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To the races they go...

Shayal Devi
Sunday, November 12, 2017

THE annual Melbourne Cup has become an annual sports fixture that captivates people from all walks of life.

Some of the ways in which people locally celebrate the Melbourne Cup is through betting on race favourites, fashion events etcetera.

Here in Fiji, horse racing is a unique feat in itself.

For one, the tracks are not world-class. The jockeys are your everyday folk who toil either on farms or hold jobs. The rustic charm and feel of local horse racing tournaments is, at its best, a peek into the lives and interests of a number of Fijians.

It was with this in mind that local events organiser Kim Beddoes organised the 2017 Sabeto Races, bringing on board stakeholders such as Tourism Fiji to provide a platform where tourists and locals could mix and have an enjoyable time together.

The inaugural Sabeto Races this year was held at Aviva Farms, which is a 10-minute drive inland from the Queens highway.

The winding dirt road complemented by the tranquillity of the neighbourhood was a perfect backdrop for the event, which had already attracted close to 100 people before the time the event began.

Opening the event, Tourism Minister Faiyaz Koya highlighted the importance of having such events grace the tourism calendar and offer guests a unique view of Fiji and its people.

Since the event was designed with families in mind, numerous families travelled from the far reaches of the Western Division, some even from Labasa, to witness the racing and cheer on their favourite horses and jockeys.

Of course, any event attended by Fijians is not complete without kava. Some even took the time to prepare kava beforehand and bring it to the race in bottles and gallons to enjoy with friends.

The highlight though was the food. While a few traditional barbecue stalls were pitched outside the event arena, a wide selection of food was available for the public.

Acclaimed chef Lance Seeto was also present at the event.

"This is a unique event and is obviously spun out of a local community event that they hold every now and then," he said.

"What Kim Beddoes, the organiser, has done is put it all together in a major event so now with Tourism Fiji involved and with major sponsors are getting on board, this is becoming an international event.

"We have these horse race events overseas but this is really unique and it's fun."

Mr Seeto said the event also gave an opportunity for foodies to try a range of cuisine at a fun, family event.

"I think this is wonderful and if we can make this a yearly event and put it on the tourism calendar, who knows where it'll go in the future."

The executive chef for Malamala Beach Club, Mr Seeto, said most of the food he had prepared at the event was the same he did on Malamala.

"It links itself to this event so that includes a lot of hand-held food like sliders. I've turned the roti into a taco so everything is fresh, it goes with the beer and wine and we're still keeping it local but just a little bit extra and higher up.

"What you're seeing now is with these events come the caterers. If you think about the past, we only had a couple of yearly events, big events that the food would be at.

"The days have gone by when it was just the barbecue stands and now you have people who are getting more gain, little entrepreneurs who are starting to cater."

Despite the heavy downfall forcing event organisers to cancel the event early, the Sabeto Races can continue to grow in the years to come.

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