The thrill of the race has endeared horse racing fans to this popular sport for centuries. Largely unchanged in format since its documented origins in ancient Greece and Norse mythology, it has become a huge part of the gambling industry, generating over $100 billion worldwide every year.
That has seen many race meets become symbolic events in their own right, attracting seasoned followers as well as casual fans to take in the atmosphere and experience some exhilarating action at magnificent courses. Here we’ll check out some of the world’s most iconic, suggesting 5 must-see destinations for the devotee or interested tourist.
Aintree in Liverpool, UK
Home to one of the most famous horse races in the world, every year Aintree hosts the Grand National which is as notorious for its fashion-statement celebrity guests as it is for its steeplechase obstacles. Names like Becher’s Brook and Canal Turn are recognisable to even the most casual fan as each year the iconic 190-year old race entices many – from the veteran to the one-off each-way gambler – to place a bet. With nearly 200 years of history, Aintree has a character and charm like few other places.
Flemington in Melbourne, Australia
When horse race betting in Australia there’s no place more spectacular than Flemington in Melbourne. Steeped in history, the course has become synonymous with star-studded events thanks to the Melbourne Cup (the most lucrative two-mile handicap on the planet) and Victoria Derby. Originally opened in 1840, it has rightly become an Australian National Heritage Site. With its imposing trio of grandstands, its infamous six-furlong straight and 120,000 capacity, Flemington is a thrilling place to be on race day.
White Turf in St. Moritz, Switzerland
For horse racing with a difference, St. Moritz in Switzerland gives you an alternative to traditional après ski. Held every year, White Turf isn’t backdropped by a cityscape or green countryside but the snow-covered Engadine mountains as riders compete on a frozen lake. Taking place across three days, in which visitors can try skijoring (where horses pull skiers along a designated track), the event continues to increase in popularity with as many as 35,000 spectators making the trip each year.
Churchill Downs in Louisville, United States
Home to the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is recognised for hosting the best-attended sporting event in America with over 170,000 spectators in attendance. Some of the lucky ones will get the chance to experience the grandstand with its grandiose twin spires towering above their heads. The Grade I stakes race, held every year since 1875, caps the two-week long Kentucky Derby festival and has become known as the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports”.
Happy Valley in Hong Kong
Surrounded by a distinctive cityscape, Happy Valley’s skyscraper surroundings gives it a distinctive individual charm. Popular year-round, the race course hosts a number of races with a capacity of 55,000. It was originally constructed for expats living in Hong Kong – mainly Brits – and has now become an attraction to both locals and tourists thanks to adding live music, outdoor bars and entertainment to its offer.
There you have it. Just a few of the most spectacular race courses in the world. Boasting history, character and, on race day, excitement, if you want to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of some of horse racing’s most spectacular stages and biggest events, you can’t go wrong with these.