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Grand and Glamorous Horse Races

21st October 2016

The countdown to the Melbourne Cup is well and truly on, and the pleasure of planning an outfit is almost as exciting as pouring over the betting forms. The fun needn’t stop in November; the world hosts a wealth of race meets where the thrill of a high stakes race extends throughout the crowds. Pack your fascinator and jump on your horse to experience the best of the world’s international race meets.

Dubai World Cup

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Horse crosses finish line at Dubai World Cup
Photo: Dubai World Cup

With a purse of US$10 million for the lucky winner, the Dubai World Cup is officially the richest horse race in the world. As well as the nail-biting main event, there’s no surprise that this most lavish of destinations puts on an extravaganza of fashion and entertainment, but note well; bets have to be placed online and in advance, as gambling is prohibited in the UAE.

The Kentucky Derby


Old fashioned photo of women at races
Kentucky Derby fashion, circa 1920. Photo: The Kentucky Derby

Hailed as the “most exciting two minutes in sport”, the Kentucky Derby has been run continuously since 1875. For jockeys and trainers it’s the USA’s most coveted single title, for the crowd, it’s a day filled with old fashioned Southern fun. Top tips: try at least one mint julep, don’t bring a handbag over 30 cm long if you want to carry it through the gates, and get into the spirit of things with a hat or bowtie!

Nakayama Grand Jump


Horse race winner celebrates
The winner celebrates. Photo: Nakayama Grand Jump

Although international hype is still building for this annual steeplechase, the entertaining course and friendly-family atmosphere make it a great favourite with locals and much loved by any savvy travellers who make the one hour trip from Tokyo. Held in mid-April, it’s the perfect way to cap off a cherry blossom tour of Honshu.

Qatar Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe


Elegant fashionistas in hats on race day
Elegant fashionistas abound on race day. Photo: Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

Europe’s most prestigious horse race is held in early October, when thousands of elegant spectators crowd the stands to see “Not so much a race, as a monument”. Champagne, live jazz music and fashionistas in sensational styles all serve as a picturesque reminder that you are in the heart of Parisian France.

Preakness Stakes


Winners celebrate with the Woodlawn Trophy
The 2014 winners celebrate with the Woodlawn Trophy. Photo: 139th Preakness Stakes. by Jay Baker at Baltimore, MD

Baltimore’s Preakness Stakes is a race day that is rife with charming traditions. These include a 150-year-old Tiffany trophy that was buried for safety during the civil war, and a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, which replace the more traditional roses that adorn the first-placed horse. Black-Eyed Susan is also the name of the official race day cocktail so be sure to sip a Susan and save your cup – they are collectors’ items.

Royal Ascot

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Queen Elizabeth II greets the crowd at races
Queen Elizabeth II greets the crowd. Photo: Royal Ascot

Queen Elizabeth II regularly attends this five-day race meet, which is crowned by The Ascot Gold Cup. The Royal Enclosure was designed especially for the royal family, and the dress code is accordingly fancy; no bare shoulders, fascinators or short skirts for ladies, and a mandatory top hat for gentlemen. Picnics are an institution in the Windsor and Heath Enclosures, whether you bring your own hamper or purchase a gourmet selection at the grounds.

Grand National Aintree


Horse race winner celebrates
Winner celebrates at Aintree. Photo: Grand National Aintree

This Liverpool steeplechase dates back to 1839, when hunting horses and their riders jumped a stone wall, raced over a ploughed field and finished over two hurdles. Today it is a course that is famous for its complexity, which makes it an interesting betting proposition; in the 70 years of recorded racing, the favourite has only won nine times.  

Belmont Stakes

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Horses charge out of gate at race course
And they're off! Photo: Belmont Stakes

Together with the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, New York’s Belmont Stakes completes the holy grail of the US Thoroughbred Triple Crown. The ground’s proximity to New York make the social scene somewhat of a fashion frenzy, and black and white are a staple of style amongst the elegant onlookers. When placing your bets, keep an eye out for bay or chestnut coloured horses – they have a history of winning at Belmont.