Less than six kilometres from the centre of Bordeaux, the otherwise residential suburb of Le Bouscat forms the backdrop to the surprisingly green and wide open spaces of the Bordeaux–Le Bouscat racecourse, which hosts 32 horse racing meetings each year… That's the equivalent of some 230 individual races!
Don’t let the modern grandstand fool you into thinking this 140-acre arena is a recent addition to the sporting landscape of greater Bordeaux. The track was in fact opened in July 1836, taking over the organisation of horse-racing events that had been held, since 1828, at the hastily-conceived and reportedly poorly-designed Hippodrome de Gradignan (the only remnant of which in modern-day Gradignan is a road named Avenue de l’Hippodrome).
In 1845, arrangements became more formalised with the creation of the Société d’Encouragement du Club Bordelais, formed by horse racing enthusiasts who were members of the exclusive British-style club, the Cercle Bordelais. The society later merged with the Société des Steeple-Chases de Bordeaux, resulting in the Société d’Encouragement de Bordeaux, which continues to run the racecourse to this day.
The actual ownership structure though is a touch more complex. The grounds originally belonged to the local Teycheney family who, come 1920, no longer wanted the racecourse on their land. In response, local dignitary the Marquis du Vivier founded the Société Anonyme de l’Hippodrome du Bouscat (a limited company) and, after joining forces with some like-minded friends, purchased the property, which was subsequently leased back to the Société d’Encouragement de Bordeaux. Finally, in 2000, the local town council acquired the grounds for a token euro, and the new owners invested heavily in the infrastructure of the racecourse (from the changing and weighing facilities for the jockeys to a revamped “panoramic” restaurant and brasserie).
All three major types of horse racing can be enjoyed at Bordeaux-Le Bouscat: flat racing, steeplechases and harness racing, the latter taking place on a dedicated 1,600-metre-long sand track first installed in 1968. The circumference of the flat-racing track is 2,000 metres while the steeplechase course clocks in at 1,900 metres. The seating capacity of the venue is a relatively modest 1,200, with the main stand holding 600 people. A lowly admission fee of €5.50 is charged to anyone over the age of 14, while those lucky under-14s get in free!
Interestingly, the official website promotes its overnight accommodation services for horses that are just passing through, one of the main selling points being the racecourse’s location within easy reach of the Rocade, the Bordeaux motorway ring-road. A stable with hay bedding will cost €20 per night, or you can splash out on wood shavings for €30. So plenty to ponder there if you are passing through Bordeaux with a horse... or indeed on horseback!