Best Horse Racing Tracks in the World
Horse racing has some of the most beautiful, tradition-rich venues in all of sports.
Wherever you are in the world, chances are you’re not too far from a racetrack. Of course, some places are better than others to spend a day at the races.
These are the best racetracks in thoroughbred racing.
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Location: Bensalem, Pennsylvania
What Makes Parx Special
Parx has been known by several names over the years. It opened as Keystone Racetrack in 1974, changed its name to Philadelphia Park in 1984, and changed its name again (to Parx) in 2010.
Its biggest day is held in the fall and features the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby for 3-year-olds and the Grade 1 Cotillion for fillies.
In recent years, those races have featured winners such as champions West Coast, Will Take Charge, Songbird and Untapable.
24. Lone Star Park
Location: Grand Prairie, Texas
What Makes Lone Star Park Special
One of the newest tracks on this list, the track located in Grand Prairie, Texas, opened its doors in 1997. It's a first-class facility, and less than a decade later, in 2004, Lone Star hosted the Breeders’ Cup.
That year’s renewal featured powerhouse performances by Hall of Famers Ghostzapper and Ashado, as both horses set track records that stand to this day.
23. Ruidoso Downs
Location: Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico
What Makes Ruidoso Downs Special
Quarter horses get the spotlight at Ruidoso Downs, which is located in New Mexico.
These horses are bred and trained to go shorter distances than thoroughbreds, and they do so in less than the time it takes for someone to tie his or her shoes.
The biggest race on the Ruidoso Downs calendar is the All American Futurity, which is held each Labor Day and offers a purse of $3 million.
Location: East Rutherford, New Jersey
What Makes Meadowlands Special
Located in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Meadowlands is considered by many to be the premier harness racing venue in America.
Standardbreds trot or pace their way to glory here in races like the Hambletonian, which is harness racing’s version of the Kentucky Derby.
Additionally, the track opened a sportsbook in 2018 following New Jersey’s legalization of sports betting.
21. Laurel Park
Location: Laurel, Maryland
What Makes Laurel Park Special
Located in Maryland (close to Washington, D.C.), Laurel Park is the primary home of racing in that state. It’s undergone significant renovations in recent years, and there are rumblings that its owners (The Stronach Group) are interested in moving the Preakness here.
Laurel Park's history includes the Washington, D.C., International Stakes, which for a time was one of the biggest races in the country. Its winners included 20th-century greats Bald Eagle, Kelso, Fort Marcy and Dahlia, among others.
20. Tampa Bay Downs
Location: Tampa, Florida
What Makes Tampa Bay Downs Special
Tampa Bay Downs may not get the mainstream attention fellow Florida track Gulfstream Park does, but the oval has hosted plenty of top-notch horses over the years.
Always Dreaming’s road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby started at Tampa, and 2007 Derby winner Street Sense prepped for that race with a win in that year’s Tampa Bay Derby.
Additionally, Tampa’s turf course, which was installed in 1998, has become one of the most popular such surfaces in the country.
19. Monmouth Park
Location: Oceanport, New Jersey
What Makes Monmouth Park Special
Monmouth Park is located in New Jersey, and its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean has led to the track marketing itself as "the shore’s greatest stretch."
Its flagship event each summer is the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational for 3-year-olds, and two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert is no stranger to success in that race.
He’s won the Haskell eight times, including with American Pharoah in 2015.
Location: Ozone Park, New York
What Makes Aqueduct Special
The New York circuit spends its winter and spring months at Aqueduct, which was originally founded in 1894. The track was closed for renovations for several years during the 1950s and reopened in 1959.
Its major races include the Wood Memorial, which acts as the New York circuit’s final Kentucky Derby prep race.
In 1995, the track hosted Pope John Paul II for a special mass, which attracted 75,000 people.
17. Hialeah Park
Location: Hialeah, Florida
What Makes Hialeah Park Special
Hialeah Park has fallen on hard times of late, but not long ago, the Florida venue was one of the most beautiful tracks on the planet, and for nostalgic reasons, Hialeah has to make this list.
If you want to see the track in all its glory, complete with flamingos, flowers, and top-notch thoroughbreds, check out the 1989 movie "Let It Ride," which stars Richard Dreyfuss and was shot at Hialeah.
16. Kentucky Downs
Location: Franklin, Kentucky
What Makes Kentucky Downs Special
Kentucky Downs may be located in a traditional horse racing state, but that’s about where the traditionalism ends.
There’s no dirt racing here, and its shape is asymmetrical, with one turn significantly sharper than the other.
In recent years, Kentucky Downs has enjoyed strong growth due to large field sizes, which are attracted to the venue by some of the largest purses in the country.
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
What Makes Meydan Special
Many of the top thoroughbreds in the world make the trip to the United Arab Emirates every winter to run at Meydan.
It was built in 2010, and it plays host to the world’s richest race, the $12 million Dubai World Cup.
America’s top horses have enjoyed great success in the race, which has been won by the likes of Hall of Famers Cigar, Silver Charm, Invasor and Curlin.
14. Fair Grounds
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
What Makes Fair Grounds Special
The good times roll at Fair Grounds each winter, as the track located near New Orleans hosts its thoroughbred meet from November to March.
Its most important race is the Louisiana Derby for 3-year-olds, which is held on closing weekend.
The track has survived a number of significant challenges in recent years, including a grandstand fire in 1993 and the effects of Hurricane Katrina (which closed Fair Grounds for more than a year).
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
What Makes Pimlico Special
Nicknamed "Old Hilltop" (for its location, unsurprisingly, atop a hill near Baltimore), Pimlico plays host to the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.
The Preakness was arguably the first major racing event to embrace a party-like atmosphere, and its infield festival has attracted some of the biggest names in music.
In recent years, the Pimlico meet has been scaled back significantly, and rumors have abounded about possible renovations to the historic venue.
Location: Arlington Heights, Illinois
What Makes Arlington Special
Arlington International Racecourse, formerly known as Arlington Park, has a long, distinguished history.
The track located outside of Chicago was the first to have a regular public-address announcer, and it also housed the first-ever million-dollar thoroughbred race in 1981.
That’s the Arlington Million, which still attracts some of the world’s best turf horses every summer.
Location: Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
What Makes Woodbine Special
Located in Ontario, Woodbine is the most prestigious thoroughbred venue in Canada. The track hosted the 1996 Breeders' Cup and annually hosts several other major events every year.
Specifically, Woodbine is the site of the Queen’s Plate, Canada’s oldest horse race and the country’s version of the Kentucky Derby.
It was first run in 1860, and in 1964, Northern Dancer became the first horse to ever win both the Derby and the Plate.
Location: Paris, France
What Makes Longchamp Special
Longchamp is one of several high-class venues in France, which has produced plenty of world-class horses over the years.
Longchamp makes this list in large part because of its status as the host of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s richest and most prestigious horse race.
Most recently, the race has been won twice by Enable, who trekked across the Atlantic to also annex the 2018 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.
9. Oaklawn Park
Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas
What Makes Oaklawn Park Special
Oaklawn Park opened in 1905 and holds a 57-day winter/spring meeting that, in 2019, ended on the day of the Kentucky Derby.
Since the turn of the millennium, Oaklawn has played host to some of the best 3-year-olds in the country.
Smarty Jones swept the track’s 3-year-old races before winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2004, and American Pharoah dominated the Rebel and Arkansas Derby prior to his Triple Crown sweep in 2015.
8. Gulfstream Park
Location: Hallandale Beach, Florida
What Makes Gulfstream Park Special
Located in Hallandale Beach, Florida, Gulfstream Park has long been known for having one of the best winter-spring meets in the country.
It recently underwent a significant renovation, and now supports live racing almost year-round. In 2017, it launched the Pegasus World Cup, and 2019’s Pegasus Day featured the Pegasus World Cup Turf.
Both the dirt and turf races are the richest annual events on those surfaces in North America.
7. Belmont Park
Location: Elmont, New York
What Makes Belmont Park Special
Known as "Big Sandy" for its size and water-resistant surface, Belmont Park’s main track is 1 1/2 miles in circumference.
It’s most famous as the home of the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
The race is one of only a few each year to consist of a full lap around the gigantic Long Island track, and its grueling distance is a large part of why the race is known as "the test of the champion."
6. Del Mar
Location: Del Mar, California
What Makes Del Mar Special
Founded by Bing Crosby and several other Hollywood A-listers in 1937, Del Mar hosts two meets every year near San Diego.
Its summer meet is one of the most well-supported in the country, with many of the top horses of the past and present making appearances at some of its biggest races.
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won the 2014 Del Mar Futurity, while recent Horses of the Year California Chrome and Gun Runner also dazzled fans "where the turf meets the surf."
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
What Makes Keeneland Special
Keeneland holds two short racing meets each year in Lexington, Kentucky.
Its spring meet features the Blue Grass Stakes, one of the most important Kentucky Derby prep races, and its fall meet includes several events that serve as stepping stones on the road to the Breeders’ Cup.
Interestingly, Keeneland was one of the last tracks in the country to install a public-address system. The Keeneland brass held out until 1997.
4. Santa Anita
Location: Arcadia, California
What Makes Santa Anita Special
Nicknamed "The Great Race Place," Santa Anita Park was opened in 1934, and it wasted no time in making a splash.
1935 featured the first-ever Santa Anita Handicap, which set a record with its purse of $100,000.
In more recent times, the track located east of Los Angeles has hosted the Breeders' Cup 10 times, most recently in 2019.
3. Royal Ascot
Location: Ascot, United Kingdom
What Makes Royal Ascot Special
The Royal Ascot meet isn’t just a series of racing days each June.
The meet is also one of Great Britain’s premier social events, complete with appearances from members of the country’s royal family (including Queen Elizabeth, who herself owns a high-level string of thoroughbreds).
The quality of racing is as strong as you’ll find anywhere on the planet, and the top-tier races attract invaders from as far away as America and Australia.
2. Churchill Downs
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
What Makes Churchill Downs Special
Churchill Downs annually plays host to the biggest horse race in America, the Kentucky Derby.
It’s held on the first Saturday in May and attracts more than 100,000 people to the Louisville track.
In recent years, Derby fever has spilled over to the days before, with the Thursday and Friday cards also attracting very large crowds and top-notch horses.
Location: Saratoga Springs, New York
What Makes Saratoga Special
One of horse racing’s most beloved venues, Saratoga was founded in 1863, about three hours north of New York City.
Many of the top horses in history have run here, and enough have been beaten that the track has been nicknamed, the "Graveyard of Champions."
Of note, Man o’ War suffered his lone defeat here, and just a few years ago, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah suffered his only loss of that historic season in the meet’s flagship race, the Travers Stakes.
Related: Best Racehorse Names