What are the Biggest Horse Races in the US?

Horse racing is hugely popular in the US and fans flock to meetings throughout the year all across the country. There are a number of big meetings that always attract a lot of attention and have become a major part of the sporting calendar.

 

With online sport betting laws and regulations making it much easier for the American public to take a punt on the big races, these meetings have, if anything, become even more popular. The ‘sport of kings’ continues to hold a special place in the hearts of the American public, so here is a rundown of the biggest races and meetings that the country has to offer.

 

Kentucky Derby

 

This is the biggest and most famous race of them all. Much like the Grand National in the UK, the Kentucky Derby has transcended horse racing and become a major part of the sporting year. Even people with no interest in horse racing stop to take notice of the Kentucky Derby – and it really is an event like no other.

 

Almost always taking place on the first Saturday of May, the race tops the bill at the Kentucky Derby Festival at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. This Grade I race is a one and a quarter mile gallop around the famous racetrack and offers a cool $2 million in prize money. The best three-year-old thoroughbreds compete for the prestigious title that is the maiden leg of the famous American Triple Crown.

 

John Velazquez rode his second winner in two years when he finished first on Medina Spirit this year, after triumphing on Authentic in 2020.

 

Preakness Stakes

 

If the Kentucky Derby kicks off May in great style, the Preakness Stakes continues the elite horse racing just two weeks later at the Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland. This is the second leg of the American Triple Crown and attracts the finest three-year-olds and is run over 9.6 furlongs on dirt.

 

First held way back in 1873, the Preakness Stakes predates the Kentucky Derby by two years and still ranks second in North America. If the winner has previously won the Kentucky Derby at the beginning of the month the horse racing world gets very excited at the prospect of a single horse claiming the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

 

Flavien Prat rode Rombauer to victory in 2021, just two years after winning the Kentucky Derby on Country House.

Belmont Stakes

 

Horse racing fans have to wait until June for the final leg of the American Triple Crown, as Belmont Park in Elmont, New York welcomes the very best thoroughbreds. The Belmont Stakes is run over one and a half miles (or 12 furlongs) on dirt and offers a purse of $1.5 million.

 

Only 13 horses have actually ever won all three prestigious races in a single year to claim the Triple Crown, with Justify the most recent in 2018. Mike Smith was the jockey on all three occasions. But even he would be hard pushed to beat the Belmont Stakes record set by Ron Turcotte who won the race known as the ‘The Test of the Champion’ by an incredible 31 lengths back in 1973.

 

Breeders’ Cup

 

The biggest event in American horse racing outside the Triple Crown is probably the prestigious Breeders’ Cup, a series of Grade I thoroughbred horse races that now take place over two days at different venues each year.

 

The purse for each race ranges from $1 million to $6 million and attracts huge crowds wherever it is held. Keeneland in Lexington Kentucky is the destination for the 2022 event.

Who is Saeed bin Suroor?

Dubai-born Saeed bin Suroor has been associated with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, founder of Godolphin, since 1992. He was officially appointed Godolphin trainer in 1995 and made an immediate impact, winning the first three of his twelve British Classics, the Derby, Oaks and St. Leger, with Lammtarra, Moonshell and Classic Cliche, respectively. Indeed, Lammtarra also won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp and was named Cartier Champion Three-year-old Colt.

Lammtarra was retired to Dalham Hall Stud, Newmarket at the end of his three-year-old campaign, but the following year, 1996, bin Suroor won another British Classic, the 2,000 Guineas, with Mark Of Esteem, who also won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot later in the year. All told that season, bin Suroor saddled just 48 winners, but a host of high-profile victories, including in the Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International with Halling and the Racing Post Trophy with Medaaly, yielded £1.96 million in prize money. In only his second year in charge, he became Champion Trainer for the first time and would win the trainers’ title again in 1988, 1999 and 2004.

Nowadays, the longest-serving Godolphin trainer splits his year between Al Quoz Stables in Dubai and Godolphin Stables, formerly Stanley House Stables, in Newmarket. Indeed, he has enjoyed spectactular success in one of the most prestigious and valuable races in the the world, the Dubai World Cup at Meydan, winning nine times between 1999 and 2019.

Who was Liam Treadwell?

Liam Treadwell was a Grand National winning national hunt jockey born in the market town of Arundel, West Sussex. During his prolific career he won more than 300 races during a ten year period (and 308 wins total). His education and indeed career in horse racing was closely tied with trainer Venetia Williams, who gave him the ride on 2009 Grand National winning Mon Mome after her principle jockey turned down the chance to ride it. The unlikely 100-1 win made Williams only the second ever female trainer to claim victory in the race (after Jenny Pitman). It was Treadwell’s debut in the race and yet his triumph resulted in an memorable achievement – and only the 5th time in the history of the Grand National a horse of those odds had won the race.

He was famously, and jokingly, mocked for his gap-toothed appearance directly after the 2009 Grand National race by interviewer Clare Balding, which resulted in a free dental makeover by a promotion savvy dentist.

The ambitious jockey’s successes in 2009 didn’t end there though. He also won the United House Gold Cup in Ascot that very same year. In 2013 he was still impressing, with a win at the Cheltenham Festival on Carrick boy. In 2015 Liam Treadwell placed third in the Grand National on Monbeg Dude and had a further success in the Grand Sefton Steeplechase. Unfortunately the following year, 2016, was a year that will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons. Following a fall at Bangor, Treadmill was unconscious for several minutes after sustaining a head injury. The concussion resulted in a lasting impact. He spoke of the mental health toll of what he described as the ‘big bang’ in ‘Jockey Matters’.

He spoke candidly about the indicent at the time, “The symptoms of concussion probably wore off after six weeks or two months, but I was mentally not very well and my brain was still a bit fragile when I exercised… I didn’t want to ride a horse as I felt so grim, so disillusioned, and I was shutting myself away, not talking to anyone; I wasn’t diagnosed with depression, but in my own head, sitting on the sofa at home, I felt depressed.”

He officially retired from professional riding in 2018, before recovering enough to make a comeback possible in 2019, and he rode some 20 winners in the 2019-2020 season. Treadmill died on 23rd June 2020, at just 34 years old. His family describe him as “polite, funny, kind and brave“. From Grand National highs on Mon Mome, to this sad time 11 years on, Liam Treadwell had his struggles but also, in his own jovial yet determined fashion, made his mark in the sport of racing.

 

Which were the only two horses to beat Red Rum in the Grand National?

The cancellation of the 2020 Grand National due to the coronavirus pandemic has put paid, at least temporarily, to any attempt by Tiger Roll to win the celebrated steeplechase three years running. Of course, Red Rum won the National three times, in 1973, 1974 and 1977, but what is, perhaps, less well-remembered is that ‘Rummie’, as he was affectionately known, also finished second in the National in 1975 and 1976 on his only other attempts.

In 1975, despite being sent off 7/2 favourite, Red Rum was denied a third consecutive victory by L’Escargot, trained by Dan Moore and ridden by Tommy Carberry, who won comfortably by 15 lengths. In 1976, Red Rum started at 10/1 and went down by two lengths to Rag Trade, trained by Fred Rimmell and ridden by John Burke.

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