San Sebastian Race Track: French Turf Writer Tells a Romantic Story of Origin of Famous Spanish Race Course, Daily Racing Form, 1922-09-20


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SAN SEBASTIAN RACE TRACK French Turf Writer Tells a Romantic Story of Origin of Famous Spanish Race Course. Few in this country know, much about the Spanish turf and still fewer know the details of the organization of the great racing association which operates the track at San Sebastian. This course sprang into world-wide prominence last winter with the announcement of the record prize of 00,000 hung up for the Grand Prix of King Alfonso XIIL The romantic story of the idea behind the organization of the San Sebastian course, of the ambitious plans which resulted in a startlingly successful revival of a languishing sport in Spain, and of a great dream realized is recounted probably for the first time, by "Viator," in Le Jockey, as follows: Castles in Spain. San Sebastian at present is at the forefront of the international turf calendar. The creation of this track, during the war, has all of the elements of a fairy story. The tale is a short one and I take exreme pleasure in recounting it. At the Newmarket October sales in 1915 I met the Marquis de San Miguel, and, when I questioned him on the status of Spanish racing, he replied : "Our only meetings are at Madrid and Seville and they are not important. If we could establish a track at San Sebastian that would boom the sport and I think our Societe dEncouragement would be inclined to offer prizes. Certainly San Sebastian has not the resources to finance the project at home." The evening of that same day I recounted this conversation in a post script to a letter I was writing to a person who I knew would be interested. He in turn communicated it to Mr. Marquet, who is a directing force in diverse and ambitious enterprises. He telegraphed me the following day in these terms : "The idea of a race track at Sari Sebastian has already occurred to me. Come here at once and Construct the track. It is essential that the opening take place the first Sunday of July. There will be racing three days a week for three months. An association which I will found will offer the prizes. There will be a million pesetas in purses for the first year." , - The site was not acquired until December. It was a tract of woods, hills anct marshes in a picturesque location. Work began April "2, and July 2, 1916, the track was. opened with a Grand Prize of 0,000 as the feature. The inaugural was a triumph as will be recalled. After the war this success was diminished. The Spanish public had not taken, strongly to racing and Spanish owners were few in spite of the example and encouragement of the king. The French owners, finding the turf once more on a prosperous basis in their own country, were not so ready to sally forth into foreign lands for their campaigns. Last year this begins the second act of the fairy story I was dining with the guiding spirit of San Sebastian some days after the running of the sixth Grand Prix which had been won by a plater taken out of a claiming race some time previously by "Pere" Leiux from a mediocre band. "And yet 5,000 is a rather big prize," said the president of the San Sebastian Jockey Club to me in the course of the dinner. "I dont understand why it does not attract foreign owners." "Offer a prize of 00,000 and everybody will respond," I replied. He looked at me for several seconds and then said: "It is agreed. There will be a prize of at least 00,000 in 1922 at San Sebastian." And that is how it came about that the greatest turf prize of the world was contested in Spain. It must be confessed that it has the elements of magic.

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