Sport: How Does US Horse Racing compare to UK and Ireland?
By Space Coast Daily // February 19, 2020
Horse racing is a popular form of entertainment in both North America and the United Kingdom. The sport attracts a significant worldwide audience with major events such as the Pegasus World Cup, Breeders Cup, and Royal Ascot making headlines on an annual basis.
Despite there being a fair amount of crossover between the thoroughbred action in the US and the UK, there are still a number of noticeable differences and we take a closer look at the key areas of contrast.
Horse racing is the second largest spectator sport in the UK and it’s estimated that up to 6 million people attend horse racing events across the country each year…
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Virtually all racetracks in the US follow a similar design with participants racing left-handed around an oval track. However, in the UK, there is a mixture of left-handed and right-handed courses.
This variety is fairly important as some horses find it easier to race in a particular direction, using their preferred leading leg to help propel them around the turns. Savvy bettors will also need to factor this in when studying the daily horse racing cards as some thoroughbreds tend to display a strong preference for a particular venue.
Quarter Horse Racing and Trotting
In the UK and Ireland, all racehorses are thoroughbreds which makes them fast and agile – ideal for competitive action. However, in North America and Canada, Quarter Horse racing remains very popular and is held at tracks such as Louisiana Downs, Prairie Meadows, and Ajax Downs.
There are over three million American Quarter Horses registered to race and these fast and furious contests remain a mainstay on the sporting schedule. Trotting or Harness Racing is also popular with bettors in the US and exclusively features Standardbred competitors.
Tracks are often specifically designed for this type of contest and the majority of these are held over a distance of one mile. Horses are required to pull a cart, often called a sulky, which will be occupied by a driver. Other European countries such as France and Sweden regularly host these types of races, too.
Races are competed over a variety of distances, with North American events tending to fall somewhere between four and a half furlongs and a mile and a half.
The Belmont Stakes, part of the US Triple Crown, is one of the longest races on the calendar with thoroughbreds required to compete over 12 furlongs at the New York track. In the UK, there is a myriad of distances with Ascot’s Queen Alexandria Stakes generally regarded as the longest flat race at two miles and five furlongs.
National Hunt racing is far more prominent in northern Europe and these energy-sapping contests can be staged at distances of up to four miles.
Several high-profile affairs such as the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup require an enormous amount of stamina, however, household names such as Tiger Roll and Denman have shown a real aptitude for racing over this sort of distance.
Had to do a double take 👀
— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) February 17, 2020
Although UK prize money has substantially increased over the last decade, it still falls significantly short of the lucrative US purses.
The largest individual race pot in the UK is around £560,000 with major events such as Royal Ascot, Aintree Festival and the Cheltenham Festival tending to offer the biggest rewards.
The latter is one of the most popular events on the racing calendar and large fields are almost guaranteed in Gloucestershire. Owners and trainers are desperate to secure a portion of the prize money with some connections occasionally entering their charges into multiple races.
This can often help bettors find early value in the market and the latest ante-post Cheltenham 2020 odds suggest that jumps racing fans will be able to enjoy another set of hugely competitive renewals at the beginning of March.
Horse racing has retained its dedicated fanbase in both the UK and US and although there are plenty of disparities between the two disciplines, the sheer passion and commitment of those involved is remarkably similar on either side of the Atlantic.
The sport regularly provides plenty of drama and excitement and events such as the Kentucky Derby and the 2000 Guineas continue to keep fans entertained around the world.
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