This blog post was updated on April 30, 2020.
When the first Saturday in May rolls around, the world turns its focus to Louisville for the famous Kentucky Derby. Part of the Triple Crown racing series in the US, horse racing fans fork over a pretty penny to see the two-minute race in person. Even if you can’t make it to the Kentucky Derby — a bucket list race in its own right — there are a host of other horse races throughout the year that don’t always receive the same amount of attention and eye-raising hats, but can offer a more affordable chance to see the best horses and jockeys in the world. So, grab you most ostentatious hat and penchant for mint juleps and head for these other horse races across the US.
The fourth oldest horse race in North America, Belmont Stakes is worth a visit to see the final race of the Triple Crown. In fact, this race is the oldest of the Triple Crown Races, dating back to 1867. Held the first Saturday in June, you can catch all the action at Belmont Park, just outside of New York City and within easy reach of JFK. Belmont Stakes boasts the longest track in the series at 1.5 miles. And unlike the Kentucky Derby, this horse race is relatively affordable with general admission tickets that don’t cost an arm and a leg. The winner of Belmont Stakes gets a Tiffany-made trophy, and the horse adorns a 40-pound blanket comprised of 700 carnations.
The Arlington Million
The race that truly raised the stakes is easily the Arlington Million. Generally held every August, it became the world’s first million-dollar race in 1981. Drawing the best grass runners in the world, you can catch the million-dollar race at Arlington Park in suburban Chicago. While the grandstand had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1985, the racetrack boasts foundations in 1927. The Arlington Million is easily the biggest racing day in Illinois and one of the premier sporting events in the US.
Santa Anita Handicap
Occurring annually in March, the Santa Anita Handicap stretches all the way back to its inaugural race in 1935. It drew much attention for its extravagant prize at the time of $100,000. The over 80-year-old race has seen the likes of Seabiscuit compete in its early years, making it one of the most historic races in the country. It all takes place in a track that is nothing to sneeze at either. Santa Anita Park hosts the Santa Anita Handicap, located in Arcadia, California. Opened in 1934, the track is considered one of the most beautiful in the country thanks to its location at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The Preakness Stakes
If you just missed the Kentucky Derby, you don’t have to wait long for the second race of the Triple Crown series. Held the third Saturday in May in Baltimore, the Preakness Stakes has been a tradition since 1873. The winner is given a silver Tiffany trophy and the horse receives a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans — the state flower of Maryland. The best horses and riders compete for a chance to take home the ever-elusive Triple Crown. It all occurs at Pimlico Race Course. Opened in 1870, the track has become the place to be for horse racing in Baltimore.
There might be nothing more thrilling than grabbing your silliest hat or adorning a pastel-colored suit and heading down for a day at the racetrack. And luckily for horse racing fans, the US offers a wealth of historic races beyond the Kentucky Derby.
Do you love horse racing? Share your favorite race in the US with us in the comments below!