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Sports Then and Now

Top 5 Tournaments That Celebrate the Spirit of Horse Racing

Posted on March 16, 2019 by Craig Evans

The ancient spectacle of horse racing hasn’t essentially changed in the past 3000 years—but the settings sure have. If you don’t count chariots, the sport of flat racing has reached its zenith in the modern era. There are full seasons and championships across the globe, with billions of gambling dollars following the thunder of hoofs.

A few truly epic spectator events highlight each season. Each of these race meetings are international happenings that feature the best horses and jockeys, and each shines with its own unique flavor. The excitement and drama of these events not only help keep the love of horses alive in our technological age, these top competitions are poised to continue exciting the public imagination for many years to come.

The following 5 top horse racing meetings are listed according to their annual calendar date:

The Dubai World Cup

The Dubai World Cup is the youngest race meeting on our list, and is run annually on the last Saturday in March. It began in 1996 as the world’s richest horse race and will hit $12 million in 2019. There are eight Thoroughbred races and–unusually–a contest for purebred Arabians.

The race is already a favorite of many fans, and has become the biggest sporting and social event in Dubai. As with many top races, there is a heavy fashion component to the celebration. The Dubai World Cup is held on the new Meydan Racecourse which has the world’s first track-side hotel, offering luxury spectating from your own room.

The Melbourne Cup

At 3:00 p.m. on the first Tuesday in November, the flags go up for Australia’s famous Melbourne Cup. Called “the race that stops the nation,” the Cup is part of a week-long international racing festival that began in 1861. It’s widely touted as the greatest 2-mile handicap in the world—and is one of the richest turf contests at $7.3M in prize money.

Fashion plays a part of the annual event: there’s even a competition to honor the best-dressed men and women called “Fashions on the Field.” It’s a public holiday and one of the largest sporting events of the Southern hemisphere, and the highest gambling day for New Zealand, too. Indeed, because interest is similarly widespread in New Zealand, it has been suggested the event is really “the race that stops two nations.”

The Royal Ascot

Tradition and fashion have mixed at the Royal Ascot since its first running in 1711. The annual 5-day meeting in June is an equine showcase for the posh, and features the famously exclusive Royal Enclosure and a very strict dress code. The British Queen and her retinue traditionally attend each of the 24 races, arriving by horse-drawn carriage.

The venerable race meeting was the site of the racing scene from the movie, My Fair Lady—and even today it would be quite the scandal to shout “move your bloomin arse!” to your favorite horse.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

Europe’s most prestigious horse race, the famous “Arc” is held annually in early October. The race honors WWI French soldiers. It takes place in Paris on the banks of the Seine at Longchamp Racecourse.

The race is a Group 1 contest on turf for Thoroughbreds aged three years and over. It offers one of the richest purses in any sport at 5 million Euros. In 2018, the Arc was named the Longines World’s Best Horse Race for the 3rd time in four years.

The Kentucky Derby

One of the world’s most famous races is run each year in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday of May. The race is for three-year-olds and is one-and-a-quarter miles (2km) long, and is commonly known as the “greatest 2 minutes in sports.” The Derby is the first jewel of America’ Triple Crown, a series which includes the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Established in 1875, the “Run for the Roses” is both a fashion feast and partier’s mecca. It is a festive celebrity occasion too, complete with a posh Millionaire’s Row. Over 150,000 spectators attend the race yearly, including 80,000 milling in different states of sobriety on the infield.

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