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The races are a spectacle admired all over the world. Paco Martín
Sanlúcar horse races set to attract thousands, at home and away

Sanlúcar horse races set to attract thousands, at home and away

This iconic event on the beaches of the Cadiz town is watched by crowds of locals and visitors on the sand and many more follow from their homes

Álvaro Mogollo

Wednesday, 9 August 2023, 19:16

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Horseracing returns to the beaches of Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Cadiz province for another August. The 178th edition of this historic event, which has been declared of international tourist interest, will be held in two different stages: the first on 10, 11 and 12 August and the second on 25, 26 and 27 of the same month.

The chance to see this unusual summer event on the beach attracts many to this part of the Cadiz coastline, either to spend the day or to enjoy several days in the seaside town of Sanlúcar. Local hotels are usually fully booked during the racing season.

Cuisine is also another attraction to the area. The town, which was the Spanish capital of gastronomy last year, boasts a multitude of bars and restaurants where there is no shortage of the great local dishes such as prawns, 'tortillitas de camarones' (shrimp fritters) or fried fish. All washed down by local manzanilla wine, of course.

The races are held over six days. Las Piletas beach, where the marquee that serves as the headquarters of the Real Sociedad de Carreras de Caballos de Sanlúcar is set up, is the main hub of activity. Here the horses are prepared for the competition.

Minutes before each race, jockeys and animals perform the same ritual, which includes a set of rules that must be scrupulously followed, and attendees can see what the horses look like before betting on any of them.

Afterwards, the horses set off along the Sanlúcar sand towards the beach of Bajo de Guía, where the starting box awaits them. The exact location of the starting point varies depending on the length of each race.

The order of arrival at the finishing line can mean significant prizes for the stables and allows the punters to win some money if they are lucky.

That is just the official side. There are more finishing lines along the length of these beach races. Children mark lines on the sand at the level of makeshift stalls that they have built themselves prior to the event.

At each of these points, you can bet symbolic amounts that can be multiplied by up to four if you win, that is, if your horse is winning when it crossing that particular line.

Of course, on many occasions the horse that is winning halfway through the race and gives an extra euro to the punter on the beach, ends up behind the others at the official finish line. Or perhaps not. That is part of the essence of racing in Sanlúcar.

A spectacle like this always raises enormous expectation. The municipal television station, Costa Noroeste, broadcasts the races live and attracts audiences of thousands, many watching from abroad. The media influence of the races was estimated last year by Sanlúcar town hall at more than one million hits.

Another factor to take into account is the social relevance of the event. Numerous companies and sponsors are present at the official venue, where, every summer, athletes, business people and top-ranking public representatives from all the administrations get together, among many others.

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