California remains one of the most enthusiastic states in the U.S. when it comes to horse racing and eventing at the professional level. And for those in and around San Diego, interest in professional horse racing can be particularly high, given the presence of the famous Del Mar Racetrack. Every year some of the most talented race horses, jockeys and trainers from all over the world descend on Del Mar for some truly spirited competition, as crowds take in the festival-like atmosphere that only a high profile race can bring.
However, the Del Mar racing calendar doesn’t really kick off until the second half of the year, with events beginning in July and running through August. For that reason, horse racing enthusiasts in the area often set their sights on other major races throughout the world. So if you’re a fan who can’t wait for Del Mar, here are five of the best races taking place in the first half of 2014 to keep an eye on!
Dubai World Cup
Dubai is increasingly becoming a major international hub for sports, and the Dubai World Cup is just one more example of why. Held annually at the Meydan Race Course, the event takes place on the last Saturday of March and carries the biggest purse in horse racing at $10 million. Competitors are thoroughbred and purebred Arabian horses, and the signature race is roughly 10 furlongs in distance. This is truly a racing event to witness in person, as the spectacle in Dubai—at the races and in surrounding venues—is tough to match!
Held on April 5th at Aintree Race Course in Liverpool, the Grand National is one of the signature racing events on the English calendar. A marquee steeplechase event, the race takes place over a distance of over four miles, and has been taking place for nearly 200 years. It can be difficult for U.S. fans to find the Grand National live on television, but online sports exchange Betfair offers up-to-date news, tips, and betting odds for those in the U.S. who would like to enjoy the race from a distance. Keeping up with the competitors and watching for live updates can be nearly as thrilling as the race itself!
Quite possibly the most recognized name in all of international horse racing, the Kentucky Derby is one of three U.S. events that comprise the Triple Crown—as any racing fan will know. The Derby takes place in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday of May, at the legendary Churchill Downs Race Course. This is an ideal event for U.S. fans to mark down for some spring travel, as the Kentucky Derby Festival leading up to the event is essentially an enormous outdoor celebration of the race to come, and makes for an incredible party. The race can also be enjoyed from a distance, however, because it is broadcast annually on NBC.
Another Triple Crown event that’s breathtaking to behold in person, the Preakness Stakes event occurs on the third Saturday of May and is run at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The Kentucky Derby may provide the biggest spectacle, but many who have visited all three Triple Crown races would call the Preakness the biggest party, as fans essentially go nuts for a few days leading up to the main event. Another perk, for those looking to travel to a race, is that Baltimore is a more enjoyable destination than those in which many high profile races are held, offering an historic town, fun nightlife, and great seafood.
Arguably the biggest single event on the UK’s racing calendar, the Royal Ascot is held across five days each June at the Ascot Race Course, which is very closely attached to the British royal family. This is a racing event unlike any other, and it should absolutely be considered a must to attend live for any serious racing fan. The event’s website boasts “Excitement, Pageantry, Fashion, and Style” as a sort of motto. It also claims “exciting racing since 1711,” giving visitors an idea of the history and tradition that simply oozes from this event. For a fun look at some of the event’s imagery, check out CNN’s recent slideshow of artistic looks at the Royal Ascot.
They’re all a bit far from home for you San Diego racing fans. However, whether you’re following online, watching on television, or taking a trip, each of these races offers a unique experience to enjoy as you wait for the Del Mar calendar to start off!