A sold-out crowd of more than 10,000, including Uruguay President Jorge Batlle, welcomed back horse racing to Maroñas National Racetrack in Montevideo.
Maroñas shut its gates December 14, 1997 when the Jockey Club of Montevideo announced it was no longer able to operate the historic facility, which was first constructed on its current site in 1874.
The Jockey Club of Montevideo purchased the track in 1889.
The new track is the property of the Republic of Uruguay, but the 30-year concession to operate the track was awarded to Hipica Rioplatense Uruguay, a company owned jointly by the international gaming company Codere, with headquarters in Spain and Argentina, and SLI, a subsidiary of The Liberman Group.
Maroñas occupies 157 acres in the northwest part of Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay. The population of Uruguay is 3.4 million people, with approximately 1.7 million living in Montevideo or its suburbs.
Hipica Rioplatenese Uruguay took possession of Maroñas on July 19. They immediately engaged in the renovation process, which included works on all parts of the property, from repairing the surrounding walls to completely rebuilding two racetracks. More than 500 horses trained daily at Maroñas during the construction and not a single day of training was canceled.
As recently reconstructed, Maroñas is comprised of two air-conditioned grandstands, the Palco Oficial and the Folle Ylla. A third grandstand, the Local Tribuna is partially restored and slated for public use in a second stage of construction.
The mutuel handle on opening day was $1,423,590 pesos, or nearly $55,000 American, for four races.
Batlle said, "This is not only a great day for horse racing fans, but also a great day for all people of Uruguay."
"It`s been an unforgettable day," said general manager Scott Wells. "I`ve spent my whole life in horse racing and have never seen an entire country so enthusiastic about the sport. When you can have a standing room only crowd break into applause every time the horses appear on the track and see the youngsters showing such enthusiasm, you know this is a great climate for racing."
The feature race was the Gran Premio Reinauguaracion del Hipodromo National de Maroñas. Procopio, ridden by jockey Esteban Lazo and trained by Anibal San Martin won it.