|Friday 2nd June 2023
Five Unmissable American Horse Races
US horse racing often plays second fiddle to its equivalent in the UK and Ireland, however, there are a large quantity of nightly stateside meetings which regularly provide ample drama and excitement.
There are also a host of standout meetings which take place on an annual basis that really capture the imagination of US sports enthusiasts and punters alike. These races also attract interest from further afield with trainers from France, the UK and Japan opting to provide participants for many of these high-profile events. Bookmakers such as Ladbrokes, Sportingbet and Star Sports, all of whom appear in this list of UK betting sites, now offer ante-post betting opportunities on all upcoming US meetings.
We’ve picked out five key race dates from the horse racing calendar which routinely pique the interest of fans due their history, prestige and propensity to entertain.
The Kentucky Derby is said to be “the most exciting two minutes in sport” and is one of the most-watched sporting events of the year in the US. Often considered the holy grail of thoroughbred racing, it is the first of the US Triple Crown races and this Grade 1 contest has produced a number of memorable moments throughout its illustrious history.
Held at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky, this $2 million contest tends to attract the interest of those who rarely tend to wager on the sport and is also regularly referenced in popular culture. With a number of unique Kentucky Derby traditions and its fixed position in the sporting schedule, this is a race which always attracts plenty of attention.
May is a fantastic month for horse racing fans with the second of the Triple Crown races taking place just a couple of weeks after the Kentucky Derby. This Grade 1 contest is held at the historic Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore and is competed over 1 and 3/16 miles.
In terms of interest and attendance, Preakness weekend is only surpassed by the Kentucky Derby, although this race actually pre-dates that event by a couple of years.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this contest is that the winner of the Kentucky Derby often makes their return in a bid to secure the US Triple Crown.
It would churlish of us to not include the third and final leg of the US Triple Crown. The Belmont Stakes take place at the New York track in June and is competed over 12f.
Although this $1.5million race is always a decent watch, its popularity can often depend on whether any of the competitors remain in the running for the Triple Crown.
Whilst Secretariat’s exploits of 1973 are unlikely to ever be matched, emulating the legendry thoroughbred is the aim for the majority of trainers who enter their horse into this prestigious contest. Having won this race by 31 lengths, securing victory in all three of the Triple Crown races is an achievement which is unlikely to be matched anytime soon.
Although the aforementioned Kentucky Derby and Belmont Derby tend to attract a handful of overseas competitors, the Breeder’s Cup has become a truly international affair over the last few years. As well as attracting a high-calibre collection of UK and Irish-trained challengers across the two nights, there also tends to be a small contingent of runners from both Asia and Australia.
With the prize money continuing to grow each year, the Breeder’s Cup has become one of the most-watched sporting events of the season. This two-night spectacle takes place at different venues each year with recent hosts having included Keeneland and Santa Anita Park. The standout race of the weekend is the Breeder’s Cup Classic which comes with a purse of $6million.
Pegasus World Cup Invitational
The Pegasus may be one of the richest races in the world, yet its lack of history often counts against it. This Florida contest takes place at the start of the season at the Hallandale Beach venue and with the North American breeding season getting underway in mid-February, this contest often gives legendry thoroughbreds an opportunity to enjoy one final outing before going to stud.
In the seven renewals of the Pegasus World Cup, no horse has won the race more than once whereas only trainer Bob Baffert (2) and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr (2) have been successful on more than one occasion.
Whether you’re a stateside regular or you simply prefer an occasional dabble, there are a number of high-profile races which continue to deliver on an annual basis.