By William Jones, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Hipódromo da Gávea, or Jockey Club as it is referred to in Rio, is one of the more visually stunning horse racing tracks in the world, with a course and accompanying building which evokes the spirit of the 1920s in Brazilian South America when tradition and elegance reigned.
French architect André Raimbert took on the task of relocating the old track from where Maracanã is today, and constructing the new one on what were previously marshlands bordering the Lagoa. The track, three grandstands and entrance building took six years to erect and were completed in 1926.
“The racecourse grandstand in Gávea represented a breakthrough for Brazilian architecture. It was considered one of the largest in Latin America in the Twenties,” explains architect and urbanist Angenor Antonio Barbosa, a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
He continues, “The project included four tribunes: social, honor, popular and professionals, split by social groups, enhancing the defined roles within that environment. This compartmentalization was common, even in theaters where people had captive chairs.”
The architecture represents the structural decadence of that era as well as some of the social norms which have, nearly a century later, become outdated. Since its creation, the course has boasted a selection of upscale bars, lavish restaurants, a jockey school, smoky betting parlors, open-air spectator galleries and members clubs, which were historically split to designate the social class of the attendees.
The complex has a full capacity of around 70,000 people, with 3,000 seats spread across three grandstands that can be accessed through the impressively designed main entrance located opposite Praça Santos Dumont in Gávea. Furthermore, about 1,500 horses and 800 people are housed in the racing village on Jockey Club’s backstretch.
Harry Taylor, a British expatriate living in Rio and owner of Storm Studios photography, tells The Rio Times, “The building is very impressive with beautiful old traditional architecture, and inside lots of marble floors and dark wooden staircases. It reminds me of an old colonial members club.”
“You queue up to place your bets at traditional booths, with marble tops and beautiful dark wooden surrounds and bars, rather like you’d imagine a very smart old bank to be.” Taylor describes.
Each year there is one big event which attracts the largest crowd, The Grande Premio Brasil. The grueling 2,400 meter race has been held every summer since 1933, which thoroughbred horses, jockeys and trainers compete throughout the year to qualify for.
The race is renowned across the globe and often features entrants from racing powerhouse countries such as The Republic of Ireland, The United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and France.
With the panoramic view of the Lagoa as a backdrop, the complex hosts numerous festivals, exhibitions and music concerts throughout the year. Racing is held four times a week throughout the year on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. Midweek race cards begin at 5PM while on weekends races start at 2PM.