The world’s premier racecourses not only provide top equestrian entertainment but also represent some of the most beautiful and striking architecture in the sporting world. Here’s our pick of the most spectacular tracks.
Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy
Surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of rural Tuscany, Siena’s magnificent central piazza combines rich history with architectural distinction. Its concave shell shape is divided into a sunburst pattern, defined by red-brick paving, which dates to 1349. Twice annually, this timeless splendor at the heart of the city explodes with animation as the Palio di Siena horse race is run beside the traditional sandstone buildings of medieval Italy.
Happy Valley, Hong Kong
Arguably Asia’s greatest and most extraordinary racecourse, the equestrian events at Happy Valley are overlooked by the city’s vibrant jungle of skyscrapers, creating a dramatic juxtaposition of buzzing metropolis and serene rural beauty.
Churchill Downs, Kentucky, USA
Following a $121 million renovation completed in 2005, the glorious facilities of Churchill Downs have been impressively modernized, fully justifying the premier racetrack’s title of National Historic Landmark. Stretching over 147 acres, the racecourse, which has been the home of the annual Kentucky Derby since its official opening in 1875, now boasts 79 luxury suites, a new clubhouse, and the world’s largest ultra high-definition video board. Most definitive, however, are the renowned twin hexagonal spires, a stunning and universally recognised architectural feature atop the grandstand that dates back to 1895.
Ascot, Berkshire, England
A legendary racecourse and pinnacle of British heritage, Ascot celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2011. Enjoying a prestigious connection with the Royal Family since its opening during Queen Anne’s reign, this splendid course is the heart of the country’s thoroughbred horse racing, hosting 26 equestrian events every year. The grandstand’s beautiful aesthetics were designed to mirror the trees of the surrounding Berkshire countryside.
Chantilly Racecourse, Chantilly, France
Located just 30 miles north of Paris, the magnificent Hippodrome de Chantilly hosts several notable races throughout the season, climaxing with the Prix du Jockey Club in June. The outstanding palatial grandstand, of French artistry, was built in 1879 by famed architect Pierre Jérôme Honoré Daumet. It is regarded as an example of pioneering design, in its combination of picturesque style with Continental tradition.
Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, Australia
Sitting on the fringe of bustling Melbourne, and set against the picturesque backdrop of Maribyrnong River, Australia’s stunning Flemington Racecourse is most famous for hosting the nation's richest horse race – the Melbourne Cup. Attracting a wealth of celebrities and style-savvy racegoers since 1840, Flemington is recognized on the Australian National Heritage list.
Completed in 2010 and highly regarded for its innovation, the visionary Meydan grandstand propelled Dubai’s racecourse into the international arena as the longest single structure in the world at one mile (1,600 meters), and holding 60,000 spectators. The racecourse hosts a number of notable races, including the world’s richest race day, the Dubai World Cup, and boasts a horse-racing museum, gallery, spectacular nine-hole golf course, and the first trackside five-star hotel.