This past year I had the opportunity to visit Hipódromo de las Américas racetrack, a magnificent Thoroughbred (and Quarter Horse) park in Mexico City.
I got the idea while actually helping my friends and trainers Christine Amman and Edgar Mendoza while hot-walking horses for them at Hastings Racecourse. As Edgar is from Mexico, I told him I was going to Puerto Vallarta for a couple of months and he suggested I fly to Mexico City and visit the track, and with that, an exciting idea was born!
As I actually lived in Puerto Vallarta for six months, I had many ex-pat friends still there, and when they got wind of me going to Mexico City for a weekend, one lone woman became five.
As some may know of me, I’m an avid, self-taught horse racing photographer and was already imagining images in my mind prior to the visit. Because of Covid protocols in Mexico City, I waited eagerly until the track lifted the bans to allow spectators and chose to visit on a weekend where they were actually running their Clasicos (stake races). I couldn’t wait to see the differences of their track compared to Canada tracks, and I was certainly in for a surprise.
Through massive correspondence with ex-jockey friends living in Mexico, everyone graciously provided me with information and names to contact, and of course we all used translators to correspond. I got a reply from the track photographer, who answered all my questions and probably thought I was a bit nutty.
Finally the day came and we swapped our swimsuits for suitable clothing and hopped on the plane. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to visit Mexico City, it’s magical. As soon as we touched down, we called an Uber from the airport and were off to our hotel to change and get ready for the races that afternoon, I was so excited I could barely handle it!
When we arrived at the track it was massive and overwhelming. At the main entrance there is a huge statue of a Thoroughbred. As you walk through the entrance to the clubhouse, you pass the beautifully manicured circular paddock with a viewing area on the second level, which was so neat. The handlers were doing some saddling on the walk and the officials were dressed impeccably in denim pants and khaki hats. Once saddled, the horses were greeted by the pony people and walked down a long lane where you could stand and watch them pass. The outrider gave me a wave, as well as the jockeys, so I must have stood out!
Post parade is the same as at home. The outriders were smartly dressed, the pony people actually wore the pinnies with the numbers on, which I thought was a great idea so you could keep your eye on your horse. The jockeys wore the head numbers from the bridle on their arms. The gate crew walked by me and they all had flack jackets and helmets on, dressed sharply in denim long-sleeve shirts and pants.
When the gates sprung open it was so exciting; the announcer of course was speaking Spanish and so very rapido I could barely understand but didn’t care. I was down along the fence and my friends up in the clubhouse were just happy to be eating and drinking and betting their pesos on whichever horse looked cute.
It amazed me that the horses came back barely blowing, with only the sweat marks from the saddle ‒ however, I was sweating enough for the field. It was a balmy 100ºF in May with no wind and the air was completely still, but it seemed everyone but me was cool as a cucumber. I even had to give my camera a rest as it was heating up really fast, it wasn’t acclimatized either.
All in all, we had a wonderful day at Hipódromo de las Américas, and I will never forget my visit. Even though countries have different rules and customs, I learned that day that horse racing speaks a universal language. Stay tuned, as this year coming up I’m planning a double whammy to see the steeplechases and the flat racing in Scotland. I can hardly wait!