Best Horse Racing Venues to Visit in the U.S.

Images Shutterstock

Are you interested in discovering premier venues for horse racing? We’ve compiled a roster of elite tracks that deliver unforgettable races and steeped traditions. Explore our guide to find the essential destinations every horse racing fan should visit.

Churchill Downs - Louisville, Kentucky

Founded in 1875, the renowned Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, is a pillar of American thoroughbred racing. It hosts the nation’s longest-running sports event, the celebrated Kentucky Derby. This race is often called “the most exciting two minutes in sports” and stands at the pinnacle of US thoroughbred horse racing.

The towering grandstands of Churchill Downs are instantly recognizable thanks to architect Joseph Dominic Baldez’s Twin Spires design introduced in 1895. These spires have come to embody the historical allure associated with the Kentucky Derby. Those interested can immerse themselves in this storied past by visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum directly on-site.

As well as being richly woven into history, Churchill Downs leads advancements within modern-day thoroughbred horse racing history. Its ongoing upgrades include private luxury boxes for spectators and the introduction of The Big Board—the largest ultra-high-definition 4K video screen worldwide.

Belmont Park - Elmont, New York

In Elmont, New York, Belmont Park is an iconic destination within the horse racing sphere. Since its opening in 1905, when it drew a crowd exceeding 40,000 enthusiasts on its first day alone, the park has cemented itself at the core of this revered sport.

It proudly hosts the challenging Belmont Stakes — famously known as ‘The Test of the Champion’ and serves as the pivotal third leg of the celebrated Triple Crown.

Notable for being among horseracing’s most illustrious races, The Belmont Stakes is recognized for rigorously assessing equine endurance and determination throughout its history.

Esteemed thoroughbred champions such as Man o’ War, Secretariat, and Seabiscuit have competed along these tracks, elevating their prestige to legendary status, despite closing temporarily in 1963 because of structural concerns, which led to extensive renovations before reopening five years later in 1968.

Santa Anita Park - Arcadia, California

Located 14 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, the scenic and historic Santa Anita Park is a premier venue for horse racing. Originally part of the Rancho Santa Anita, it was transformed into a racetrack on December 25th, 1934. Its historical grandstand can host an audience of 26,000, presenting them with breathtaking views during races. The park’s aesthetic boasts Art Deco design elements that enhance its esteemed presence.

Santa Anita Park is renowned for its architectural beauty and home to major horse racing events such as the Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita Handicap, and Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

The introduction of the $100,000 purse for The Big Cap or Santa Anita Handicap in February 1935 established a new benchmark, being at that time America’s largest prize purse offered in any race.

Saratoga Race Course - Saratoga Springs, New York

In Saratoga Springs, New York, the esteemed Saratoga Race Course is an iconic symbol of American horse racing. Its inception, which dates back to 1863, makes it one of the nation’s most venerable sporting institutions.

Although operations were halted temporarily during 1896 and again from 1911-1912 due to laws against gambling and truncated activities amid World War II’s demands, it has continuously proven resilient and is cherished among race enthusiasts.

At this notable venue, several prestigious races are held, such as the Alabama Stakes, Whitney Stacks, and Hopeful Stakes, but none captivate audiences like the celebrated Travers Stake, which boasts a prize pool of $1.25 million. With its status as Saratogas’ oldest major thoroughbred competition, it also attracts significant attention each year when swathes of spectators flock to witness this peak event in horse racing.

An excursion to this historic course encompasses more than just witnessing swift horses vying for victory. Indeed, it becomes an enveloping cultural journey where visitors can absorb tradition-rich elements around them.

Keeneland Racecourse - Lexington, Kentucky

Nestled in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky, Keeneland Racecourse stands as a monumental establishment within the horse racing community. Established on land previously owned by Jack Keene, this historic site operates as an arena for competitive racing and the premier auction house for thoroughbred horses globally.

The racecourse’s recognition and preservation are evidenced by its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and its designation as a National Historic Landmark since 1986.

Twice annually, Keeneland springs to prominence during its celebrated horse racing seasons that showcase some of the most challenging contests in equestrian sportsmanship. Among these events is the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes, which debuted in 1984. Keeneland hosted one leg of the prestigious Breeders’ Championship as a notable highlight of its storied legacy—cup races for their inaugural event at this venue back in 2015.

Pimlico Race Course - Baltimore, Maryland

Inaugurated over a century and a half ago, the venerable Pimlico Race Course is the nation’s second-oldest racecourse. Situated in Baltimore, Maryland, it was conceived by horse enthusiasts back in 1870 and has maintained its historic charm.

The course is adorned with notable architectural features such as Raoul Middleman Murals, Bernard Zuckerman’s ‘Gold Horses’ bas-relief artwork, alongside a cantilevered staircase from the mid-century modern era within its clubhouse that all enhance Pimlico’s storied past.

Renowned for hosting the illustrious Preakness Stakes each May – often referred to as ‘The Middle Jewel’ of horse racing’s prestigious Triple Crown – Pimlico serves as an iconic venue during this exhilarating contest which marks part two of three in what can lead up to be one triumphant trifecta: securing coveted titles at three separate events constituting horseracing’s most sought-after achievement—the Triple Crown.

Del Mar Race Track - Del Mar, California

Situated in the charming coastal city of Del Mar, California, the Del Mar Race Track is an iconic venue where thoroughbreds race against ocean waves. Since its opening on July 3, 1937, this site has made a splash in horse racing history.

Bing Crosby greeted the first patrons at the gates – he was not only one of its pioneering partners but also served as the Turf Club’s initial President – ushering in an era that merged equestrian sports with Hollywood’s allure.

Deltimeless offers visitors more than standard races. The Pacific While Classic stands out, featuring prize money of $1 million and drawing top-notch contenders annually. 

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort - Hot Springs, Arkansas

Situated in the heart of Hot Springs, Arkansas, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort stands as a beloved venue for fans of thoroughbred racing. Each year, this resort buzzes with activity tied to horse racing events from December to May. The birth of Oaklawn’s storied past dates back to 1904 when John Condon and Dan Stuart established the Oaklawn Jockey Club.

One standout event at Oaklawn is the prestigious Arkansas Derby, which began in 1936 and has since become an essential lead-up race for contenders aiming for glory at the Kentucky Derby. Having increased its purse to $1 million in 2004, it attracts premier horses and riders worldwide yearly.

The site hosts a spectacular week-long affair known as the Racing Festival of the South that captivates fans with stellar displays by some top-ranked thoroughbreds.

Gulfstream Park - Hallandale Beach, Florida

In Hallandale Beach, Florida, Gulfstream Park is synonymous with opulent horse racing. This prestigious track and its luxury casino are recognized for providing a premier VIP experience with sweeping racecourse views and vibrant live acts. The park attracts both fervent racing fans and tourists seeking an unforgettable outing—whether to watch from the stands or indulge in the exclusive Clubhouse atmosphere.

The annual Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park represents a highlight within the world of horse races. Established in 2017, it aims to refresh the traditional face of horse racing for today’s audience. With national coverage by NBC, this illustrious event garners attention from celebrities, style influencers, and prominent figures alike—not to mention drawing devoted fans worldwide.

Beyond the exhilarating races at Gulfstream Park, patrons have several sumptuous options for exceptional dining experiences and entertainment.

JL Staff

The JustLuxe Team strives to bring our members and readers the very best in luxury news and conversations. We love to hear your opinions and suggestions, but most of all, we love to interact with you. ...(Read More)

Related Articles

Around the web