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 News - 08-Feb-2012

Mauritius - Beaches Banquets And A Flutter At The Races

Tourism in Mauritius has acquired an unlikely ambassador in the diminutive shape of leading European jockey Frankie Dettori. Horse racing isn’t one of the attractions that immediately springs to mind in connection with the Indian Ocean paradise, but if Dettori has his way, all that may change.

The European champion jockey has been in Mauritius for the racing season and told the Daily Mail that, after years of living out of a suitcase, he was delighted to find a magnificent destination where he could combine business with pleasure. Mauritius, he says is one of the few places where he can take his family for a holiday in the sun while he puts his silks on for a race or two.

Mauritius boasts one of the oldest race tracks in the world, known as the Champs de Mars. The Mauritius Turf club in the island capital of Port Louis is celebrating its 200th anniversary next year, so any racing fans keen to have a flutter between days lazing on the beach should put the April to December racing season in their diary.

Dettori describes the Mauritius Jockey’s Weekend as one of the highlights of his working year, with riders from all over the world gathering to compete. “It’s not about winning money,” says Dettori, “It’s just great fun”.

Mauritius holidays are set to boom in the tourism industry, with the island nation’s ten-year plan to boost tourism to a million visitors a year – a tall order for an island whose population totals little more than that number. Dettori is enthusiastic about the possibilities. He told the Daily Mail that his interest in the food industry – he’s co-owner of the Frankie’s chain of restaurants - gives the island an added dimension for him, adding that one of his favourite holiday pastimes is spending hours over meals with family and friends.

The Champs de Mars has a special atmosphere which is missing from many modern racetracks around the world. Because Mauritius retains a village atmosphere from its colonial days, the locals all like to turn out for the big events. Dettori told the Daily Mail that, heading to the racetrack the traffic was so heavy that it looked as though everyone on the island was on their way to the course for the races.

At the track there are scores of bookmakers lining up to take the punters’ money. The magnificent old members’ lounge in the grandstand reflects the colonial charm of the whole island with its lazily swinging ceiling fans and wood panelling.

Dettori describes the track as fast and frantic, quoting one of his jockey colleagues who described it as being like letting a group of Formula 1 drivers loose on a go-kart track.

There are plenty of great deals for racing fanatics looking for all inclusive Mauritius holidays during the racing season, with some resorts offering special seven-night package deals which include return flights from Heathrow.

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