The Horse Rider's Journal

The hills are Alive


Horse racing is one of the oldest sports traditions in Sri Lanka and we visited the island’s only race course.
Photography SANDRA GREVE Text SANDRA GREVE / The Horse Rider’s Journal No.9

Nuwara Eliya is a town in the central highlands of Sri Lanka with a stunning landscape which, thanks to its high altitude, has a climate that is much cooler than the tropical heat of the lowlands. Indeed, the town can be grey and grim in a peculiarly Scottish way on a rainy day, but it rapidly warms up as the sun climbs high. It is also known as Little England and is an important location for tea production. With its rose gardens, red-roofed bungalows and the English country-house-style Hill Club – complete with hunting pictures, mounted fish and hunting trophies, and an 18-hole golf course – it seems somehow more British than Britain itself.

The town is home to Sri Lanka’s only horse-racing ground. Originally introduced here by the British, horse racing is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest sports and remains a popular attraction. The horse-racing festival in Nuwara Eliya is one of the biggest events of the Sri Lankan social and holiday calendar, taking place around the Sri Lankan New Year in April; the Turf Club has stepped up its activities to make it an entertaining, exciting and colourful part of the holiday season. The festival is held on the picturesque, semi-derelict racecourse, with many other events taking place besides the racing: rock climbing, carnivals, motor races, golf tournaments and flower shows.

The racecourse is the setting for a variety of events during the month of April. In previous years, the list of race meetings has included the Governor’s Cup, Labookelle Cup, Upali Wijewardene Kandos Cup, Nescafé Cup, Sporting Times Trophy, Sumathi Cup and Sunquick Cup. In addition to experiencing the thrill of racing, there will also be other interesting diversions at the ground, including fashion shows and a parade of the styles sported by attendees, for which prizes will be awarded in a variety of categories, including Best Dressed Lady, Best Dressed Gent and Most Photogenic Personality.•

Horse & Pony Rides are available at the Racecourse. Stay in the colonial style hotel, Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya.