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Nakhon Ratchasima has a fantastic all weather flat track right next to Bung Talua Lake near the Army Base on the south side of the city. Although gambling in Thailand is illegal, racing is one of the few events that allows betting to take place (like Muay Thai), and it offers a very different experience to horse racing back home for me in the UK. It’s busier, louder, more confusing, all in Thai, hotter and has better snacks available to mention just a few things.
Generally the afternoon will consist of 10 races with a fairly long wait between races so feel free to wonder through the parade ring (on the far right of the running track near the main foot entrance) for a closer look at the nags. You can walk right in and checkout which horse you’re going to bet on, or ask a few questions of the locals and see which horse is the favourite. I choose the horse with the biggest bum and the smallest jockey – but I must say I don’t win much.
As you would expect, like almost anywhere and everywhere in Thailand, there are lots of food and drinks vendors selling everything from rice dishes, satay sticks, Isan sausages, ice cream and noodles to freshly squeezed orange juice, refreshing cool off towels and ice cold cans of beer. Mostly available under the grandstand and you can even watch the races on the televistions down there.
Locals treat you well and will often be available with tips. Look out for the older looking fellows with the Ginza sponsored Racing Programs in their hands. They’ll know who the favourite is, and it tends to be the favourite that wins – though the odds are hardly worth betting on it for the win (usually, for each 10 baht you bet on the horse it will return just 11 or 12!)
Betting: There are plenty of places to put your bet on. The giant betting board in the middle of the track has all the odds on it for a win or a place (2nd). For example if the number says 18 next to your horse, it means that for every 10 baht you bet, you will receive 18 baht back. In other words, a 100 baht bet will return 180 baht. The minimum bet is 50 baht and the max is up to you. Make sure you find the correct betting booth as they all have different values they accept. Some booths only take bets of 100 baht, others 500 baht. It is clearly written on a coloured piece of plastic above the booth. State clearly whether you are betting for the ‘WIN’ or ‘PLACE’.
NB. Don't bet with the private bookies.
Remember to move quickly after the last event. It can get a little messy if you are there till the last race, so best to get out as quickly as possible and not wait around for people to block up the exits.
I have done the full day many times but I prefer to go middle to late afternoon and watch 3-4 races. It is plenty. Drink heaps of fluid, mingle with the locals for their trusty horse racing advice/tips/knowledge and enjoy! There tends to be more space upstairs and you will get a better view. Toilets are slightly cleaner up there too ;)
If you are looking for an alternative to betting on the horses, you can head to the track midweek early in the morning (around 6-7am is good) and watch the horses train. It’s a totally different scene. Enjoy a coffee, watch the sunrise and experience a peaceful setting. Take your camera, but watch out for the dogs outside the racetrack!
When: Every Saturday (apart from Buddha Days when it will be changed to the Sunday)
Time: Noon onwards
Where: Horse Racing Stadium by the Military Area (head south from Yamo Monument and you can’t miss it)
Price: The entrance fee is 40 baht and is paid on the way in