There aren’t many more summery sporting spectacles than a great horse race, and any sporting buff should make sure to tick a few of the most famous racecourses in the world off their bucket list. These venues are amongst the oldest in the world, with several having stood for three centuries or more. Here are four must-see racecourses which you should be crossing off your list.
Everything’s bigger in America, so it’s no surprise that the country’s most famous horse race doesn’t take over just one day but an entire week. Every spring, people from across the States make their way over for the two-week Kentucky Derby Festival at the famed Churchill Downs racecourse, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. The festival includes a parade, a balloon race and a huge fireworks display – but the real occasion is the Derby itself, America’s national horse race. And in its stunning grounds, with a capacity of 170,000 and with live university marching bands providing pre-race entertainments, there are few places better in the world to watch a race.
Possibly the most famous racecourse in the world, the lanes and stands at Aintree are filled with history. The grand old entrance is a sign of the esteemed history of the course, which was first opened in 1829. And once a year, the eyes of the British public – and quite a few around the world, too – are fixed on this famous old venue as it hosts the world’s best-known race: the Grand National. It’s the day when Grand National betting takes over the nation and everyone places a wager – especially those lucky enough to enjoy the event in person. Aintree holds races year-round, though, and any time is a good one to take in its incredible history.
Victoria’s equally historic Flemington racecourse hosts Australia’s version of the Grand National – which does a pretty good job at captivating the country, too. The Melbourne Cup, known as the ‘Race that stops a nation’, takes place every November – that’s summer down under – and is promptly used as an excuse for all-day barbecues and betting by the sports-mad Aussies. The race was first run in 1861, and its home venue is fitting; Flemington contains three impressive grandstands and can hold a total of 120,000 people.
Berkshire’s legendary racecourse, Ascot, makes the other entrants on this list look like infants – it’s been standing for a staggering 307 years, having first opened in 1711. A short hop from Windsor Castle, it’s also the racing venue of choice for the royals – and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is its annual flagship race. The course is famed for its dress days – so if you visit, make sure to wear your best suit or your most elaborate hat. When the sun is out, there’s no more quintessentially British sporting venue in the country.
With famous races and remarkable histories, these racecourses are worth a visit any time of the year – and if you’re lucky enough to catch them on race day, make the most of it.