Horse racing is an extensive sport in the United States and inspires wide-ranging betting opportunities. From lesser-known events to some of the world’s most prestigious races, the country hosts a few of the biggest races on the calendar. On that note, here are the top ten horse racing events hosted in the US every year.
10 Most Prestigious Horse Racing Events in the United States
Haskell Invitational Stakes
The Haskell Invitational Stakes is a Grade I competition for American thoroughbreds. The event was a handicap from 1968 to 2005 with the exception of 1988 when it was held as Stakes. Starting 2006 the competition has been a Stakes. One of the pride of Monmouth Park, the Haskell Invitational Stakes has a whopping prize pool of $1 million and is named after the President and Chairman of the Monmouth Park Racetrack Amory L. Haskell. The race is open for three-year-old thoroughbreds while participation is by invitation only.
Pacific Classic Stakes
Hosted in California, Pacific Classic is also an American Grade I thoroughbred race for three-year-old horses. The event over ten furlongs on dirt is considered one of the world’s premium events and for good reason too. Hosted annually at the Del Mar Racetrack in California in August, the event carries a purse of $500,000. Hosted for the first time in 1991, Pacific Classic Stakes soon became a premier event in the horse racing calendar. The event was ranked as Grade I in 1993 and has since held its class.
Santa Anita Handicap
Open to thoroughbreds aged four and above, Santa Anita is hosted in California every year in March. The Grade I event was hosted for the very first time in 1935 and was considered the most important race for the older horses during the winter. The Santa Anita Handicap currently boasts a purse of $600,000. The event is popularly nicknamed The Big ‘Cap and Hundred-Grander. Jockey Bill Shoemaker made history here, winning straight 11 times between 1954 and ’85 and the record isn’t going away anytime soon.
Spread over nine furlongs on dirt, the Arkansas Derby an American flat thoroughbred race that is held annually at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is currently a Grade One event and is open to horses aged three and above. During its 10th anniversary in 2004, Oaklawn Park announced a $5 million bonus to any horse and jockey that could sweep all its three-year-old stakes, namely the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby, and Kentucky Derby. Smarty Jones took away the prize that year. The exposure from the event increased participation from three-year-old horses in the subsequent years.
Run in August every year, this is another Grade I flat horse race that’s decided over nine furlongs of turf and beach. Four is the lucky number here as all the winners between 2008 and 2017 were four years old! The Arlington Million was the first thoroughbred race to feature a $1,000,000 purse and the race is a part of the Breeder’s Cup Challenge. The event was introduced in 1981 and was drafted into Grade I in 1983.
Run over ten furlongs, Travers Stakes is a Grade I thoroughbred horse race introduced in 1864. It remains one of the most anticipated events in the US horse racing calendar. The event is hosted at the Saratoga Race Course in New York every year. Nicknamed the mid-summer derby the event was first hosted in 1864 after Willian R. Travers, the president of the Saratoga Racing Association. The current purse stands at $1.6 million.
Although the venue for the Breeder’s Cup changes every year, its popularity remains the same among the enthusiasts and veterans. Breeder’s Cup is an annual Grade I thoroughbred horse race first held in 1984. The event is hosted over two days in November while the visitor capacity depends on the venue. Santa Anita Park holds the record for the highest accommodation with 118,484 in attendance in 2016. The lowest attendance ever recorded was in 2007 at Monmouth Park and the figures were 69,584.
Held in June every year, Belmont Stakes is a Grade I Stakes race and an integral part of the US Triple Crown. The event is open to thoroughbreds aged three-years and above and is hosted at Belmont Park, in Elmont, New York every year. The race is nicknamed The Run for the Carnations and The Test of the Champion and marks the end of the traditional Triple Crown. It’s held on the first and second Saturday in June every year, exactly five weeks after the Kentucky Derby.
Another one from the Triple Crown, Preakness Stakes is an American thoroughbred horse race and the jewel on the US horse racing crown. Held on the third Saturday in May, the event is hosted at the Pimlico Race Course over a mile on dirt. Hosted for the first time in 1863, the event was named after a winning colt at Pimlico by the Maryland governor. The event attracts a large number of enthusiasts from around the country and the attendance is second only to the Kentucky Derby.
The missing link in the US Triple Crown. This Grade I event is hosted on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs as part of the Kentucky Derby Festival. The winner takes home the $3 million check. The event marks the end of the two-week-long festival and exclusively hosts three-year-old thoroughbreds. The event is nicknamed The Run for the Roses and is also called The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports or The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports. The event was inaugurated in 1875 over 12 furlongs but the distance was later modified to 10 furlongs in 1896.
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