Since thoroughbred horseracing became a popular past-time for the English nobility many hundreds of years ago, a handful of racecourses have established themselves as racing locations of international importance.
Here's our pick of the world's five most famous racecourses.
Newmarket has been a center of English racing since 1605, when King James I began racing horses near the village in the area. Records indicate that racing may have taken place in Newmarket even before then, with Newmarket famed for its horses during the time of the Roman occupation. In 1634 Newmarket hosted the first Gold Cup event in England and in the 1800s the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas Stakes races were introduced at Newmarket Racecourse. Today Newmarket not only hosts some of the UK's most prestigious Group 1 races, but is also the location of some of the world's most prestigious stables and training facilities.
While Australia is home to a number of famous racecourses, Flemington Park can be fairly described as the home of Australian racing. Not only does the course host the Melbourne Cup, and several other key Spring Racing Carnival races, but it is also Australia's largest capacity racecourse, with space for over 100,000 spectators. Flemington Park also has a rich heritage and history, with racing first taking place on the alluvial flats beside the city of Melbourne in 1840. Today Flemington Racecourse is on the Australian National Heritage List and is also famed for its massive, well maintained rose gardens.
Few racecourses in the world are as formidable as Aintree Racecourse, home of the world's toughest handicap stayers race for national hunt racehorses, the Grand National. The fences at Aintree are so challenging that many have their own names and folklore surrounding them, ranging from Foinavon's Fence to Becher's Brook and the Water Jump. Even the run-in used in the Grand National is an incredible 452 meters. Aintree Racecourse is also notable for how sparsely it is used for racing, with only a handful of race meetings held outside the course's signature annual Aintree Festival.
Santa Anita Park
Located in Arcadia, California, Santa Anita is the most famous racecourse in the United States, and the area has been used for horse racing since the late 19th century. While Santa Anita does not host any of the American Triple Crown races, it is frequently used to host the Breeders' Cup, the unofficial world thoroughbred racing championships. Other important races run at Santa Anita include the Santa Anita Derby and the Santa Anita Handicap. Santa Anita is also considered the world's most beautiful racecourse, with a racecourse compromising both turf and dirt tracks framed by the stunning San Gabriel mountain range.
Located on the banks of the Seine River in Paris, Longchamp Racecourse is the most important racecourse in continental Europe. Racing was introduced to Longchamp relatively recently, with the first ever race taking place there in 1857, watched by Emperor Napoleon III and several other members of the French monarchy. Today the racecourse can accommodate up to 50,000 spectators, and hosts over half the Group One races in France. These races include the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, recognized as the premier European race for middle distance racehorses.
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