After more than two months of total closure, the Beirut Hippodrome is back into business, only without the cheering or betting.
The Beirut Hippodrome went temporarily out of service, as did most businesses and industries over the past few months, due to the ongoing health crisis. Since March, the horse races had to stop after Lebanon went into lockdown.
Despite that, throughout the several months of closure, a jockey with 37 years of racing experience, would regularly check into the arena to exercise the horses and keep them in proper racing shape.
Eventually, the rigorous training came into play last Thursday, when the hippodrome held 8 races.
However, the catch this time is that the races all took place without a crowd, which would usually “create an atmosphere, excitement,” Ali Kassem, the jockey who regularly trained the horses, told The Daily Star.
Before competing, the racers were sanitized and instructed to wear face masks to ensure that all health safety measures were in place throughout the action.
Under normal circumstances, the hippodrome would hold races for varying cash prizes (up to several thousand dollars) amid the cheering of hundreds of enthusiastic betters and viewers.
Notably, the Beirut Hippodrome races are not usually televised; only the fans who attend the hippodrome physically can watch the races.
But despite the hippodrome being reopened without the lively noise, it had to be “because if the horse racing stops, nothing will bring it back,” Director-General Nabil Nasrallah told The Daily Star.
Beirut’s modern hippodrome has been around since the 19th century.
It witnessed its peak of fame and prosperity in the 1960s when it was considered one of the busiest hippodromes in the world.
Celebrities and monarchs from numerous countries would travel to Beirut to be entertained by the horse races, which would occur on a weekly basis.
In addition to attracting horse racing enthusiasts, the hippodrome welcomes an average of 24,000 visitors for its annual The Garden Show & Spring Festival, the next edition of which is set to take place from June 2nd to the 5th, 2021.