If you like to bet on horse races, your adrenaline rush comes as your horse gallops closer to the finish line, hopefully in first place. Even if you’re not inclined to put money down on a horse, at these annual events there is so much activity around the races you’ll be entertained from early morning when the horses exercise on the track into the wee hours when owners of the winners celebrate.
Kentucky Derby, U.S.A.: Aristides was the first to gallop across the finish line on May 17, 1875, the day the Kentucky Derby tradition began. Today, the annual race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds, always held the first Saturday in May, is the reason and excuse for the 2-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. If you can’t afford to sit in “Millionaire’s Row” at Churchill Downs, buy general admission tickets for the infield. Here you can party and watch many of the rich and well-connected. Kentucky Derby (www.kentuckyderby.com); Kentucky Derby Festival (www.kdf.org).
Grand National, England: Competitors must face 16 challenging fences while riding around the course. The contenders must run almost two circuits of the course, make 30 jumps, and then there’s a long run to the finish line. Reportedly some 600 million viewers watch this annual steeplechase race, which is held in early April at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool. 0151/523-2600. www.aintree.co.uk
Preakness, U.S.A.: Poet Ogden Nash wrote, “The Derby is a race of aristocratic sleekness, for horses of birth to prove their worth to run in the Preakness.” Held in Baltimore in mid-May, the Preakness is the second of the three famous races—the other two are the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont—that are called the Triple Crown series. www.preakness.com.
Emirates Melbourne Cup, Australia: The Emirates Melbourne Cup is billed as “the race that stops the nation,” and Australians say it’s true. This almost 2-mile race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds, which is always held the first Tuesday in November, is one of the richest in the world both in prizes and in the money passing among hands through bets. Reportedly, more than $140 million was bet on the Cup alone on tote throughout Australia. www.melbournecup.com.
The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, France: This annual race at Hippodrome de Longchamp racecourse, just minutes from Paris’s Eiffel Tower, attracts entries who have won flat races in other European countries. If you’re going to bet, choose a horse that has the speed and stamina for this 2,400m/2.4km (7,874 ft./11⁄2-mile) course. Viewers from 191 countries have watched this annual race, which happens the first weekend in October. www.prixarcdetriomphe.com/en/index.html.