Live horse racing is a discipline enjoyed by millions around the globe.
In this article, we go over the 5 best horse racing festivals in the world. And check out our coverage of the 13 Triple Crown horses.
The Royal Ascot is as much a social occasion as one of the best horse racing festivals. It takes place over five days in the middle of June. Naturally, the race is held at Ascot racecourse in the English county of Berkshire. The Royal title comes from the fact that the Queen owns the course and attends each day of the meeting. There is a Royal procession along the track before racing each day.
There is a strict dress code in the Royal Enclosure and men are required to wear a morning suit with a top hat. The meeting follows many traditions and for some, it is the most important social event of the year. The Royal Ascot festival combines fashion, pageantry and Flat racing at the highest level. The Queens often has runners at her own track and meeting.
Likewise, the Royal Ascot is about much more than Royal patronage and pageantry. Over five days the racing is superb and it attracts the best horses from the UK, Europe and other parts of the world. The track tries to entice leading horses from North America and Australia to take part in what is seen as the best Flat meeting in the world.
US trainer Wesley Ward sends a team of runners from the States. His work has paid off; he's trained a number of winners at Royal Ascot. The feature race of the week is the Gold Cup which is the most prestigious Flat race in the world for stayers. In 2013 the winner of the race was owned by the Queen and it was the first and only time she has won the Gold Cup.
The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest horse race in the world and among the best horse racing festivals. It takes place over four days in March at Cheltenham Racecourse in the English county of Gloucestershire. The track lies below the Cotswolds which create a great viewing experience. Cheltenham brings together the best National Hunt horse from Britain and Ireland.
The race features championship races for hurdlers and chasers over a variety of distances. Cheltenham is huge for betting and each of the 28 races generate a great deal of turnover. In any list of the biggest betting races of the year, many Cheltenham races appear prominently.
The festival attracts many visitors from Ireland and it is a big social occasion.
However, Cheltenham is all about the quality of the racing and the festival is the pinnacle of the jumps season in Britain. The Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup are the most prestigious hurdle and chase races in the world.
One-third of all the Grade 1 races that take place in the jumps season in Britain are run at the Cheltenham Festival. In addition to the graded races, the meeting features some of the most competitive handicaps of the season.
There is also a championship race for National Hunt-bred horses on the Flat. Plus, it's the most important and lucrative cross country race of the year. There is post-betting ante on the major races for up to a year but the day of the race betting at the course and away from the course is massive for each race.
The Grand National is huge, but not strictly one of the best horse racing festivals. This is because it is only one race. However, it is the most famous steeplechase in the world. The race is the main feature of the three day Grand National meeting at Aintree racecourse, which is about five miles from the English city of Liverpool. The race is unique due to the nature of the fences and the distance.
The Grand National is run over four miles and two furlongs which is two circuits of Aintree and 30 obstacles are jumped. Some of the fences are historic and they are named such as Becher’s Brook, Valentines, and the Chair.
Due to some fatalities, the fences have been softened but the unique nature of the race remains and it is the biggest betting race of the year attracting once-a-year bettors who usually don’t bet on any other horse races or sports.
In terms of prize money and prestige, the Grand National has made great strides in recent years. The festival takes place three weeks after Cheltenham which means the horses can run at both events. However, the tracks are different from Cheltenham so some horses sometimes don't perform as successfully as at Aintree.
Potential winners must possess stamina and be safe jumpers because the fences can be unforgiving despite recent modifications. The Grand National is a handicap race. This means each horse gets a weight based on past form. Six horses have won two Grand Nationals, but the only three-time winner is Red Rum.
The horse won the Grand National in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and was second in 1975 and 1976. Red Rum is buried near the winning post at Aintree and is the most famous runner in the history of the race.
The official title for this festival is the Breeders Cup World Championship. It features Grade 1 races for thoroughbred flat-race horses over two days in November. Generally, it is held at a number of tracks on rotation in the US. Originally, it was a single day meeting. However, since 2007 the Breeders’ Cup has taken place over two days.
Attendance is highest amongst the best horse racing festivals, save only the US Triple Crown races. Every Breeders’ Cup festival has been staged in the United States except the 1996 meeting. That year, the race took place at Woodbine Racetrack in Canada. Santa Anita Park has staged the meeting a record nine times.
The Breeders’ Cup features championship races on turf and dirt over a variety of distances for male and female horses. There are 14 Grade 1 races at the Breeders’ Cup and the prize funds range from $1 million to $6 million for the Classic. The purses are the biggest for any meeting staged in the United States.
Races include juveniles, fillies, and mares, as well as all-aged races regardless of gender. In 2018, juvenile races occurred on the first day. Horses aged three and older ran on the second day.
There is a maximum of 14 runners in each race. Race officials use a horse's rating to decide if it is included.
Dubai World Cup Carnival
The Dubai World Cup is a single race and the highlight of Dubai World Cup night. Meydan racecourse in the United Arab Emirates holds the race each year. Dubai World Cup night features eight thoroughbred races and one for Arabian bred horses.
As one of the best horse racing festivals, the Dubai World Cup is a Grade 1 Flat race. Likewise, the race runs over 10 furlongs on dirt for horses aged three and older. In the past, it was the world’s richest race. However, the Pegasus World Cup's prize fund surpassed it in 2017. Horses qualify through ratings and form displayed during the rest of the Dubai Carnival.
The Dubai World Cup Carnival takes place for the 16th time in 2019. It consists of nine Thursday meetings in January and February. There is be a Super Saturday meeting early in March and then the culmination of the Carnival is World Cup night at the end of March which offers $35 million in prize money.
The Carnival features Group races and lucrative handicaps and leads to Dubai World Cup night and the Dubai World Cup. The 2019 Carnival will involve 202 accepted horses from 71 trainers in 17 countries. The total prize fund is $12,670,000 in addition to the money on offer on World Cup night.