You may not be an equine enthusiast or recreational gambler, but a horse race will, for lack of a better cliché, keep you on the edge of your seat, even if that's a picnic blanket. You’ll get the most adrenaline pumping by betting on said horse race, but the United State’s five best horse race tracks aren’t just for risk takers. Sometimes, watching sideliners root for their favorite colt is just as fun as betting. As long as you know how to shout out "go, go, go!" you'll fit in fine.
Saratoga Springs, New York
The Travers Stakes, or "Mid-Summer Derby," is the oldest thoroughbred horse race in America, and Saratoga Springs pays tribute to the historic event every year with a weekend-long festival called Travers Weekend. But if you can’t get here for the Saratoga Racetrack’s most famed stakes, you can still cheer on your picks at other races July 27th through September 7th, 2009. Nearby, you'll find Sarasota Gaming and Raceway, which has more laidback harness races and the Racino, a kid-friendly video game arcade. Sound fun? We've got several Saratoga Springs vacation rentals for you to stay in.
You don’t have to be an expert on equestrian sports for the Kentucky Derby to ring a bell. Louisville hardly lets this special race go to waste, celebrating it with the two-week Kentucky Derby Festival. For the layman: the Kentucky Derby, held at the Churchill Downs every first Saturday in May, is the first leg of the United States Triple Crown, so the horse that wins the blue ribbon here is destined for great things.
Lots of records have been set and lots of traditions have begun at Churchill Downs. The standard two kilometer race and the rose garland that's placed around a wining horse’s neck all started here. And to this day, no one has topped jockey James Lee’s winning streak, another moment in history that happened at Churchill. If you're interested in cool trivia like this, don't pass up the Kentucky Derby Museum (located on-site).
Churchill Downs’ racing dates for 2009 are April 25th to July 5th, and November 1st to November 28th.
Elmont, New York
They say people remember the ending more than anything else, so that’s probably why they remember Belmont Park – the Long Island racetrack hosts the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. However, a rocky and even schizophrenic history nearly destroyed the Belmont’s chances of becoming one of the United State’s best horse race tracks.
At one point, the Belmont Park was just as well-known for its aviation tournaments as its horse races. And when anti-gambling legislation and a fire shut it down on two separate occasions, the odds didn't seem to favor the Belmont.
However, it reopened in the 1960s and it’s gradually gained the esteem of the horse racing industry. You only need two bucks to enter the Belmont Park Racetrack, but we hope you have a little more than that so you can make a bet. If you’re a parent, bring the kids to the track on Sunday, aka “Family Fun Day,” and check out the face painting and petting zoo. The admission fee and crowd size is significantly higher during the Belmont Stakes, so keep this in mind as you book your Long Island rental.
Belmont Park’s 2009 racing season lasts from June 12th to July 24th, 2009.
Santa Anita Park
If the Kentucky Derby is the Oscars, then the Santa Anita Derby is the Golden Globes. Six winners of the West Coast race have made it to the Kentucky Derby. The Santa Anita Handicap, which features over the hill horses (meaning they're four-years-old and up), is also legendary.
The Santa Anita Park Racetrack is one of California’s oldest; starting gates and photo finishes were invented here. And remember Seabiscuit? He raced into stardom here and even though he’s no longer around, you can take your picture with his statue.
You’ve probably seen the Santa Anita Park Racetrack before, though you may not realize it. The track is located right outside LA, so it’s been in many movies, most notably the 1930s classic A Day at the Races.
When winter hits, head to the west for Santa Anita's 2009 racing season, January 1st to April 19th and December 26th to the 31st.
The original shareholders of the Hollywood Park sort of upstage the horses and jockeys – along with Chairman Jack Warner, they include old-time but big-time movie stars and directors. With the exception of a brief disappearance during World War II (the park was a makeshift storage facility from 1942 and 1944), the racetrack's been winning the hearts of horse race fans for decades.
While the star-studded Hollywood Park holds races from April 22nd to July 19th, it’s most known for its winter season, November 11th to December 29th.