Horse racing has been a hugely popular sport in America for well over 350 years. It’s home to some of the most famous horse races in the world and has produced a string of legendary thoroughbreds since the first course was opened back in 1665.
Read on to learn more about what makes horse racing such a massive draw for sports fans in the United States.
Featured US Horse Races
The Kentucky Derby is unquestionably one of the world’s most prestigious horse races, attracting the very best three year olds from the US and the occasional overseas entrant. Held each year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the 2016 prize pool for this 1m 2f event stood at a cool $2m.
Since all horses entering the race have to be graded on American soil, very few European trainers are able to commit the time or finances into this endeavour. Of those that have made the trip, no foreign horse has ever won the race with Bold Arrangement coming closest to this feat in 1986 when finishing second.
Horses from the southern hemisphere are not permitted to run in the race due to the seasonal differences resulting in quite significant age gaps. 3 year old horses are still very much in development and a horse with an age advantage of even 6 months would benefit from the advantages of experience and physical growth.
The Kentucky Derby forms the first leg of the Triple Crown – a trio of top class races for three year olds which also includes the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Only six horses have completed this historic achievement since the end of World War II, including the legendary Secretariat in 1973 and most recently American Pharoah in 2015.
Three year old only races aside, North America is also the scene of the world renowned Breeders Cup Classic. With a whopping $6m up for grabs, it’s the most financially rewarding horse race anywhere on the American continents.
Prestigious US Horse Racing Tracks
There are more than 70 racecourses in the USA which are specifically used for thoroughbred horse racing, so there’s plenty of choice available for racegoers.
Churchill Downs stands as the only racecourse in the US which has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, and for good reason. It plays host to the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, and can house up to 50,000 eager fans.
In spite of this, it’s Belmont Park that is known as ‘The Championship Track’, having welcomed almost every great American thoroughbred to have graced the sport since opening in the early 20th century. The Belmont Stakes is the biggest race on its annual calendar as the third leg in the Triple Crown, and the course has therefore seen its fair share of history making rides over the past century.
Although it may not have the race glamour of the previous two tracks, Santa Anita Park in California is considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful racecourse. Set amongst a backdrop of the stunning San Gabriel Mountains, it has hosted the Breeders Cup on nine separate occasions.
Prominent US Horse Racing Figures
We can’t talk about US horse racing without mentioning the late, great Eddie Arcaro. Seen by race fans as the greatest American jockey of all time, Arcaro is the only person to win two Triple Crowns aboard Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948. Arcaro has won more Classics than any other jockey in US horse racing history and also shares the record for the most Kentucky Derby wins with five.
Around the same time as Arcaro was riding, Ben A. Jones was busy training champion horses and was responsible for both Citation and Whirlaway, as well four other Kentucky Derby winners.
In more recent years, Bob Baffert has dominated the training circuit in the US having trained the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Breeders Cup Classic winners. Blessed with a spectacular stable of racing talent, he’s the only trainer in history to win the race three times, and in three consecutive years.
Betting On US Horse Racing
Betting in the US is regulated by each individual state and takes the form of pools betting similar to the Tote in the UK. Totebet offer an excellent news, tipping and betting service which feeds directly into the track pools, ensuring that punters get paid at track odds with no limit on potential payouts.
Guideline prices are offered pre-race, however all payouts are calculated as a dividend – the more people that back a horse, the less that will be paid out to the winners overall and vice versa. It’s a central source of funding for the sport with a percentage of the overall prize pool going towards race prize money and the track, and the remainder going to winning selection backers.