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The 5 Most Famous Horse Races


breeder's cup1. Breeders' Cup
Not merely one race, but a series of races started by pet food heir John R. Gaines in an attempt to bring back some of the class to the image of the sport. Traditionally the richest day in horse racing, it was split into two days in 2007 and the second day is considered the second richest day in horse racing. Attendance usually trails only the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Oats and in 2008 a total of 25.5 million was awarded over the course of the racing period.

2. Kentucky Derby
"The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" is held every year in Louisville, Kentucky and caps the two-week long Kentucky Derby Festival. It is the first of the three US Triple Crown races, and is a one and a quarter mile stretch at Churchill Downs. It's nickname, "The Run for the Roses", was designated because of the blanket of roses draped over the winner. First run in 1831, the Kentucky Derby is one of the United States' oldest races and was established by the descendants' of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. There are a number of traditions surrounding the race and it is certainly an exciting even to see- if one can afford the ticket prices.

3. Belmont Stakes
The final leg of the Triple Crown journey, horses must complete this leg as well as the other two to compete for the title of Triple Crown winner. It is five weeks following the Kentucky Derby and three weeks following the Preakness Steaks. The horse who wins the Belmont Stakes is presented with the August Belmont Trophy, one of the most prestigious racing trophies in the country. It is known as "The Test of the Champion" and is only one lap around the massive track. Few horses are used to the distance, especially new runners, and it is difficult for them to maintain the speed and stamina necessary to win. The winner of the Belmont Stakes is also draped in a blanket of carnations giving it, like the other two, a floral nickname "The Run for the Carnations".

4. Preakness Stakes
The second leg of the Triple Crown journey, the Preakness Stakes is known as "The Run for the Black Eyed Susan's" for the blanket of the Maryland state flower that is placed on the winner. Run at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, it is a distance of 9.5 furlongs and run on dirt. Older than the Kentucky Derby, it is second only to that race in attendance. The longest win was Smarty Jones in 2004 who won by 11 lengths. Interestingly, though the race is known as "The Race for the Black Eyed Susan's" not one actual black-eyed susan is used on the  blanket. The race takes place about three months before the flowers come into bloom and instead other flowers are painted to appear as though they are the lovely flower.

5. Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
Perhaps the most important and one of the best known races in Europe, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, also known as The Arc, is held every October as the finishing mark of the flat season. It is a chance for those horses which have proven themselves to be the best throughout the season to stand up against one another. It draws horses from challengers around the globe. It is held at Longchamp racecourse and was started in 1920; the course is more than a mile and a half in length. The course itself is known for a demanding hill that horses must navigate and the track undulates making it a tricky ride of those who are inexperienced.

Special Mention: Ascot
This is a rather famous English race located in the small town of Ascot, Berkshire. The race is a 25 day event that stretches over the course of a year with the most important races being the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes run in July. It is perhaps best known to the American as the race in which the rich and famous from around the world show up in wild and exotic hats. Others may recognize it from the film "My Fair Lady" in which Audrey Hepburn shouted at a racing horse to "move his bloomin' arse", shocking the gentry and nobility in an amusing scene.


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