The ‘Sport of Kings’ provides some of the best all-day entertainment in the world. It’s where fashion, sport, the super rich, rural tradition and of course, horses all merge in an adrenaline and champagne-fuelled spectacle that really gets the heart pumping. Swide picks for you the top 5 horse races in the world.
The Melbourne Cup (Australia)
Billed as ‘The Race the Stops a Nation’ it could easily be the race that stops two nations. The biggest and most famous race in Australia is also the biggest single sports betting event in New Zealand. The Australians are a proud bunch and this event seems to be an outlet for all that is best about Down Under’s unique history, heritage and modern cultural verve.
The 3,200 meter race for 3-year-olds and over and as it’s a Summer race, always held on the first Tuesday of November, the conditions are always good. The first Melbourne Cup was held in 1861 and the jockeys competed for the prize of a gold watch. These days the purse is over AU$6 million (€4.6 million) making it one of the most prestigious and sought after titles in the world.
The race has undergone many changes in recent years the most notably the influx of foreign horse contesting the race. Australia’s isolation and the unique racing conditions usually see an Australian-bred horse first past the post. In 2011 however, it was French-based horse Dunaden who won from Red Cadeaux in the closest photo-finish ever.
Melbourne is a cool, stylish yet unpretentious city, enjoy it at it’s best at The Lyall Hotel.
The Kentucky Derby (USA)
Held on the fist Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. Louisville, Kentucky, the ‘Run for the Roses’ is for three-year-olds over one and a half miles (2km). Billed as ‘The Most important Three Minutes in Sports History’ the race caps a two week-long Kentucky Derby festival and by far the most iconic horse race in the United States.
The Kentucky Derby is brim full with traditions, the Mint Julep being one, the cocktail is the traditional drink of the festival. The infield area is a low admission price spectator area, that offers little chance of actually seeing the race, but is always heaving with punters who show up to party and the atmosphere is buzzing. The prime viewing box seats are referred to ‘Millionaire Row’ and are the area for the ultra rich, über-glamorous and very, very well connected. This year the race was won by Kentuckian I’ll Have Another, ridden by Mexican jockey Mario Gutierez before a record crowd of 165,307.
Stay in downtown Louisville at the 21c Museum Hotel
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (France)
The slogan for France’s richest race is ‘Ce n’est pas un course, c’est un monument’, ‘ not so much a race as a monument’, and that’s exactly how the French feel about this race. It is held at the iconic Longchamp course, in Paris over a course of 2,400 meters for three-year-olds and over. It is usually run on the first Sunday of October.
Although other sporting events grab all the international headlines, like the Tour de France or the French Open the French horse racing industry thrives with more than 10,000 races each year are followed closely by 6.5 million bettors, wagering more than €9.5 billion. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is the pinnacle of this industry and together with its international prestige and the glamour of its setting, it is one of the dates on the racing calendar that can’t be missed. Recent sponsorship has pushed the purse up to €4 million, making it the third richest horse race in the world on turf, behind the Melbourne Cup and the Japan Cup. The race in 2011 was won by German horse Danedream.
Enjoy the City of Lights in the luxury you’re accustomed to at Le Burgundy Hotel
Dubai World Cup (Dubai)
Although a relatively new addition to the world racing calendar, the fact that Dubai’s ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum is a major figure in world horse racing and the Arabic blood stock that bred so many of the world’s champions has its origins here, it is perfectly fitting that the Emirates should become the home of the world’s richest horse race. Since its inception in 1996 it has since moved to the Mayden Racecourse and commands the highest place on the city’s social calendar. It is a flat race on synthetic surface for thoroughbred 4 year-olds with a purse of over €7.8 million. This year’s race was won by Moterosso from Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Godolphin stables.
Fashion plays a huge part in the festivities at the course and Dubai’s melting pot provides a glamorous International feel. This, coupled with ostentatious displays of mind-boggling wealth and the fact that Emirati’s truly love horse racing means more than a race, it is an experience you will never forget.
For something different stay at the Dessert Palm Hotel
Royal Ascot (UK)
Probably the world’s most famous race meeting it his held at the Ascot racecourse in Berkshire over five days in June. The most prestigious of races is the Gold Cup which is held on day three of the festival, for 4 year-old thoroughbreds and over. The course is only 6 miles from Windsor Castle, home of the British Royal Family. The Queen is guest of honour at the meeting and arrives at the same time every day.
Originally the meeting was synonymous with the English upper classes, while a strict dress code of top hat and tails still is still rigidly enforced, recent years have seen the event become hugely popular with all class of people intent on ‘poshing it up’ for the day. World’s wealthiest converge on Ascot for the meeting among the other 300,000 who pass the turnstiles over the 5 days, making it the world’s best attended race meeting. Horse racing is at the heart of the British upper classes and Royal Ascot is it’s blue ribband event. The wonderful mix of aristocratic snobbery and popular debauchery make Royal Ascot a surreal and enjoyable experience. Ladies’ Day brings out some of the most impressive milliner work you will ever see in your life.
Ascot is tiny so stay in Mayfair in London at The Connaught
By Hugo Mc Cafferty