Horse racing on snow – White Turf racing competition, St. Moritz, Switzerland

White Turf worldwide racing competition is the coldest horse racing competition on earth but the Swiss have been doing each February since 1906 like clockwork. And they solely needed to cancel it as soon as in the course of the delicate winter of 1964.

White Turf Sign

White Turf Sign

Still, I’m arriving on the second race day of the season and the earlier week’s course needed to be shortened. Apparently the unseasonally excessive temperatures had triggered water to kind on a number of locations on the monitor and there was a hazard of slipping on an icy patch.

Since then there’s been heavy snow and the ice has a thickness of over 30cm, sufficient to hold the burden of the tent metropolis that has sprung up on the frozen lake. Even higher, it’s a shiny sunny winter’s day, and I’m properly wrapped as much as expertise the coldest horse racing on earth. My fellow racegoers are of their furs, in spite of everything that is St. Moritz, and are already knocking again the champagne and oysters.

The jockeys, homeowners and trainers have come from everywhere in the world, not solely attracted by over £300,000 of prize cash, but additionally by the individuality of the occasion – that is the world’s solely racecourse on snow and 300,000 spectators are anticipated to attend.

As properly as typical flat racing, there’s harness racing with the horses pulling a ski mounted buggy, and skijoring, the place riders on skis are pulled by unsaddled thoroughbreds And all this in opposition to a backdrop of the magnificent Engadine mountains.

The first race begins at 11.30 and I’m right here early to absorb the environment. There’s dwell music on varied levels, connoisseur catering and, after all, queues for the betting workplace. Children get pony rides, trainers showcase their horses within the paddock because the crowds collect within the stands with their binoculars. I take my place with my digital camera and am excited to see the 1700m harness race. It’s like Ben Hur on ice, with the riders of their chariots misplaced in blizzards of snow kicked up by galloping hooves.

Events occur each half hour and subsequent up is a flat race, barely delayed as one the horses misplaced considered one of its particular tailor-made sneakers – the sides are fitted with mini crampons to chew into the snow. It’s adopted by a slower pony race, then it’s the flip of the extraordinary skikjöring. Although the flat and harness racing is not any extra harmful than on turf, that is way more hazardous. Since the jockeys are on skis, being pulled by the horses, falls are widespread with ensuing damaged bones.

They’re off!

White Turf – they’re off!

 

Soon they’re off and. as they hurtle previous me at 50km/h, I have to say it’s onerous to not be impressed with their sheer daring. Physical health and energy, to say nothing of snowboarding abilities are essential, but it surely’s only a loopy approach of passing your Sunday. Miraculously no person appears to get damage however the crowd goes wild as they full the two,700m course. The winner is Zambeso, pulling skier Adrian von Gunten who wins the title “King of the Engadine” for 2020 and prize cash of CHF15000 (round £12000).

After all this pleasure the subsequent flat races appear to be a little bit of an anti-climax however there’s nonetheless huge cash concerned. The GP LONGINES has a handbag of one other CHF15000, as does the GP Sport Mind and Friends, and it’s sure that huge cash is altering fingers on the bookies. I solely spend small change with them, as I haven’t studied the shape, however after all lose all of it. At least the champagne is on ice.

Fact File

WHEN: White Turf St. Moritz takes place yearly on three Sundays in February.

FLY: Flights can be found from main airports to Zurich, Geneva or Sion (seasonal).One approach fares begin from £74 to Zurich and £83 to Geneva if travelling from the UK together with all taxes, charges and surcharges, one piece of maintain and hand baggage.

STAY: The 5* Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski is a brief stroll from the lake and has a wonderful Michelin-starred restaurant.

 

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