As the Cheltenham Festival draws closer, it’s time to take a look at the very best and biggest horse racing festivals in the world.
Those yearly festivals are beloved by all horse racing fans as they bring together the very best horses, jockeys and trainers in the world for some serious action at the most elite and famous racecourses in the world.
Although we all love those one-off race meetings, such as the Grand National, 1000 Guineas or Kentucky Derby, there is just something about a whole festival of racing that we can’t resist… the test of skill, speed and stamina.
Here, we will look at the best and most popular horse racing festivals in the world…
Cheltenham Festival, England
Let’s start with the one right on our doorstep… the Cheltenham Festival, which is often referred to as the ‘World Cup of National Hunt Racing’. This brings together the very best trainers, jockeys and thoroughbreds in the racing world, including overseas stars from far flung destinations such as North America and Asia.
You can bet on Cheltenham races over the four solid days of horse racing excitement, with around 14 Group 1 Races. It is held every March, usually coinciding with St Paddy’s Day, drawing in lots of Irish fans.
Overall, there are 28 races to get your teeth into and this is a must-see for anyone that loves cross country and steeplechase horse races.
Dubai World Cup Night, UAE
We head over to sunnier climes now with the 8 race festival which takes place at the Meydan Racecourse, Dubai in the UAE. Previously, it was staged at the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse but in 2010 it switched to the all-weather Tapeta surface of Meydan.
The biggest race of the festival is the Dubai World Cup, which is considered to be the richest horse race in the world.
It may be the richest, but it is also the newest – and it only actually dates back to 1996, after it was dreamed up by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Last year, just the World Cup race had a huge prize purse of around $12 million… and across all of the 8 races of the festival, there was a total prize fund of $27.25 million for successful trainers and owners.
Royal Ascot, UK
Another English entry is Royal Ascot, which is much older than the Dubai Festival, dating all the way back to 1768 – although the festival as we now know it didn’t come about until 1807 and the launch of the Ascot Gold Cup.
This was the only race meeting held at Ascot Racecourse for over 100 years. However, this is no longer true. These days there are several meetings scheduled throughout the year.
Despite this, the Royal Ascot festival is still considered to be the most prolific flat racing festival for British and Irish horses – and there’s always plenty of interest in the main Group 1 races including the Platinum Jubilee Stakes and the Gold Cup.
Then, of course, there is Ladies Day – Gold Cup, which attracts the fashionistas of the racing world.
Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, Australia
This racing carnival features the main Group 1 races held at the country’s three major racecourses – Caulfield Racecourse, Geelong Racecourse and Moonee Valley Racecourse.
The proceedings are kicked off by the Caulfield Carnival, which offers three meetings that all hold Group 1 races such as the Caulfield Cup, the Caulfield Thousand Guineas and the Caulfield Guineas.
The Geelong Carnival is held at Moonee Valley Carnival between the Caulfield Cup and the Cox Place. This is a 2 day event with headline races including the Weight for Age Cox Plate and, of course, the Gold Cup.
Then there is the Victoria Racing Club, which attracts numerous meetings in this period, including the race that stops the country… the Melbourne Cup.
There are others, of course. We can’t not mention the Grand National Festival at Aintree, or The Breeder’s Cup World Championship 2-day event in the US.
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