The Dominican Republic is the site in the Americas where horses were first introduced. The very first ones arrived in 1493 during Christopher Columbus second voyage from Spain. This one consisted of 24 horses and 10 mares, but several more horses were brought from Spain in the subsequent years. From Hispaniola these horses spread to every part in the Americas. The native Dominican horses are direct descendants of these first horses in the Americas. These native horses (not to confuse with other horses that have been taken to the country during the past 100 years or so and form a select group of beautiful and large horses equivalent in size as seen elsewhere) are smaller and leaner than horses in general, but sturdier and completely acclimatized to the island’s climate and conditions.
Despite its history with horses is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, hirse racing as a sport known today is a more recent phenomenon. Horse racing has existed in the Dominican Republic since the XX century. From its inception it has been a sport with a limited but loyal fan base. Betting is allowed in Dominican horse races. The country has one of the most complete horse racetrack in Central America and the Carribean and the various horse races and tournaments are transmitted nationwide via television, the radio, in print media and the internet. Unlike in other countries where horse racing is a sport of the rich and famous, in the Dominican Republic the sport is much more democratic catering to all social classes.
National Equestrian Commission (Comisión Hípica Nacional)
The Comisión Hípica Nacional (The National Equestrian Commission) is the main organization that regulates the equestrian industry and horse races in the Dominican Republic. It is a government institution and was founded in August 15, 1999. Since 2013 it has been in charge of all operations of the V Centenario Racetrack and its office is here too.
La Herradura Racetrack (Hipódromo La Herradura)
Horse racing in the Dominican Republic has its origin as an official sport in 1917 with the inauguration of the La Herradura Racetrack in Santiago de los Caballeros. The racetrack was in the Eliseo Espaillat in the Baracoa neighborhood. The oval racetrack had a baseball diamond in the center where baseball games used to take place. Baseball was introduced by the US Marines in the American invasion 1916 – 1924 as they played the sport as an entertainment and catching the interest of young Dominicans. They were taught by the Americans how to play the sport.
Trujillo Racetrack (Hipódromo Trujillo)
La Herradura Racetrack was closed and replaced with a new one named Trujillo Racetrack. This was inaugurared on December 7, 1945 in Santiago de los Caballeros. It occupied the area where currently stands the Estadio Cibao which was inaugurated on October 24, 1958. The racetrack was an oval shape and, similar to La Herradura, in the center was a baseball diamond that hosted baseball games. It remained closed from November 1948 to March 1949. Later it was remodelled and reinaugurated on November 11, 1956.
Other cities with where horse racetracks were built by individuals includes Puerto Plata, San Francisco de Macorís, Moca, San Pedro de Macorís and La Romana.
Perla Antillana Racetrack (Hipódromo Perla Antillana)
The first horse racetrack built by the Dominican government on order of dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was the Hipódromo Perla Antillana (Antillian Pearl Racetrack) in Santo Domingo. It was inaugurated on February 23, 1944, within days of the 100th anniversary of the Dominican Republic, as one of the most modern and complete in Latin America and at a cost of RD$5 million. The racetrack was the work of Dominican architects Guillermo González (a graduate of Yale University in the United States) and José Antonio Caro Álvarez (a graduate of École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris, France), in addition to Alfredo González (brother of Guillermo) and Bienvenido Martínez Brea. It was built in the modern mid-century style focused on clean lines and a solid white color. Following the tradition set by the La Herradura Racetrack in Santiago, this one too had a baseball diamond in the center that hosted several baseball games. Other events took place here such as the military parade. The Dominican equestrian races had a boom in popularity in 1966 when Salomón Sanz Espejo rented the Perla Antillana from the Santo Domingo City Hall. The Perla Antillana Racetrack was closed and destroyed in the 1990’s and in its place was built the Plaza de la Salud (Health Plaza) inaugurated in 1997, one of the largest complexes of public hospitals and other health related institutions in the Dominican Republic.
V Centenario Racetrack (Hipódromo V Centenario)
The Dominican government under the presidency of Dr Joaquín Balaguer decided to close the Perla Antillana Racetrack in Santo Domingo and in its place build the Plaza de la Salud (Health Plaza), which is one of the largest concentration of public hospitals in the country. To replace Perla Antillana, the government built a new racetrack in what was then the outskirts of Santo Domingo (now Santo Domingo Este, another municipality in the Greater Santo Domingo area). The entire facility had a final cost of RD$230 million (about US$6 million). Despite the “Hipódromo V Centenario” name was official given by president Dr Joaquín Balaguer was inaugurated on April 25, 1995 with 3,500 seats; 1,500 parking spaces and considered the most modern horse racing facility in the Caribbean. Entry to spectators is free and there is a part dedicated to kids with clowns and other children entertainments. Horse races are held on Tuesdays and Saturdays. A part of the parking lot is now used as one of the many storage sites by OMSA, the government owned city buses with routes in Greater Santo Domingo and Santiago, the two largest urbanized areas of the Dominican Republic.
The V Centenario Racetrack is the only horse racetrack of its worldclass quality in the Dominican Republic. Racetracks as complete and of the caliber of the V Centenario aren’t common in Central America and the Caribbean. The Hipódromo Camarero in Puerto Rico and Caymanas Park in Jamaica are the only comparable ones in the Caribbean, while in Central America the only one is the Hipódromo Presidente Remon in Panama. The legendary Oriental Park Racetrack in Havana, Cuba was the premier faciliry for horseracing in the Caribbean, considered one of the best in the world. It was closed by Fidel Castro. Horse racing is very popular in much of the rest of the Caribbean with perhaps the most fancy taking place at the Garrison Savannah Racetrack in Barbados despite it isn’t as complete as the V Centenario.
The Dominican Republic celebrates several horse racing tournaments throughout the year, including 26 Classics. All equestrian racing tournaments take place at the V Centenario Racetrack.
Horse races and tournaments that take place in this worldclass facility are also transmitted throughout the Dominican Republic, allowing many more fans to enjoy the sport without their presence at the V Centenario Racetrack. Plus, there are more than 150 official horse races betting houses nationwide that further facilitates the Dominican public from being a part of the horse races without being present at the racetrack.
In Dominican television the horse races as transmitted via channel 72 of Claro, 36 of Wind Telecom and 63 of Altice. In addition, they are transmitted via radio through Radio Universal and live via Youtube in their channel “Carreras V Centenario”.
Revista Hípica is an informative magazine of horse racing in the Dominican Republic. It publishes content relating horse races and tournaments at the V Centenario Racetrack. It also is in conjunction with Presidente Remon Racetrack in Panama.
Remembering Simón Alfonso Pemberton
Simón Alfonso Pemberton was the greatest equestrian racing storyteller of the Dominican Republic. He was nicknamed “El Mago” and had several unique frases for which he was known such as saying “dobló por la curvita de la Paraguay.” His storytelling abilities began in 1962 in the television program of his own creation “Hípica Dominicana” in “La Voz del Trópico.” From that year until it closed he was the storyteller of most of the horse races and tournaments at the Perla Antillana Racetrack and later continued at the V Centenario Racetrack until 2013. His voice was much beloved and familiar with Dominicans nationwide, even among those that were not fans of horse racing. He was born on October 28, 1936 in La Romana to immigrant parents. He died of old age complications on March 15, 2021 in Santiago de los Caballeros. He was 86 years old.
Joel Rosario: The Greatest Dominican Jockey
Born on January 14, 1985 in San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic; Joel Rosario has become the greatest Dominican jockey of all times. So far, he has won 46 tournaments around the world including the prestigious Kentucky Derby in 2013; Belmont Stakes in 2014 and 2019; and the Clásico del Caribe in 2008. He ranked second as the most paid jockey in the United States in 2013, 2014 and 2020, plus in the top 5 in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2018 and 2019. In 2013 he won the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race, at a whopping US$10 million. He is still active in the sport and looking forward to many more wins in international world of horse racing!