There are few things more adrenaline-inducing than the thrill of a horse race. For those looking to indulge in this age-old tradition, ready your bets as they canter down to these iconic horse race meetings...
Kentucky Derby, Louisville
Kentucky, United States
There is no more famous horse race in the United States – possibly in the world – than the Kentucky Derby. This race marks the first leg of the US Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.
Every year on the first Saturday in May, over 150,000 spectators gather at the Churchill Down Race Track to see this historic event that has been running since 1875.While millionaires and celebrities line the seating referred to as "Millionaire Row", the poorer masses who managed to get a ticket to this prestigious event mix and mingle in the crowded infield where they crane their heads for a glimpse at the passing horses. Since the race spans just a meager two kilometres, it only runs for two minutes. This has come to be known playfully as the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports". When the winning horse crosses that finish line, it is draped in a garland of red roses and set for a life of fame – as well as given a hefty purse of $2 million.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Founded in 1860, the Queen's Plate race in Toronto, Ontario, is not only Canada's oldest thoroughbred horse race, it is also the oldest in North America. This race is the first race in the Canadian Triple Crown.
In the early days of the race, the winners would indeed win a plate as a trophy, however it has since been replaced by a golden cup. The jockeys who won the race originally received a purple bag filled with fifty guineas from the monarch. That was replaced by sovereigns in later years. Now winning jockeys receive modern money, but the tradition of receiving a bag of sovereigns still remains.
Each year, thousands of racing enthusiasts flock in to see the show, but it is not just the horses that draw attention. Since the very first race back in 1860, a member of the monarchy has attended the race that pays homage to them. Queen Elizabeth II's last visit was in 2010.
Palio di Siena
The Palio is the most important event that takes place in Siena. During Palio, the city is divided into areas that challenge each other in support of the passionate horse race in the Piazza del Campo. When
The Palio began in the 16th century, there was more than just horse racing. There was a largely combative event called ‘the pugna’, which was a bit like an all-out brawl with jousting and bullfights. When The Palio began, the community was separated into 59 different groups, but now only 17 remain, all of which named after different animals, both real and fictional. Each district has its own special emblem and colour that the non-racing residents wear.
The horse races run twice a year, once on July 2 to honour Madonna of Provenzano and the next on August 16 to honour the Virgin Mary's Assumption. The first horse to cross the finish line receives the Drappellone, a silken banner that is decorated differently for each district, while the winning district heads to Church of Provenza to give prayers of thanks. The competition brought about by The Palio is taken very seriously.
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
The Qatar Paris Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which is simply referred to as ‘the Arc’, is one of Europe's largest horse racing events. Every year on the first Sunday in October, thousands of spectators line the grand stands at Longchamp Racecourse to see thoroughbreds rumble towards the finish line and glory. Since this race has a close affiliation with the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, this race also hosts the largest race prize fund in Europe. The winning team of horse and jockey not only receive eternal glory, but a whopping four million Euros for when that glory fades.
Visitors begin arriving long before the race to enjoy Champagne and live Jazz music outside the track, as well as visit the recreation of a Qatar village, which hosts pony rides for the young children.
Dubai World Cup
United Arab Emirates
The Dubai World Cup is new to the horse racing scene. The race was first run in 1996 at the city’s Meydan Racecourse. This race is held annually on the last Saturday in March, and horses are spurred on towards victory across a two-kilometre track.
While the Arc horse race in Paris may host the wealthiest reward in Europe, the Dubai World Cup hosts the largest prize in the world, with $10 million dollars for the winning team of horse and jockey.
The hosting race track of the Meydan Racecourse moved in 2010 and opened its doors next to the Jumeirah Meydan Hotel, making it the world's first track side hotel. Now viewers can watch this world class horse race from the grand stands or from the comfort of their hotel room. However the suites that are treated to sky views of the race are extremely popular among the world's wealthiest moguls and horse owners, so the rooms are booked up years in advance.
Royal Ascot is not just one horse race, but rather a series of horse races that have been turned into a weeklong event. It has been part of British tradition – with plenty of the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it – since 1711.
During this weeklong event, 16 different group races are held that are smattered with other events like the Royal Procession, military band performances and live music.
As the Queen and most of the Royal party will be in attendance, the normal visitors are expected to dress like they are in the presence of royalty. This is an age old rule that shows no signs of getting abolished. This means no jeans, no funny t-shirts, and no sneakers. However, visitors really have to have some serious connections to get into the private Royal Enclosure where the Queen watches the race.
Hong Kong Derby
Horse racing has been a staple in Hong Kong since 1841. Originally the enjoyment of the sport was confined to the city's elite. This held true for the Hong Kong Derby, which has been held annually since 1873, but horse racing is now something that all people can enjoy in Hong Kong.
The horses, which are restricted to four-year-old thoroughbreds, run a full two kilometres around the course. For the horse that comes in first, the winners receive eternal glory and a hefty prize of HK$16 million.
Many horse racing enthusiasts head down under to Australia to enjoy the annual Melbourne Cup Carnival. The race has been a tradition since 1861 and it is considered to be the greatest three-kilometre horse race in the world.
As the name suggests, the Melbourne Cup is not just a horse race, but an entire carnival. Attendees don their best dress and festive hats in order to watch the show. However, many are actually competing in the Fashions on the Field competition, which crowns the best dressed man and woman and showers them with prizes from the sponsors.
Of course, the main event is the race itself which happens on the first Tuesday in November. The winner of the race receives fame and a hefty purse of AUS $6,175,000.