The Longest-Running Horse Racetracks in the World

Churchill Downs is but one of the historic horse racing tracks in the U.S.
Churchill Downs is but one of the historic horse racing tracks in the U.S. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Is there anything quite as thrilling as heading to the racetrack to watch a horse race? An ancient spectator sport, horse racing dates back to at least 648 B.C. It’s no wonder, then, that virtually every country in the world has iconic racetracks which are a perfect destination for outings with friends and family.

There are some racing courses that stand out from the crowd. Some of the best-known races in the world are run here, and they have set racing traditions that have stood the test of time. If you visit any of the sportsbooks featured on, you’ll find that when it comes to placing a wager on your favourite horse, they’re likely to be running at one of these famous tracks.

So, which racing courses have achieved this mythical status? Let’s take a look at some of the oldest horse racing courses in the world.

Santa Anita Park
Racing at Santa Anita Park (Eclipse Sportswire)

Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, Calif., U.S.

First opened in 1934, Santa Anita Park has earned a reputation as one of the most beautiful in the world thanks to its stunning backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. It also has a seriously impressive art deco grandstand which seats 26,000 spectators and a lovely infield track with picnic tables and trees. The course itself stretches for a mile and is the location for the Santa Anita Handicap and the Santa Anita Derby. Not only is this race track famous for these two races, but it’s also well-known for its influence on racing too. It was here that finish line cameras and electronic timers were first used in Thoroughbred racing in the United States.

Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, U.K.

Famous for one of the most well-known races of all time, the Grand National, the Aintree racetrack opened almost 200 years ago in 1829. The steeplechase obstacles on this course are almost as well known as the race course itself. The Chair, Becher’s Brook, and Canal Turn are notorious challenges faced by some of the best horses every year.

Flemington, Flemington, Australia

Another ancient race track, Flemington – home of the Melbourne Cup and Victoria Derby – was first opened in 1840. With its unusual pear shape, this enormous racetrack has been designated as an Australian National Heritage Site. It features three grandstands, a six-furlong straight and even a railway line of its own.

Racing at Saratoga
Racing at Saratoga (Eclipse Sportswire)

Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., U.S.

As the United States’ oldest sports venue, Saratoga is quintessentially American. Having survived through both world wars and legislation to outlaw gambling, this race course is particularly famous for some of its famous defeats. Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox, America Pharoah, and Secretariat all lost here, earning the track the nickname of “The Graveyard of Champions.” There are also some unique features here including a bell which is rung by hand precisely 17 minutes before every race to tell the jockeys that it’s time to head to the paddock.

Meydan, Dubai, U.A.E.

Although this is one of the newest race courses out there, Meydan has rapidly forged a reputation in the racing business. Like everything in the United Arab Emirates, this race course is the biggest and best. The main grandstand is nearly a mile long, seating 80,000 spectators. This makes it the planet’s biggest structure. Inside it, you can find a racing museum, corporate suites, restaurants, and even a five-star hotel! The complex is so enormous that it has earned the name “Meydan City” and on the night of the Dubai World Cup, it plays host to royalty and VIPs for the world’s richest racing day.

Epsom Downs, Epsom, U.K.

This is one of the oldest racecourses anywhere in the world, with races having been run here as long ago as 1661. Located in the southeast of the UK, this racetrack was the origin of the word “derby” which is now used to describe numerous sporting events. Originally, however, it was only used to refer to the Epsom Derby, the wealthiest race in the UK. Crowds of 125,000 people have gathered here to watch the racing, and in 2009 a new stand was built worth £28 million which is capable of holding an extra 11,000 fans.

Racing at Ascot
Racing at Ascot (Eclipse Sportswire)

Ascot Racecourse, Ascot, U.K.

Another ancient racecourse, Ascot was first opened back in 1711 and even has an item of clothing named after it! Home to prestigious races like the Gold Cup, Royal Ascot’s race week is a key event in the social calendar of the British gentry, with the royal family frequently in attendance.

Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky., U.S.

Churchill Downs hosts the United States’ second best-attended sports event with as many as 170,000 spectators packing its grounds for the Kentucky Derby every May wearing lavish outfits and oversized hats. However, there are other races held under the Twin Spires, too. The Kentucky Oaks is also held at Churchill Downs, and the course also often hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, making it a popular racing destination.

These are just some of the world’s most historic racecourses. Any one of them is a wonderful place to visit with friends or family to place a wager or simply to soak in the thrilling atmosphere of the racetrack.

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