Horse racing probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when Iraq is mentioned. After all, the country is still on the road to recovery after the war. Indeed, battles are fought all over the country on a daily basis. Why would horse racing be at the top of anyone’s list in Iraq?

But despite the stark reality and the fact that gambling is NOT allowed in Islamic law, horse racing does have a following in Iraq. I, myself, just found out about it today when I read a feature article on AFP:

Seven thoroughbred horses thundered down the backstretch engulfed in a cloud of desert dust before Rose of Ali surged across the finish line first, spurred by the zealous whip of a jockey in white silks.

A small crowd of spectators at Baghdad’s Equestrian Club cheered as they moved towards the winner’s enclosure.

Others sauntered over to collect their winnings or pored over the list of runners in the next race, featuring contenders named Lover, Cordoba and Sharqiya.

There were just a few hundred enthusiasts gathered at Iraq’s only horse racing track on one recent afternoon, perhaps reflecting that gambling of any kind is a pleasure forbidden by Islam.

The track in the west of the city has nevertheless been open almost continuously for more than 80 years.

Can you imagine that? Despite the odds, the track has been in existence for almost a century! If other sports such as football and basketball bring together different nations, horse racing does it for the Iraqis. Wishing them all the best!

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