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What Are The Best Horse Racing Destinations In Europe?

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Horse racing is a sport that knows no borders. What started in Ancient Greece and was modernized in the UK, took over the world in a couple of decades. Horse racing is one of the most unique sports when it comes to its popularity.

It is not saturated to a certain place, and some countries might have deep horse racing history, while other neighboring countries might have empty equine history pages. We all know that horse racing is very popular in the US and Australia, but, what about Europe?

Is the continent that started the modern-day trend of horse racing bursting with horse racing history and culture?

Well, yes and no. Some countries in Europe have a long history with the sport, that goes farther in time than the horse race tracks from the United States. For example, the Kentucky Derby was inspired by the Epsom Derby in the UK in 1873. So, the sport was brought back to the US from Europe.

This inspired us to go on a search for the top horse racing destinations in Europe. Countries where horse racing enthusiast has plenty to see following their passion.

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    Cheltenham, United Kingdom

    While football holds the title of the national sport in the United Kingdom, it’s widely acknowledged that England is where the rules were codified, and the first games were played. The country boasts a rich and diverse sporting history, contributing several popular disciplines to the world, including cricket, rugby, and golf.

    Although the UK didn’t pioneer horse racing, it played a pivotal role in its evolution into the sport it is today. This contribution is marked by the creation of the General Stud Book in 1791, a publication that meticulously recorded the lineage of all Thoroughbred racehorses in the country—a concept still relevant today. 

    Produced by the descendants of James Weatherby, the original creator, this book serves as a tool to determine a horse’s eligibility for sanctioned Thoroughbred events, a model replicated in several other countries.

    The United Kingdom is also renowned for hosting several prestigious horse races, such as the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse, the Cheltenham Festival, and Royal Ascot. The Grand National, in particular, stands out as the largest, with organizers claiming it is watched by a staggering 600 million people worldwide.

    Paris, France

    Situated just across the water from the UK, France is another European country with a deep passion for horse racing. Despite trailing their Anglo neighbors in terms of wagers placed, France expends nearly £3.7 billion (€4.36 billion) annually on supporting horses, making it the second-largest horse race betting market on the entire European continent.

    Similar to the United Kingdom, France maintains a bustling calendar of horse race meetings throughout the year, featuring both smaller local events and internationally recognized races that draw significant attention. 

    The French horse racing season typically kicks off in March and extends until the end of November. The standout event on the calendar is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, held every October since 1920. 

    This flat event is open to all horses aged at least three years old and is widely regarded as the most prestigious race on the continent. This acknowledgment is underscored by its position as the biggest prize purse in Europe and the second-largest in the world.

    Warsaw, Poland

    For all horse racing enthusiasts visiting Warsaw, the Sluzewiec Horse Race Track is a must-see destination! Despite equine racing in Poland dating back to 1777, the sport experienced neglect during the Communist era. 

    Make your experience even more memorable by exploring the rest of Warsaw. Don’t miss iconic locations like Warsaw Old Town, Łazienki Park, or the Palace of Culture and Science to truly fall in love with this country!

    Mons, Wallonia, Belgium

    While in Mons, Wallonia, Belgium, you’ll find numerous places to explore, including the Church of St. Elizabeth, the historic site of The Grand Hornu, and Maison Van Gogh. However, the most crucial stop for all equine lovers is the Hippodrome de Wallonie. Check their website for the race schedule and find the perfect dates for your next vacation.

    Siena, Italy

    It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Italy is among the European countries that harbor a deep love for horse racing, given the historical fame of the Roman Empire for its chariot and horse events. Italy holds the third position in Europe for the number of bets placed on equestrian events, with just under half of the amount spent in France at £1.46 billion (€1.72 billion).

    Beyond the traditional events at racecourses across Italy, the country hosts a truly unique spectacle twice a year known as the Palio di Siena. This event involves ten horses and riders, with horses participating without saddles and riders dressing in the colors of different city wards. 

    Here’s an interesting fact: did you know that this is the oldest horse race in the world still held today? Yes, the Palio di Siena dates back 800 years, making it much older than any other race on the planet.

    Pardubice, Czech Republic

    For a unique experience in a place where horse racing isn’t as popular as in other countries but has a rich history, consider visiting the Czech Republic. Here, you can witness a cross-country steeplechase equine race held since 1874 on the second Sunday of October each year! Despite lasting only 10 minutes, the race in Pardubice City will undoubtedly leave you amazed.

    Explore beyond the racetrack by visiting the Kunětice Mountain Castle to delve into the rich history of this European country. Additionally, a visit to the 15th-century castle, Zámek Pardubice, offers the opportunity to see a fascinating collection of old coins and weapons.