11 Of The World’s Finest Racecourses 

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Horse racing has long existed as a thrilling spectator sport and as an activity to wager on. The sport is especially popular in the UK, where it is second to football in popularity, but has a large following in the USA, France, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia as well. Japanese sports fans also love a horse race, so much so that some even camp outside in the queue for major horse racing events. 

A day out at the races is a chance to socialise and, if you’re into horse racing traditions, to don your favourite hat, dress or suit. Below is a look at some of the world’s best racecourses and why they’re such key fixtures in the annual racing calendar.

Belmont Park, USA

Belmont Park is the home of the famous Belmont Stakes, which is the third jewel in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing (the other two being the Preakness Stakes and the Kentucky Derby), and sits in Elmont, New York. Head to the track for this famous race and you can see up to 12 horses battle it out in the race for a purse of $1.5 million. The Triple Crown has only had 13 winners in more than 100 years, so catching the race live is your opportunity to watch one of the best horses of all time. 

The park has a capacity of 50,000 and is undergoing modernisation. It’s a popular destination and has plenty of transport links to it. You can reach the venue by car, train or subway. 

Ascot, England

Next, a little history lesson, to help you learn about horse racing betting, etiquette and form. The origins of this prestigious racecourse in Berkshire date back to 1711, when Queen Anne rode out of Windsor Castle and discovered a patch of land perfect for horses to gallop on full pelt. 

The monarch’s discovery led to the foundation of Ascot, which, today, holds major events in the (British) horse racing calendar such as the Royal Ascot festival, where horses will contest the Royal Ascot Gold Cup, the festival’s flagship race. The racecourse hosts an additional 21 horse racing events. 

It’s possible to drive to Ascot and park at the racecourse, but you’ll need to book a parking spot beforehand. Trains also run frequently to Ascot from Reading, Guildford and London Waterloo. You can even fly by helicopter to the racecourse.

Meydan Racecourse, Dubai

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is home to the opulent Meydan Racecourse, a symbol of the city’s love for luxury and sport. Opened in 2010, it replaced the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse and has quickly become synonymous with the Dubai World Cup, one of the richest races in the world. The Meydan facility is nothing short of spectacular, with a 1.5-mile-long grandstand and a capacity to accommodate over 60,000 spectators. The racecourse is not just a sporting venue but a testament to modern architecture and the spirit of Dubai.

Sha Tin Racecourse, Hong Kong

In the heart of Hong Kong’s New Territories lies Sha Tin Racecourse, a modern marvel that contrasts with the traditional Happy Valley. Opened in 1978, it hosts the Hong Kong Derby and the Hong Kong International Races. With a capacity of 85,000, it’s a testament to the city’s passion for the sport. The backdrop of verdant mountains and skyscrapers makes Sha Tin a unique venue, reflecting the vibrant fusion of nature and urbanity that characterises Hong Kong.

Aintree Racecourse, England

Venturing back to the UK, Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool is synonymous with the Grand National, a race that has etched itself into British cultural lore. The course’s fences, like Becher’s Brook and The Chair, are legendary for their difficulty and the dramatic moments they’ve produced. Aintree’s history and the sheer test of endurance the Grand National represents make it a pilgrimage site for jump racing aficionados.

Flemington Racecourse, Australia

To visit Flemington Racecourse, you’ll have to jet out all the way to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The racecourse is the home of the famous Melbourne Cup Carnival which takes place each year in late October or early November. Around 300,000 visitors attend the event. On any given day of the festival, there will be around 80,000 to 90,000 people.  

The biggest race of the festival is the Melbourne Cup, also nicknamed “The Race that Stops the Nation”, and is such a big race in the Australian calendar that Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday in the country. Riders and their horses are racing for $8.4 million and will cover 1.99 miles to cross the line first. Other big races during the festival include the Victoria Derby (Derby Day), the Victory Oaks (Oaks Day) and the Mackinnon Stakes (Stakes Day).

Getting to the racecourse is easy. The racecourse has its own train station, open only on race days, or you can take a tram to the racecourse from Melbourne central business district (CBD). Ridesharing is also possible, although on busy race days it’s better to just walk to the venue if you’re within a reasonable distance to do so.

Caulfield Racecourse, Australia

Melbourne, Australia, is not only home to Flemington but also to the Caulfield Racecourse, affectionately known as ‘The Heath’ by locals. This is the site of the Caulfield Cup, a key lead-up race to the Melbourne Cup. With a triangular-shaped track that offers a unique challenge to jockeys and thoroughbreds alike, Caulfield provides a different flavour of racing experience down under.

The Curragh, Ireland

Ireland’s contribution to the world of horse racing is embodied in The Curragh, located in County Kildare. This flat racing venue is steeped in history, with racing dating back to the 1700s. The Irish Derby, a race that has seen many of history’s most celebrated horses emerge victorious, is the jewel in the crown of The Curragh’s racing calendar. The rolling plains of the Irish countryside provide a stunning setting for this historic racecourse.

Longchamp Racecourse, France

Paris, France, boasts the historic Longchamp Racecourse, known locally as Hippodrome de Longchamp. Situated in the picturesque Bois de Boulogne, it has been a centrepiece of French thoroughbred racing since 1857. The course is renowned for hosting the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, a race that draws the crème de la crème of European thoroughbred royalty. With recent renovations enhancing its grandeur, Longchamp remains a beacon of French elegance and racing heritage.

Tokyo Racecourse, Japan

Japan’s passion for horse racing is epitomised by the Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchu, Tokyo. It is the country’s most prestigious flat racing venue and hosts the Japan Cup, one of the richest and most prestigious races in the world. The course features an enormous grandstand, one of the largest in the world, and cutting-edge facilities that make it a favourite among racing enthusiasts.

Read: 11 must-try foodie experiences in Tokyo

Churchill Downs, USA

Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Kentucky, USA is the home of the biggest race in the US racing calendar and the first jewel in the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby (Run for the Roses). 2024’s Meeting will be the 150th edition of the race and will place $5 million up for grabs, with $3.1 million going to the winner. The race is contested over 1 and a quarter miles. 

Attend on derby day and you’re likely to be one of around 150,000 people who will also be at the racetrack. What an atmosphere there will be! The venue offers on-site parking on a first come first served basis, but ideally, it’s better to avoid driving and either hop onto one of the many buses that pass by the venue or to take a taxi or rideshare.

The Bottom Line

The popularity of horse racing means there are lots of different racecourse around the world to accommodate fans of the sport. Other fantastic racecourses you should place on your horse racing bucket list and try to tick off include Cheltenham, home of the Cheltenham Gold Cup; Happy Valley, in Wan Chai district of Hong Kong; and Saratoga, in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Travel Team
Travel Team
Just like you, we love to get out there and discover the world. To help inspire your next adventure, we create travel guides and share tips so you can dream up your ideal getaway.

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