Whenever we think of European horse racing, there are four major players that come to mind – Britain, Ireland, France and Italy. These nations stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of both their passion and verve for the sport which has led them to produce some of the greatest trainers, jockeys and horses that the world has ever seen.
Although Italy is perhaps better known for its footballing exploits, horse racing remains a major draw for sports fans across the country. Betting Gods has put together this in-depth guide to help give you a better understanding of the rich history of horse racing in this country along with some tips on how you can bet on Italian horse racing.
Major Italian Horse Races
With only eight purpose-built racecourses located on the shores of Italy, it’s no surprise to see them offering fewer Group races than their European counterparts, but it would be a huge mistake to dismiss the quality of racing on offer.
The Gran Premio Merano is by far Italy’s most prestigious steeplechase with prize money of more than £200,000. This highly testing course takes entrants along a twisting, undulating 3m 1f track where horses face a true jumping examination across 24 challenging obstacles.
Or Jack is the only horse to win the race on three separate occasions whilst France’s legendary jockey, Christophe Pieux has saddled four winners in his glittering career.
The best Italian flat races are the four Group 1 races which take place at San Siro Racecourse in Milan and Capannelle Racecourse in Rome, most notably the Premio Vittorio di Capua. The 2017 prize pool is estimated to stand at almost £250,000 with horses aged 3 years old and over taking on the speedy 1m circuit.
Frankie Dettori has dominated the race in recent years with six wins in 11 rides between 1999 and 2010, but we’ll talk more about his phenomenal achievements a little later.
Italian Horse Racing Courses
There are 21 Group level jump races that take place in Italy each season and of these, 14 are held are the stunning Merano track. Otherwise known as Pferderennplatz Meran, it’s easy to understand why the shorter name is more commonly used!
Established in 1896 to satisfy the growing aristocratic visits being made to Italy, it now plays host to the Gran Premio Merano which stands at the pinnacle of Italian horse racing.
Cappanelle Racecourse was built just a few years earlier in 1881 and is the scene of Italy’s most extravagant flat race, the Derby Italiano. Although it has been downgraded to a Group 2 race in recent years, it carries far and away the biggest prize pool in Italian racing with an eye-watering £750,000 up for grabs.
Other major courses of note include the San Siro in Milan which shares its name with the AC Milan and Inter Milan football stadium, as well as tracks such as Pisa and Naples.
Very few would argue that Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori is one of the world’s most recognisable characters, not just in horse racing circles but in the wider sporting and entertainment communities.
Having ridden more than 500 Group race winners and been named Champion Jockey on three occasions to date, his incredible CV is up there alongside some of the very greatest jockeys of all time. You only have to take a look at some of the legendary horses he has ridden to appreciate the demand for his quality, a list which includes the likes of Golden Horn, Ouija Board, Galileo Gold, Authorized, Joshua Tree and Treve.
Frankie’s greatest performance followed a breathtaking day at Ascot in 1996 when he rode all seven winners, a feat that has never been achieved before or since.
Away from the jockey saddle, it’s impossible to talk about legendary Italian racing names without mentioning the indomitable Federico Tesio. His achievements as a breeder saw him described as the only true genius to ever partake in horse breeding, creating super horse after super horse in a career which spanned more than 20 years. He was single-handedly responsible for breeding a number of undefeated champion horses including Cavaliere d’Arpino, Nearco, Braque and Ribot, the latter of which is thought by many to be the greatest racehorse of all time.
Betting On Italian Horse Racing
Italian horse racing betting is conducted in an almost identical manner to that in the UK with many popular bookmakers operating successfully in both countries. The likes of Betfair, Bet365 and 10Bet dominate the betting scene with bans only in place for betting on greyhound racing. Unlike France, bettors have the ability to take fixed prices rather than having to use a Tote-based system.