Racing Around the World: The Best Countries to Visit
By Georgina Donnelly
Whether it’s the thrill of watching hooved champions compete for glory, or the rush of pride that you experience when you see your favoured horse cross that finish line, there’s plenty of reason to love horse racing. And if you think that you have already seen everything there is to see here in Australia, then it’s time to expand your horizons. That said, here are four countries every enthusiast needs to visit, the best courses in the area, and other things to expect.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an enthusiast who hasn’t heard of The Arc or the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe—the fanciest horse-riding event in all of Europe. It’s held in the Longchamp Race Course in the heart of Paris every early October. Because of the stature associated with the event, it gets a lot of spectators (both live and online), so expect to see a lot of top equine talent like Enable, Waldgeist, and Boudot.
While the thrill of seeing your favourite horse win is still there, races in France are a mostly ‘noble’ event, so to speak. ‘They like betting, so it’s more of a game’, once said Le Parisien reporter Romain Poree. ‘They come because they can drink champagne and wear beautiful clothes’. Parisian horse races are all about the prestige—clap for the winners and show your support through bets. It’s a whole new class of horse racing that you should experience at least once.
Horse racing is a very popular Japanese sport. The country holds more than 21,000 races every year, and a lot of Japanese jockeys, like Yoichi Fukunaga, participate in international events. Plus, did you know that the Japanese wagered more than USD 22 billion (AUD 32 billion) in horse races back in 2015? Half of that year’s The Arc bets were even made from Japan. An ExpatBets guide to horse racing in Japan explains that all major horse racing activity in Japan is done under the supervision of either the Japan Racing Association (JRA) or the National Association of Racing. Then again, these entities don’t just regulate the activity—they’ve helped it flourish.
The JRA, for example, has ten race courses across Japan, from Tokyo to Fukushima. Most of them are built near major cities so they have easy access to the most popular attractions of the region. The most popular one is the Tokyo Race Course in Fuchu. It hosts a lot of the most celebrated horse events in the country, eventually leading to the internationally renowned Japan Cup on the last Sunday of November. Some notable names that have participated include Almond Eye, Cheval Grand, and the local favourite: Deep Impact. The latter won the Japan Cup four times.
The United States has a lot of places that are a must-see for every race lover, from New York’s Saratoga Race Course to New Jersey’s Monmouth Park. However, if there’s one location to highlight, it’s Lexington in Kentucky. Also known as ‘The Horse Capital of the World’, there’s a lot to be discovered here not just in terms of races, but horse history in general. For instance, it’s home to the Kentucky Horse Park, which attracts almost one million visitors every year. Aside from the rare breed encounters, it also houses the local Hall of Champions. This is where you’ll see the legacy of local breeds like Da Hoss, Be A Bono, and Funny Cide.
Of course, why look at pictures of horse racing history when you can experience it for yourself? The Keeneland Race Course, one of the most beautiful racecourses in the world, is just a few minutes away from downtown. It was built directly after the Kentucky Association track disbanded in 1933, and has slowly been landscaped into the stunning track that it is today. Today, it gets nearly 250,000 spectators every major race. You don’t want to miss it.
UAE, more specifically the Meydan district in Dubai, is the exact opposite of the Kentucky countryside. An article on Gulf News highlights that Meydan was the result of the ambitious dream of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, and the Prime Minister of the UAE to make Dubai the glitz and glam capital of the world. It’s currently home to several Michelin Star restaurants, one of the biggest five-star hotels in the country, an expansive golf course, and, most notably, the USD 7.5-million (AUD 11-million) race course: the Meydan Grandstand.
The Dubai World Cup, which is held in the Meydan Grandstand, is even referred to as ‘the world’s richest race day’ due to the enormous USD 35 million (AUD 50 million) prize and extensive betting that goes in it. As such, it naturally draws a lot of international equine talent, such as Benbatl, Chrysoberyl, and Mucho Gusto.
From the architecture, to the overall ambiance—horse racing culture is inherently unique, depending on the location. It’s a diverse world out there, and they’re waiting to be explored.
For more great travel tips and discounts, take a look at some of Ladies in Racing Magazine’s Travel articles.
Story by Georgina Donnelly.