Largest Horse Racing Venues in the World

Churchill Downs is the third largest horse racing venue in the world. Editorial credit: Thomas Kelley /
Churchill Downs is the third largest horse racing venue in the world. Editorial credit: Thomas Kelley /

What Is Horse Racing?

Horse racing is a competitive sport. It involves two or more jockeys (horseback riders) who compete against each other, riding horses to see who reaches the finish line first. The race course takes various forms and can be run over several different lengths. Sometimes the races are further defined by specific horse breeds, obstacle courses, or running styles. Although horseracing is a popular spectator sport, it is also popular with people who gamble. In 2008, for example, gambling on horse races was valued at around $115 billion worldwide.

History Of Horse Racing

Horse racing is an ancient sport that took place throughout Ancient Greece, Syria, Rome, and Egypt. This sport has also been referenced in ancient mythological stories from the Norse culture as well. Horse racing was a sport in the Greek Olympics games of 648 BC. It was so important to the Roman Empire that for around 400 years (from the mid-1400’s to 1882), the annual spring carnival ended with a horse race. Its popularity never declined and racing thoroughbred horses later became a common sport with the British upper class and royalty. Some people believe that horse racing has conserved equestrian skills that would have otherwise been lost once horses were no longer used for war.

Largest Horse Racing Venues

Several countries around the world have established horse racing venues where spectators can observe riders and their horses. Here are the three largest horse racing venues (by spectator capacity) in the world:

Tokyo Racecourse

The Tokyo Racecourse is located in Fuchu in Tokyo. This venue can hold 223,000 individuals with seats for 13,750 spectators. It was built in 1933 and now hosts many races annually. The most well-known of these races include the Japan Cup, the Japanese Derby, and the Yasuda Kinen. The course itself measures 1.25 miles in length and 234 feet in width. In total, the Tokyo Racecourse offers five tracks: A Course (on the hedge), B Course (3 meters from the rail), C Course (6 meters from the rail), D Course (9 meters from the rail), and E-Course (12 meters from the rail).

In 2007, Tokyo Racecourse underwent renovations, which included an improved grandstand. Today, the venue has the largest video screen in the world, 218 feet wide by 37 feet high.

Nakayama Racecourse

The second largest horse racing venue in the world is the Nakayama Racecourse, located in Funabashi, Chiba in Japan. In this venue, up to 165,676 spectators can observe the races. It was built in 1990 and offers two grass courses, a dirt course, and a jump course. The Nakayama Racecourse has three tracks: A Course (on the hedge), B Course (3 meters from the rail), and the C Course (7 meters from the rail). The races run here range from the 1,000 meter to the 4,000 meter, depending on which track is used. Some of the most well-known jump races carried out here include the Nakayama Grand Jump and the Nakayama Daishogai.

Churchill Downs

The third largest horse racing venue in the world is Churchill Downs, located in Lexington, Kentucky in the US. This venue can host up to 165,000 spectators. It was opened in 1875, after two other racing venues in Kentucky had been closed. In its first year, the Churchill Downs venue held the first Kentucky Derby race, the most famous horse racing event in the US. Other famous races held here include Kentucky Oaks, Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Stephen Foster Handicap, and Clark Handicap. It has two identical spires above the grandstand, which are used as symbols of both the course and the Derby.

Horse Racing Venues By Capacity

1Tokyo Racecourse223,000Tokyo Japan
2Nakayama Racecourse165,676Chiba Japan
3Churchill Downs165,000Louisville, Kentucky United States
4Hanshin Racecourse139,877Hyogo Japan
5Flemington Racecourse130,000Melbourne Australia
6Epsom Downs120,000Epsom United Kingdom
7Kyoto Racecourse120,000Kyoto Japan
8Hipódromo de San Isidro100,000San Isidro, Buenos Aires Argentina
9Pimlico Race Course98,983Baltimore United States
10Belmont Park90,000Elmont, New York United States
11Sha Tin Racecourse85,000Sha Tin District Hong Kong, China
12Santa Anita Park85,000Arcadia, California United States
13Hipódromo da Gávea80,000Rio de Janeiro Brazil
14Aintree Racecourse75,000Liverpool United Kingdom
15Niigata Racecourse75,000Niigata Japan
16Ascot Racecourse70,000Ascot United Kingdom
17Cheltenham Racecourse67,500Cheltenham United Kingdom
18Hamilton Park Racecourse60,000Hamilton United Kingdom
19Meydan Racecourse60,000Dubai Meydan City United Arab Emirates
20Vincennes Racecourse60,000Paris France

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