Best Horse Race Tracks in The World – What Are Top 10 Racing Courses?

horse race tracks

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Last Updated: July 29, 2023

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Not many things in life can compare to the thrill and atmosphere of being at a horse race track for a great racing tournament.

Horse racing also appears on the list of the oldest sports with spectators, alongside sprinting or running, so this fact alone adds to the appeal of famous race courses.

It is one of the most popular spectator sports for a couple of reasons. First of all, spectators love the fast-paced nature of the sport, and this alone has captivated people since ancient times.

When it comes to the popularity of the sport, horse racing is one of the most prestigious and prominent activities in Australia, France, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

In fact, these remain the most popular horse racing destinations, and they have some of the most renowned horse race tracks.

Based on all the relevant factors, the best horse race track in the world is generally considered to be Churchill Downs, which hosts the Kentucky Derby, Clark Handicap, and a couple of other big races.

Our list of the best racecourses also features the Hippodrome de Longchamp, Meydan, Saratoga, Epsom Downs, Santa Anita Park, Flemington, Tokyo, Aintree, and Ascot.

Keep reading and find out how each of the top horse race tracks rates and what makes each of them unique and worth a visit.

10. Santa Anita Park

best horse race tracks

  • Located in Los Angeles County, California, the United States
  • Counter-clockwise orientation
  • Started operating in 1934
  • Hosts Santa Anita Handicap, Santa Anita Derby, American Oaks

Hosting a record of ten Breeders’ Cup Championships, Santa Anita Park, located in Los Angeles County in California, most certainly earned a spot on the list of the best racing courses in the world.

Santa Anita Park is one of the most famous permanent race courses in the world.

It opened its doors in 1934, and it is owned by the Stronach Group. As previously mentioned, Santa Anita Park hosted the Breeder’s Cup Championship ten times, including the 2019 and 2023 editions.

In addition, the racing course also hosts 13 Grade 1 Flat races every year, as well as the Santa Anita Handicap and the Santa Anita Derby.

What adds to the appeal of the facility is most certainly the stunning view that overlooks the San Gabriel Mountains. Santa Anita Park has a room for over 26,000 spectators.

Santa Anita Park is also famous for hosting the 626 Night Market food festival, a three-day event that has been held every year since 2013.

When it comes to horse racing tracks at Santa Anita Park, the venue has a one-mile main dirt track alongside one hillside turf. Back in 2020, the construction of a new turf chute started. According to the owner, the brand-new turf track will be used for 6½ furlongs turf sprints.

9. Epsom Downs

horse race track epsom downs

  • Located at Epsom, Surrey, the United Kingdom
  • Counter-clockwise orientation
  • Operational since 1661
  • Hosts Epsom Oaks, Epsom Derby, and Coronation Cup

Even if you know very little about horse racing and horse race tracks, you have probably heard of Epsom Downs, one of the most iconic and oldest racing courses in the world.

The facility is located in Surrey, United Kingdom, and it has been hosting horse racing tournaments and competitions since 1661.

Epsom Downs also hosts the British Classic and which is one of the most renowned horse racing tournaments in the world, on top of hosting the Coronation Cup, Epsom Oaks, and Epson Derby. Epsom Downs is primarily used for thoroughbred horse racing and has been since its foundation.

The facility has a spectator capacity of 130,000 people. All the horse racing competitions at Epsom Downs fall into the Grade competitions.

All the races also run over the same distance and course. What makes Epsom Downs different from other famous horse racing tracks is the selection of unusual twists and turns the course features.

Adding to the overall thrill of the racing course is the famous Tattenham Corner. With so many different twists and turns, racing courses at Epsom Downs tend to be more challenging, but this only adds to their overall appeal.

The best part is that spectators can watch the races from the open land surrounding the racetrack with no need to get a ticket.

8. Flemington

felmington top race courses

  • Located in Melbourne, Australia
  • Counter-clockwise orientation
  • Has been operating since 1840
  • Hosts Black Caviar Lightning, Melbourne Cup, and LKS Mackinnon Stakes

For the next best horse race track in the world, we have to travel to Australia. The Flemington race course is located in Melbourne. The race course has been operating since 1840, so it is also one of the oldest facilities of this kind in the world.

One of the biggest horse racing competitions in Australia, the Melbourne Cup is held at the Flemington racecourse every first Tuesday in November.

On top of hosting the Melbourne Cup, the race track is also famous for hosting the LKS Mackinnon Stakes and the Black Caviar Lightning.

During the biggest racing show, spectators get to enjoy the amazing view since the race course is located close to the Maribyrnong River.

The facilities cover an area of over 1,27 square kilometers. Today, the race course is owned and operated by the Victoria Racing Club, which was formed in 1848 when the Victoria Jockey Club merged with the Victoria Turf Club.

The racetrack is shaped like a pear and features a six-furlong straight which most call ‘the Straight Six.’ Direction and “The Straight Six” has three grandstands which remain spectators’ favorite seats. At the time of writing this, Flemington hosts thirteen major horse races each year.

7. Tokyo

tokyo horse race track

  • Located in Tokyo, Japan
  • Counter-clockwise orientation
  • Has been operational since 1933
  • Hosts the Tenno Sho Japan Cup and Japanese Derby

For the next famous horse race track on the list, we travel to the Land of Rising Sun. Nicknamed ” The racecourse of racecourses,” the Tokyo Racecourse located in Fuchu, Tokyo, most certainly deserves a spot here for a couple of reasons.

The construction of the famous Japanese race course was completed in 1933. The facility offers 13,759 seating spots and a total capacity of 223,000.

The legendary race course hosts quite a few notable races, including the Japan Cup, the Yasuda Kinen, the Japanese Derby, February Stakes, Victoria Mile, and NHK Mile Cup, among others.

What is also interesting to note is that the Tokyo horse race track has one of the biggest video screens in the world, and this definitely adds to the overall amazing vibe spectators get to enjoy.

The dirt race courses at the Tokyo venue measure 1⅛ mile and 290 feet, while the jump course is around one mile and 215 feet.

Back in 2007, almost the entire facility underwent an extensive renovation. This was when the biggest video screen was included, alongside a brand-new grandstand called the “Fuji View Stand.”

6. Saratoga

horse racing tracks saratoga

  • Located at Saratoga Springs, New York, the United States
  • Counter-clockwise orientation
  • Has been operational since 1863
  • Hosts the Whitney Handicap, Travers Stakes, and Alabama Stakes

The Saratoga horse race track, located in Saratoga Springs in the state of New York, USA, is one of the oldest horse racing courses in the county as the venue started welcoming the very first spectators back in 1863.

The Saratoga racing course is best known for hosting the Travers Stakes, Whitney Handicap, and Alabama Stakes.

As early as 1822, Saratoga Springs hosted trials of speed and the exhibition of horses at county fairs. In 1847, the construction of the Saratoga Trotting Course was completed, and this same year, the Saratoga racing course hosted the very first race. This area is today known as “Horse Haven.”

Since 1864, the Saratoga Race Course has been in use almost every year. The racing course closed its doors back in 1896 for a short period and a growing competition.

William Collins Whitney, who purchased the facility in 1901, made it glorious again in the years to come.

In the late 1960s, the entire facility underwent a series of renovations. During the same time, the main grandstand was renovated.

The main course at the Saratoga racing course features three tracks, including the main dirt track with a 1 1⁄8-mile circumference, one track for 1-mile events, also called the Wilson Chute, and the other chute for seven-furlong racing events.

5. Aintree

anitree horse race track

  • Located in Liverpool, the United Kingdom
  • Counter-clockwise orientation
  • Has been operational since 1829
  • Hosts the Aintree Bowl, Liverpool Hurdle, and Grand National

The legendary Aintree horse race track located in Liverpool, the UK, is so famous among fans of the sport that many of the fences on the race course have nicknames. Those who are familiar with Aintree probably heard of Canal Turn, Becher’s Brook, and Valentine’s.

The Aintree racing course opened back in 1829, and it is one of the oldest facilities of this kind in the United Kingdom.

Ainttree is most famous for hosting the annual Grand National steeplechase, which is a three-day event that takes place every April.

Discussing the legendary racing course, the construction kicked off on the 7th of February in 1829, and Lord Sefton laid the first stone. The very first Aintree grandstand was completed just in time before the very first race that took place on the 7th of July 1829.

Today, Aintree has three main racing courses, including the Mildmay, the Hurdles’, and the Grand National course. The Grand National course usually attracts the most attention.

It runs for about two miles, two furlongs, and boasts sixteen fences. Some of the fences on the famous course have smaller drops which make the Grand National the most difficult Aintree course.

4. Meydan

meydan race course

  • Located in Meydan City, the United Arab Emirates
  • Counter-clockwise orientation
  • Has been operational since 2010
  • Hosts the Sheema Classic, Dubai Gold Cup, and Dubai World Cup

Next on the list of the best race courses in the world, we have the amazing Meydan racecourse located in Meydan City, the United Arab Emirates.

When compared to other famous racing courses on the list, Meydan is one of the newer facilities of this kind, as it has been operating since 2010.

The Meydan racetrack has a capacity of 60,000 spectators and a main grandstand that is more than half a mile long.

The facility is owned and operated by the Dubai Racing Club. Meydan replaced the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, which was located in the same area.

The Meydan venue accompanies a gallery, horse racing museum, golf course, and even a five-star hotel. It is primarily used for horse racing, but when there are no racing competitions, Meydan is a popular spot for conferences and other forms of business meetings.

When it comes to big horse racing competitions, Meydan is best known for hosting the Dubai World Cup, which has been held annually since 1996. Meydan also hosts the Sheema Classic and the Dubai Gold Cup.

3. Longchamp

longchamp horse racing track

  • Located at Bois de Boulogne, Paris, France
  • Clockwise orientation
  • Has been operational since 1857
  • Hosts the Grand Prix de Paris, Prix du Cadran, and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

We also have to include the Longchamp racing course on the list of the best horse race courses as this is one of the most famous facilities of this kind in the world.

Located at Bois de Boulogne, Paris, this legendary racing course hosts a number of big racing tournaments, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Prix du Cadran, and Grand Prix de Paris.

The facility opened its doors in 1857, and it has a capacity of around 50,000 spectators.

As of today, the venue is primarily used for hosting flat racing events. What makes the racing course so popular among spectators is its unusual layout with a couple of challenging hills.

The Longchamp racing course has a couple of racing courses with different lengths and forty-six starting points. While the Longchamp course hosts quite a few big events, the main spectacle is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe which is held annually every October. The event attracts the best jockeys every year.

Relatively recently, the facility underwent extensive renovations focusing on the grandstand seats to increase the seating capacity. What adds to the popularity of the racing course among spectators is most certainly the astonishing views of the surrounding open fields.

2. Ascot

ascot race course

  • Located at Berkshire, the United Kingdom
  • Clockwise orientation
  • Has been operating since 1711
  • Hosts the Clarence House Chase, British Champions Day, and Royal Ascot

Second-placed on the list of the best, most famous horse race courses in the world, we have Ascot located in Berkshire, London, the United Kingdom.

Founded in 1711, this is one of the oldest racing courses in the world, and the very first races at Ascot were held during the Stuart period.

Each year, the venue is visited by over 600,000 people who come to watch exciting races of the Royal Ascot, British Champions Day, and Clarence House Chase, alongside other big tournaments the venue hosts every year.

More specifically, the racing course hosts thirteen annual events, alongside three jumps tournaments and one Group 1 horse racing event. What is also interesting to note is that the British Royal Family is very fond of Ascot and has been for a number of years.

This should not come up as a surprise considering the fact Ascot was founded by Queen Anne and is located only six miles from legendary Windsor Castle.

Today, Ascot hosts twenty-six racing days every year, including eighteen flat horse racing events which usually occur in the months of April and October, and eight jump horse racing events which are usually held between October and March.

The Royal Ascot, which is held every June, is one of the most famous Ascot events. The Royal Ascot is not only a famous sporting event but also a major social gathering for many horse racing enthusiasts.

1. Churchill Downs

churchill downs race course

  • Located in Lexington, Kentucky, the United States
  • Counter-clockwise orientation
  • Has been operating since 1875
  • Hosts the Kentucky Derby, Clarks Handicap, and Kentucky Oaks

Finally, we get to the most famous horse race track in the world, the legendary Churchill Downs venue located in the city of Lexington in the state of Kentucky.

The famous racing course has been operating since 1875, and it was named after one of the most affluent families in the state of Kentucky back then.

Needless to say, Churchill Downs is best known for hosting the biggest horse racing event in the world, the Kentucky Derby, which is held every year. Today, the Kentucky Derby is part of the Triple Crown racing events, which also includes the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness Stakes.

Churchill Downs also hosts many other prominent events, including the Kentucky Oaks, which has been held every year since 1875, and the Clark Handicap, that has been inaugurated that same year.

The Woodford Reserve Turf Classis and the Stephen Foster Handicap are also hosted at Churchill Downs.

“The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” kick-off every May when the Kentucky Derby returns for yet another exciting edition. In addition, Churchill Downs hosted nine Breeders’ Cups and seven other Grade 1 horse racing tournaments, including the Derby City Distaff Stakes, La Troienne Stakes, and Arlington Million.

Other major Grade II and Grade III horse racing events hosted at Churchill Downs include the American Turf Stakes, Secretariat Stakes, Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes, Wise Dan Stakes, Eight Belles Stakes, Falls City Handicap, Golden Rod Stakes, Ack Ack Stakes, Chicago Stakes, Dogwood Stakes, Louisville Stakes, Pucker Up Stakes, River City Handicap, and Winning Colors Stakes, alongside other.

Today, the legendary racing course is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated, which is heavily involved in the online and land-based gaming industries, racing, and entertainment. Churchill Downs has a capacity of 170,000 spectators.

One of the biggest attractions of the facility is the Twin Spires, located near one of the grandstands. The Twin Spires is one of the most recognizable designs of Joseph Dominic Baldez. Between 2001 and 2005, the venue underwent an extensive renovation which cost around $121 million.

This was when Churchill Downs’s famous clubhouse was replaced, and the facility was enriched with seventy-nine luxury suites. This was also when the iconic Twin Spires were refurbished and given back their old glory.

Churchill Derby visitors are also impressed by Pierre Bellocq’s mural, which depicts all ninety-six Kentucky Derby winners between 1875 and 2004.

Pierre Bellocq also included another mural for all the trainers, and both murals are updated on a yearly basis to depict the most recent Kentucky Derby-winning jockers and trainers.

Honorable Mentions 

  • Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, the United Kingdom
  • Parx in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, the United States
  • Lone Star Park, Grand Prairie, Texas, the United States
  • Monmouth Park, Oceanport, New Jersey, the United States
  • Fair Grounds, New Orleans, Louisiana, the United States
  • Woodbine, Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada

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