Travels with my Art

Paintings and Photographs inspired by Travels Around the World

A Day at the Races – Horse Racing in Nairobi

When you mention horse racing most people think of Aintree, Belmont Park, Flemington, Ascot, Meydan and Epsom – but I am pretty sure that Nairobi would not be on anyone’s list of places synonymous with the gee-gees.

So when I heard about Nairobi’s Ngong Racecourse, the main and currently only thoroughbred racing venue in Kenya, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to visit.

Ngong Racecourse is located along the Ngong Road near the Lenana School and next to the Nairobi Business Park, beside Ngong forest. And a couple of weeks ago my husband,  my three children and I drove out there from our home in Westlands, central Nairobi, to spend a day at the races, or to be more specific, a day at the Fillies Guineas German Race Day.

Ever since I was a young girl I have had an active interest in horse racing, and it wasn’t because I was a horsey girl, in fact I have only ridden a horse a few times in my life, but because I was the daughter of a father who was mad on horse racing.

My dad grew up in the small village of Bangor-on-Dee in North Wales, famous for its beautifully located racecourse. So the story goes, as a lad from time to time my dad would help out at one of the stables nearby. Here he often met champion steeplechase jockey turned international bestselling crime writer Dick Francis, who had numerous links to Bangor on Dee racecourse; Dick Francis’s brother lived nearby, Bangor- on-Dee was the first real racecourse at which Francis rode and also the racecourse where he rode a hat-trick of winners on a single day.

I remember every Saturday my dad would be glued to the television watching the horse racing (or the rugby or the cricket) and for the big fixtures of the year, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Grand National the 2,000 Guineas,  the Epsom Oaks, he would also pop to the betting shop for a flutter or two. Many of our family holidays in the late 1970s early 1980s were spent travelling around England in our trusty caravan, and we regularly stayed on the grounds of race courses – often taking in a family day out at the races. And so my dad’s love for ‘the sport of kings’ was passed on to me and my two sisters.

Kenya is one of only four countries in Africa to have a race track and racing as a primary sporting and social event in the country. At Ngong Racecourse there was the stereotypical horse racing crowd comprising of the smartly dressed social climbers, wiry looking jockeys, haughty racehorse owners, serious strategic betters nose deep in their race-cards, the corporate groups on a team building day and the families. In addition to the races because this was the first time in Kenya’s racing history they were holding a German Race Day, there was a food court selling German cuisine – which particularly appealed to my family who despite me being a vegetarian, are all mad on German sausages! With the addition of face-painting, live bands and an impressive aerobatic plane display, it made it a fantastic day out for pretty much everyone.

Many believe in the old saying – ‘A lovely horse is always an emotional experience of the kind that is spoiled by words’ – so I shall stop my writing there, and instead share my photographs with you.


The Horses

The Crowd


A Great Family Day Out

We had a brilliant family day out too. And Dad, wherever you are, even though you passed away nearly 28 years ago, today your spirit and passion for horse racing still lives on and judging by the positive reaction to the day from my three children, I am sure it will continue to live on and on.


Details about horse racing at the Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi

  • Fixtures take place at fairly regular intervals throughout the year for more details visit their website 
  • Prices are Adults 200 Ksh (about $2) and Kids 50 Ksh (about 50 cent)


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  1. NC March 5, 2018

    Beautiful writing and great crowd shots in particular Ali. Thank you for posting, Tash

  2. thewonderer86 March 6, 2018

    Love the crowd pics too!

    • Ali Dunnell March 6, 2018

      I love taking photos of people and really enjoy events like this when people are so busy looking at something else that I become almost invisible – like Harry Potter and his Cloak of Invisibility 😉

  3. Dalibro June 7, 2018

    You’re right, I would never made that connection between Kenya and horse racing 😀 And some of the ladies take the event really seriously! Cool 🙂

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      So stylish.. but then most people in Nairobi are very well dressed, whatever the event 🙂

  4. Alan @ June 8, 2018

    Those horses must be hot in Nairobi!! Your photos look great

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      Nairobi has a great climate actually, although it is nearly on the equator it is at an altitude of almost 1,800m, so the temperature is like a warm summers day most of the year round, apart from in the rainy season 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my blog

  5. Bangali Backpackers June 8, 2018

    Seems like a fun day at the races! I love reading your writing. Also, great photographs!

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      Thanks, I really like taking photographs of people at events like this. Glad you enjoyed my post 🙂

  6. Backpacking Series June 8, 2018

    I am touched after reading your post. Its amazing how our childhood memories make their lovely little place in our hearts forever. Your dad passed on an amazing passion to you and you are doing a brilliant job of sharing it the world! Keep on spreading the love. Whenever I get a chance to see a horse race, I will think of this post!

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      Ah thank you – your reply has equally touched my heart – funny old world this blogging lark 🙂 Thanks for your positive feedback 🙂

  7. Alex Trembath June 8, 2018

    I really enjoyed reading this charming article! The backstory about your father’s racing enthusiasm back in Wales is fascinating. My grandfather also used to enjoy the horses and had a collection of Dick Francis novels!

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      Thanks so much for your positive feedback, horse racing really is synonymous with my dad for me. Ali 🙂

  8. becky June 8, 2018

    Awesome pictures! I definitely would have not thought of Nairobi when thinking of horse races so this was really interesting to read 🙂

  9. Followingtherivera June 8, 2018

    It’s nice to read about horse racing in other countries. I’ve been once to Ascot in the UK and really enjoyed it. Not a betting person, but it was an experience!

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      I’m not a betting person either… but I love people watching, and it’s a great place to do that. Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

  10. Joanna June 8, 2018

    I would have never imagined that horse races were popular in Nairobi! I am also used to the fixtures from the UK, and recently have visited Cheltenham Race Course, but didn’t think that this sport was popular anywhere else but England. I’d love to watch a race in Nairobi at some point, it looks like a fun day out for the entire family.

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      Horse racing is popular all over the world -I knew about places like the UEA and Hong Kong having horse racing – but I also didn’t know it was in Nairobi… it was a great day out.

  11. Alexander Popkov June 10, 2018

    Looks like you have enjoyed your time there. Never seen racing in my life, but seem to really love it. I like the shots of the crowd, staring at what’s happening.

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      Thanks Alexander… Much as I like watching sport of any sort, people and crowd watching is always my favourite topic for photography 🙂

  12. Linh June 10, 2018

    You and your family must’ve had a whale of time in Nairobi. I would love to watch horse racing as well. This will be a great experience!

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      It’s great – we actually live here, and have been here since August 2018 – It is certainly not a dull place to live 🙂

  13. thetravelingmd June 10, 2018

    AH more reasons to visit Kenya! I am not really the biggest fan but i sure love the energy of the crowd when seeing races like this.

    • alidunnell June 10, 2018 — Post Author

      Days like this are just a great day out and because the price is so low it means lots of different people get to attend. Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

  14. Claire June 10, 2018

    I love your narrative! It looks like it was a fun day for your family! I also love your pictures!

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