's Party wishes. It also transpired that the slow progress to resucitate the track has all been due to the slow and arduous process of obtaining and abiding to local planning permission and regulations for the track.

Three days after the turf course was seeded, a huge torrential downpour wiped away all that work and the management had to start again. As of September 2005, the grass track has now bedded in, the rails are in place, stables are having their finishing touches applied, Steriline starting stalls acquired, photo finish equipment, etc

When La Zarzuela springs back to life, it will once again form the focal point of racing in Spain where racecourses also exist in San Sebastian, Mijas, Seville, Dos Hermanas, Orense (newly opened in May 2005), La Cenia, Gran Canaria, Santander and Sanlucar de Barrameda (beach) near Jerez.

Photo of Cash Asmussen winning on Salaam by Jose-Antonio Rodriguez

Of special interest is the new racetrack built at Dos Hermanas outside Seville which seems to being given the full treatment in so far as investment goes. Racing started there in May 2002 under the French PMU control who were interested in the betting rights.

However, Carrera entertainment, who also run Mijas, teamed up with VC Bet Online to bring Sky viewers live racing on Sundays via the 238 Majestic Channel.

I went to the new Mijas track in June, 2002 and again in April, 2004. It caters to the racing enthusiast who is willing to spend a few balmy hours in the evening picking some winners. The Mijas Cup was transmitted live by AtTheRaces in May where the incident-packed race was won by El Hechizado, trained by the Duque de Albuquerque, Joannes Osorio, at his stud farm in El Soto de Manzaneque, north of Madrid.

Racing was last staged at La Zarzuela in December 1996. A lot of turf fans eagerly awaited news of the adjudication and much hot debate existed in certain Spanish Turf Internet Chat rooms concerning this.

La Zarzuela racecourse was built in 1943 and is situated 7 minutes west of the center of Madrid, adjacent to the A6 motorway.

Its unique grandstands still attract architects from all over the world.


Covering an area of 110 hectares, the racecourse has an idyllic setting and looks onto the nationally protected "El Pardo" estate of the King of Spain.

La Zarzuela has a charm that other racecourses crave for and Sunday afternoons are extremely peaceful there.

Jockeys to have ridden at La Zarzuela between 1988 & 1996 include:
Willie Shoemaker, Piggott, Dettori, Asmussen, Carson, Cochrane, Reid, Munro, Quinn, Fallon, Darley, Duffield, F.Head, R & M.Hills, Egan, Ives, Murtagh, Kinane, Gilson, Mosse, Peslier, Doleuze.

Horses that have raced at La Zarzuela include:
Royal Gait, Partipral, Vert Amande, Crack Regiment, Halesia, Mongol Warrior, Madrileno, Fado, Dariyoun, Robertiya, Wavy Run and Shrewd Idea.

Steeplechasing
La Zarzuela also used to stage jump racing around a figure of eight course that ran inside the main course.

Great horses such as Batton Passer, Peloche, Salt and Frailes entertained Spanish racing fans.
Jockeys such as Jose-Miguel Reyes, Manuel Borrego, Jose Simo and the Duque of Albuquerque rode many winners on this circuit which staged its last jump races in 1992 when Enrique Sarasola decided to do away with the medium.

Hopefully, the new SEPI/ONLAE outfit will see the benefits of resucitating jump racing, often a second home for ex-flat horses in Spain in the past.

Main Details

  • Racing Season Turf: March-June, September--December
  • Racing Season Sand: June,July,August (floodlit from 12 to 2am at night !)
  • Annual Racing Fixtures: 59
  • Betting Turnover: approx 1,500 Mn Ptas in 1991

    Main Facilities

  • Courses (left-handed): 1 grass 1,700m with two chutes (6 & 9 furlongs)
  • 1 sand, 1550m
  • Two other sand training tracks
  • Main Races: all Spanish Classics.
  • Seating Capacity: est. 4,000
  • Betting: United Tote (about 55 terminals) some self-service
  • Restaurants: 2 and many bars !
  • Stabling: up to 1,000 horses
  • 1 paddock behind the stands
  • 1 pre-parade
  • 1 unsaddling enclosure.
  • Parking: up to 2,000 cars
  • Transport: Taxis & Buses link to the course.

    To find out more about La Zarzuela and its charms, please e-mail us at JockeysRoom.com or ring Nick Higgins on +44 7796 99 68 99.

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