Waregem’s development from a small village into a city has been closely connected to horses since 30 August 1847. On that date, the very first race was held in the centre of the village, initiated by Felix De Ruyck and Jules Storme. The Waregem Races were born, and were massively popular with local people right from the start. In 1855, the Waregem Races moved to the meadows beside Holstraat, where Gaverbeek Hippodrome is still located today. A genuine steeplechase was set up, with the jump over Gaverbeek brook as its climax. Along with harness racing, equestrian sports in Waregem have since grown into a real spectacle. And this development is still continuing today. Waregem now hosts harness races, steeplechases, eventing competitions, show jumping, horse trials and public events every year.
GREAT FLANDERS STEEPLECHASE
The Waregem Races have grown since 1847 into an unmissable event. At the end of the nineteenth century, the major stables all came to Waregem to compete in the Great Flanders Steeplechase. Today, the Waregem Races attracts more than 40,000 visitors to Gaverbeek Hippodrome. These horse races are held every year on the first Tuesday after the last Sunday in August. Steeplechases and harness races are held that day, with the Great Flanders Steeplechase as the absolute climax. The course includes jumps such as the Irish Shoulder, Open Ditch, Rail Ditch & Fence, Breton Wall and... Gaverbeek. The brook is no less than seven and a half metres wide, and it always causes a sensation. It is a very technical obstacle as well. The jockey needs to approach the brook correctly to avoid a wet landing. Only the best horses and jockeys are eligible for this 4600 metre race and the 100,000 euro prize waiting at the end.
Legendary Great Steeplechase winners include the horses Red Path (7 victories between 1887 and 1896) and Taupin Rochelais (4 victories from 2015 to 2018).
Gaverbeek Hippodrome covers 17 hectares. The main entrance in Holstraat is just a few hundred metres from the city centre. The race track was first used in 1858. Since then, its appearance has changed completely through the years. The site has grown into a multipurpose equestrian sports ground with the perfect infrastructure for very many disciplines and types of training. Harness races and steeplechases are held here every weekend from the beginning of May until September. The hippodrome is also equipped with facilities such as an all-weather track. By the way, did you know that horses in Waregem run clockwise, in contrast to all other racing tracks?
The new grandstand building, HIPPO.LOGGIA (2016), ensures the commercial running of the site. You will find the HIPPO.WAR visitor centre there, along with a restaurant, function rooms etc.
Gaverbeek Hippodrome adjoins the Sport.Vlaanderen centre to the east. This equestrian sports centre has stables, indoor and outdoor tracks, a hotel and so on.
All in all, these facilities have ensured Waregem’s fame as the centre of equestrian sports in Belgium.
You can visit Gaverbeek Hippodrome with a city guide.