Tbilisi’s Forgotten Racecourse

So, after nearly three months in Tbilisi, Georgia, my time here is coming to an end. And one part of my stay I really wanted to write about was the old abandoned racecourse in the city. And upon learning of its existence, I just had to set out and see what I could discover for myself.

While many tourists will hear about the ancient religious history, numerous Cathedrals and the many reminders of former Soviet state occupation of Georgia, however, I was more intrigued by something all together different—the Old Hippodrome.

I have been passionate about horse racing since my teenage years, and in particular flat racing season. Watching Royal Ascot on television was an annual event, as was Derby Day at the start of June each year at Epsom. And so the very mention of an old racecourse in Tbilisi—you can see why it imediatly caught my attention.

The Old Hippodrome Park is situated next to the Kakutsa Cholokashvili Highway, and at first glance it just looks like a flat, vast, open space of green land, in what is an otherwise built up, bustling City. As a keen runner, I decided first to explore the racecourse by running around its outer perimeter to get a feel for the place, and so, off I set.

Around each corner I discovered something different, from the dilapidated former grandstand, to the rusting starting stalls that had been left behind to rust under some trees. As I ran, I could easily imagine the majestic thoroughbreds thundering down the home straight towards the finish line (see 200m picture – below). The park has a welcoming, but somewhat sad atmosphere, and I could not help but think about its former use—the sound of the cars on the nearby highway almost sounding like the crowd on a busy race day.

Built by architect, Iuri Kasradze, the old hippodrome first opened in 1959, before eventually closing its gates permanently in 2007. Currently, it provides the local community with some valuable outdoor green space, a place to relax with family or friends, and it’s also a popular place for locals to exercise. There is unfortunately very little other information available about this once popular sporting venue, so I thought it best to try and tell the remainder of its story or rather what it has become, through my pictures.


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