As the UK prepares for Royal Ascot, we take a look at some of the biggest and most thrilling horse races across the globe;
You don’t have to be a horse racing enthusiast to at least have passing knowledge of the Kentucky Derby, perhaps the most famous horse race of all. The Derby is held every year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky in the Midwestern United States on the first Saturday in May. While the race itself lasts just two minutes it can make or break the careers of those who run in it. The derby is the first leg of the illusive Triple Crown of races. For spectators the Kentucky Derby isn’t just about the race but also the pageantry surrounding it. The dress is formal with a focus on colorful hats and ties and drinks are equally classy. For days leading up to it visitors will find parades, fireworks and parties celebrating the event.
The Royal Ascot horse races are held in Ascot, in the county of Berkshire in England and are unique in that it is more than a single race. It is a series of two-dozen races held on the grounds over a five-day period, this year running from Tuesday 19 to Saturday 23 June 2012, during which there are parties, celebrations and showing-off the latest in style and luxury. The dress is strictly formal and spectators should be prepared to wear top hats, fine dresses and smart suits. Also try to stake out a good spot to watch the arrival of the Queen who, along with other members of the royal family, always attends Ascot. The Queen has a vested interested in the races as she has horses running and achieved a notable win in 2008. This is 300 years of ancient royal tradition in action.
The Melbourne Cup
The Melbourne Cup in Melbourne, Australia is known as “the race that stops a nation.” Held for more than a century it is now one of the world’s highest-paying horse races and is surrounded by celebration and tradition to match. The race is so revered by those living in Melbourne that race day is now considered a public holiday in the city, being held next on Tuesday 6 November 2012. The biggest spectator event besides the race itself is the famous “Fashions on the Field.” Visitors of all ages will love the awarding of prizes for best dressed men and women, as things like elegant hats and formal race-day wear are now requirements at the track.
The Preakness is held at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland, USA on the third Saturday of May each year as the second leg of the famed Triple Crown series. It owes much of its fame and viewership to the Kentucky Derby as racing fans often watch the Preakness to see if the Derby winner will repeat, setting up a potential Triple Crown winner. Like the Derby visitors to the Preakness enjoy the partying and tradition as much as the race itself. Events like the Miss Preakness Contest and picnics on the lawn highlight the days leading up to the race.
Prix de L’arc de Triomphe
Named for the French soldiers who fought in World War 1, this annual race is steeped in fame and tradition. It’s held in Paris, France each year on the first Sunday of October and features competition from throughout Europe. The draw for horse owners is the nearly world-record prize first-place prize of more than ten-million dollars. Because the race is held within Paris spectators flock here from around the world to see not only the French tradition but also to enjoy post-race festivities in the city.
By Julie Bowman