Watching the horse-racing in the San Rafael hippodrome is a popular activity amongst locals who go down to place bets, have a drink at the bar and meet their friends. A day at the horses may sound like a typically British Sunday afternoon activity, with images of extravagant hats and heels sinking into the mud springing to mind, but the Ibicenco version has a very different flavour and is a light-hearted affair open to all members of the public. Aside from this, the main difference is the nature of the races as the art of the well-known trotting races or “Trotons” (as these are called locally) is that all horses must race without breaking out of a trot. This is an extremely difficult discipline to teach a horse itching to run and makes the outcomes of the race all the more unpredictable. The second difference is that jockeys are not mounted on the horses’ backs as we are accustomed to seeing, but seated in a small two-seater spring carriage that is attached to the back of the horse, much like a traditional horse and cart but in light-weight miniature. These local aficionados train their horses all year round on their own patches of land, and you will sometimes see a Troton horse and rider practising in the small fields outside their homes or surrounding areas.
In the summer months most races occur on a Saturday at 19:30 when the weather starts to cool off, with bets being taken around 20:00 (in the winter this changes to Sunday mornings). If this sounds like your thing then don’t hesitate to get involved, the races are a fun and alternative way to spend an evening on the island, with a guaranteed good atmosphere and even the chance to win some pennies. The hippodrome is easy to find, just off the road from San Rafael to Santa Eularia, with an ample car park and there is a reasonably priced bar on site so you can enjoy a snack and a few drinks to celebrate (or drown your sorrows) once the races are done.