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Beirut's racetrack, once a chic hotspot, falls on hard times

Middle East News
Sun, 03 Apr 2016
Associated Press
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Middle East News: Beirut's racetrack, once a chic hotspot, falls on hard times
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In this Thursday, March 24, 2016 photo, a horse stands in a stable at the Beirut horse racetrack in Beirut, Lebanon. The racetrack opened in 1916 and by the 1950s, it had become part of the architectural fabric of the young Lebanese republic. But it suffered greatly during the country’s 15-year civil war and never recovered its former glory. (AP Photo)

Beirut: Beirut's famous racetrack, which once entertained Middle Eastern royalty, has fallen on hard times, and the fight over its future is revealing competing visions for public space in the Lebanese capital.

Set inside a pine forest reserve in the heart of Beirut and walled off from the city's concrete warrens, the Beirut Hippodrome used to hold 20-horse races that drew thousands of spectators, including the late Saudi King Faisal and Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Now, only four to five horses run at a time, to a thinning crowd of loyal fans and inveterate gamblers.

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