Gaverbeek’s 175-year horse race: ‘Waregem Koerse is one long party’

There are 175 candles on Waregem Koerse’s birthday cake. This also makes it the oldest one-day event in Belgium to be organized every year. Something that also makes Baron Philippe Cassier, President of Koninklijke Waregemse Koersvereniging, proud. “We are a piece of heritage. But we are with the times.”

Waregem Koerse, this equals a lot of people, even more ambiance, a great opportunity the society, but especially horse racing at the highest level. The most important competition in our country is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.

In 1847 you could hear the rattling of a horseshoe for the first time in Waregem, and then straight through the centre. In 2022, Gaverbeek Racecourse can rightfully call itself the epicenter of the Belgian equestrian world.

“We already have a very rich history,” said Baron Philippe Cassier (78). The man has been head of the Royal Waregemse Koersvereniging for fifteen years and breathes equestrian sport. “I don’t own any horses myself, but I am committed to the sector at all levels. Waregem Koerse is a vital part of that.”

“We have every horse pre-checked by a vet. In this way we leave nothing to chance.” – Baron Philippe Cassier

The fact that this year’s Equestrian Festival has reached more than a respectable age also gives the Baron a warm heart. “It is somewhat invisible that an event is transmitted by many generations.”

“The fact that we are still here today is in part the result of the hard work of our ancestors and the fact that we have always evolved with the times. We are a piece of heritage. A monument, yet modern. This is where the strength of Waregem Koerse lies.”

Drunk shampoo

Baron Philippe Cassier himself is ready for his 72nd edition. “I especially remember being amazed as a child. There were as many – and perhaps more – as there are now, but at the same time it was a different time. Now must be the safety plan, which Completed to the smallest detail, ready, then safety was guaranteed by shampoo who had already looked deeply into the glass through the first races,” he smiles.

A photo from the 1920s, when Gaverbeek was still a true mainstream. © GF

“Even a week before Waregem Koerse, cows were still grazing on the hippodrome. I’ve only seen professionalism grow over the past seven decades. And their marketing.”

The VIP event accelerated in the ’90s. “Previously, Waregem Koerse was a pure folk festival focusing mainly on the area around our city. Now we reach people from all over the country.”

“We are not oblivious to challenges like climate change. I hope it will not cause us any headaches in about ten years” – Baron Philippe Cassier

There is no secret behind the success of Waregem Koerse, says Baron Philippe Cassier. “We are a tradition, a fixed value in the calendar. Our history also plays a role in this. Every Tuesday after the last Sunday in August. We do not deviate from that, because Waregem Koerse once started as a harvest festival. Here people officially end summer, and they often see each other again after a long time.”

Waregem Koerse is in our DNA and everyone who comes at once is sold out. Waregem Koerse, this is a long party. Plus: our formula is unique. There is no other place where you can find trot races and obstacles in the same place.”

Very large prize pool

During the Waregem Koerse period, Philippe Cassier mainly performs a ceremonial function. “Actually, I’m not doing anything,” he smiled. “I greet a lot of people, give out race prizes and mentor the Miss Belgium nominees. But I follow every match from start to finish. Every ten. The cycle we still have hard work. No Waregem Koerse without top horses.”

Baron Philippe Casier, here with General Manager Bram Vandewalle:
Baron Philippe Casier, here with General Manager Bram Vandewalle: “Waregem Koerse will never go away. It’s in our DNA.” © Christophe de Moynck

Vulgar is that community data It will be bigger, but that doesn’t matter, it seems. “I exclude horse racing and there is simply no Waregem Koerse. Agree: the income from the whole VIP story is important, because with it we help finance our operating budget of about 1.7 million euros. The total prize pool is 28,540 euros.”

“We have already created a beautiful ecosystem. With our income we can offer attractive prices and in this way we get the best horses every year. It is not for nothing that we belong to the Crystal Cup, a major European competition within the chasing of the steeple.”

At the same time, Waregem Koese wants to remain the popular festival it was already in 1847. “Everyone is welcome with us. That is why we are offering tickets to Central Square for only €3 for the first time this year. Together with Uitpas, we want to give The less fortunate have the opportunity to come and taste our unique atmosphere.”

“We’ve also collaborated with Waregem OCMW for years, where people with disabilities – along with their supervisor – can enter absolutely free.”

No gambling addicts

The future is bright for Baron Philippe Cassier. “We will go for at least another 175 years. This may not be with me anymore, but I have not seen the disappearance of Warigem Corsi.”

“We will continue to promote equestrian sport at the highest level, but at the same time we must not ignore the challenges. Climate change is one of them. Our history has always guaranteed us good weather: a pleasant temperature, little or no precipitation … However, the weather is becoming more and more extreme. Hopefully, this development will not give us any headaches in ten years, for example.”

© Pete Egermont

Philippe Cassier also prefers to see the betting system in Belgium differently. Every year about 500 thousand euros is used for this purpose, but barely 15 percent of this amount goes to us. Betting on horses is treated like a stepmother in our country.”

“Here you’ll mainly find occasional gamblers, people who bet five euros on a horse and thus become the owner of the animal for a while. It’s about the experience, about a nice afternoon between friends. Nothing more. You won’t find gambling addicts at our hippodrome” .

Dare the baron himself scale down The president does not take risks. “No time for. Plus, I’m too lazy to go to betting,” he winks. “My Waregem Koerse is successful if all goes safely, we can see an entire racetrack and our rotation is good.”

“And most importantly: when all the horses and jockeys cross the finish line healthy and well. Their well-being is at the top of the list. In the past days, I’ve heard people say it was a good Coronian because some of the horses ended up in Jafferbeek.”

“In the meantime, animal safety has been a priority for a long time. We even have every participating horse additionally checked by a UZ Gent vet, so nothing is left to chance. All of these things contribute to what Waregem Koerse is all about: an important event in the best Circumstances. “

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