True equestrian lovers know the excitement of the adrenaline rush that comes when a major race begins and the horses start beating their way around the tracks. The horses, and their riders, are respected by their audiences as they barrel towards their goals with power and dignity. Horse races are held all around the world, but only a few are held in high esteem. Look for one of these events the next time you consider heading out to a race.
THE MELBOURNE CUP
The most venerable thoroughbred race Down Under was inaugurated in 1861 and now hands out prize money in excess of AUD$6 million. The premier event on the Melbourne calendar is held at Flemington Racecourse, which dates back to 1840. “The Race That Stops A Nation” takes place on the first Tuesday in November.
THE KENTUCKY DERBY
The Kentucky Derby is quite possibly one of the most well known horse racing events, if only because it is such a widely recognized household name. The race is always held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky and is the first of three races in the Triple Crown series.
This is more than just a race. The residents of Louisville celebrate the two-minute race for an entire week with parties, parades, fireworks, and more. Don’t just visit for the race – visit for the experience!
THE ROYAL ASCOT
The Royal Ascot takes place in Ascot, England and is more than just a race. It’s an opportunity for the wealthy to showcase their most prized possessions, in both their thoroughbred horses and their taste in fashion and style. There is a strict and formal dress code during this event, including top hats, tails, and fine dresses. The event consists of 24 major races over the course of a four day period. The Royal Ascot is always attended by the Queen, who arrives at the same time each day – almost as entertaining to see as the race itself.
THE GRAND NATIONAL
Taking place in Aintree, England, the Grand National is an incredibly unique event. This event isn’t a simple race, as horses are required to jump 30 fences before finishing off the 2 mile course with a straight run. The history of the race is rich with success stories and triumphs as well as tales of woe as horses find themselves stalled by difficult jumps. Both amateur and professional trainers and jockeys are encouraged to participate at the Grand National.
The Preakness takes place at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland each year. The race is the second part of the Triple Crown Series and is highly anticipated as viewers watch the winner of the Kentucky Derby to see if he will make it one step closer to sweeping all three races – a rare occurrence. The Preakness isn’t just about the race, however. Pre-race activities include the Miss Preakness Contest and the Preakness Portrait Art Contest. Visitors to the race grounds love to picnic and party – both before and after the race itself!
The Breeders Cup doesn’t call any one track home, visiting a different racetrack in the northeast United States each year. This year officials added three new races to the cup, for a total of 14 races and a total of $25.5 million in purses. The 2008 Breeders Cup will be held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Officials also recently announced that the 2009 Breeders Cup will be held in Arcadia as well – making this the first time in history that the race is held in the same place for two years in a row. The race itself marks the end of the horse-racing season each year.
The Belmont Stakes are held at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY each year. The Belmont Stakes Race is the last race in the triple-crown series. The Belmont Stakes has run for 140 years. The race is highly anticipated each year and has been the focus of careful attention. Over the past few decades, 15 horses have attempted to win the Belmont Stakes after winning both the Preakness and the Derby. In 140 years, only 11 horses have actually won the coveted Triple Crown! As a side note, the Belmont Park does not raise its admission prices for the Belmont Stakes, making this an event that anyone can attend.
PRIX DE L’ARC DE TRIOMPHE
The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is held in Paris, France and is considered one of the most important horse races in Europe each year. The race was named in honor of French Soldiers who fought during World War I and draws competitors from all over, including Germany, Ireland, and England. The course is about one and a half miles long and the winner receives an astounding $10,500,000 purse! Make reservations for Paris hotel accommodations that won’t break the bank.
DUBAI WORLD CUP
A newer race, the Dubai World Cup is held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates each year. The public eye has been on this race since it began in 1996. The purse has increased significantly over the past few years, making it one of the most coveted wins each year. At the Dubai World Cup, fashion is almost as important as the race itself – you’ll see women parading in some of the loveliest (and strangest) hats and garments you’ve ever seen. Thoroughbred horses originated from the United Arab Emirates and surrounding areas and were later transported throughout the world, making this the ultimate destination for a race.
Everyone will enjoy a day at the races, even those with only a passing interest in the horses themselves. The event is sure to be full of entertainment, excitement, and intrigue!