Horse racing is one of the biggest industries across the planet, and fans are able to get closer to the action by attending international meetings. Few other sports can offer fans the same opportunity to travel across the world to see the biggest stars, but horse racing enables followers to build their own bucket list of tracks that they wish to visit at least once.
Some of the best tracks are located in the United States, with courses found in all states across the country. But, what are some of the best US horse racing tracks that all fans of the sport must visit at least once?
There are few horse racing tracks in the United States like Churchill Downs. Like Ascot, it has a historic significance to fans that follow the sport, as the prestigious Kentucky Derby takes place at the track annually.
The track has also hosted the lucrative Breeders’ Cup on nine occasions, meaning that visitors are always likely to see a star when they pay a visit to the course located in Louisville.
Up to 170,000 fans can be accommodated at Churchill Downs, with the biggest meets outside of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, being the Clark Handicap and Stephen Foster Handicap.
Del Mar is one of the most beautiful tracks in North America, and is renowned for boasting one of the best turf courses in the United States. The track was opened in 1936, and is now one of the picturesque locations for tracks in the country, as it is located along the Pacific Ocean coastline.
Racing may be the biggest drawing point to Del Mar, but fans can also take in the world famous golf course, and premium clubs also located at the track. Annually, Del Mar hosts six Grade 1 races on the calendar, including the Pacific Classic, Bing Crosby Stakes and the Del Mar Oaks. Furthermore, the track also hosts 12 Grade 2s and 12 Grade 3s.
In 2021, Del Mar hosted the prestigious cup for the second time. The feature race of the meet was won by Knicks Go, as he held off competition from Essential Quality to land the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
One of the most popular racecourses to visit in the United States is located on the outskirts of New York. Belmont Park is situated in Elmont, and it plays host to the prestigious final leg of the Triple Crown-the Belmont Stakes. Belmont Park was opened in 1905 and is operated by the New York Racing Association, just like Saratoga and Aqueduct. There are two blocks of racing periods at Belmont, with the first coming between April and July.
Meanwhile, the Fall Meet runs from the middle of September until late October. One of the most famous race days at the track came in 2004, as Smarty Jones fell short in his Triple Crown bid. Over 120,000 fans witnessed Birdstone land the upset victory. Aside from the Belmont Stakes, other big races that take place at the track throughout the year include the Belmont Derby, Champagne Stakes and the Metropolitan Handicap.
Churchill Downs isn’t the only legendary racetrack located in Kentucky, as the state also has Keeneland. This track is located in Lexington, and has played host the prestigious cup on three occasions. Keeneland regularly ranks high among the best race tracks in the country, and it is a National Historic Landmark.
The track was first opened in 1936, and plays host to some of the most prestigious races throughout the year. Some of the big Grade 1s that are staged at Keeneland include the Ashland Stakes, Turf Mile Stakes and the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes. However, one of the biggest race days of the year comes in the form of the Blue Grass Stakes, which is one of the final prep races before the Kentucky Derby. Keeneland is also significant for racing fans, as it boasts the world’s largest Thoroughbred auction house.
Three sales take place annually, and those are the Yearling Sale in September, the November Breeding Stock Sale and the January Horses of All Ages Sale. To date, horses that have been sold at Keeneland have helped produce 88 wins of Breeders’ Cup races, 19 Kentucky Derby winners, and 18 Belmont Stakes victors.