One of the best parts of travelling if getting involved in local events, festivals, and sporting outings. Going to these types of events really can teach you a lot about a nation and their culture.
I grew up around a horse racing track. My mother and my grandfather were both involved in racing horses and some of my earliest memories is my grandfather giving me $20 to bet on horses throughout the day. Looking back, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t legal for them to let a 6 year old bet on horses, but…. oh well.
The following list will take you to three continents, to some of my favourite racing events, as well as a few I’d like to visit.
Melbourne Cup – Australia
The Melbourne Cup is “the race that stops the nation.” Even other cities around Australia come to a standstill when this race is on. I have never been to the actual race (it sells out pretty quick and can be quite pricey), but every year my work place puts on a big event and everyone stops to watch the race.
The Melbourne Cup is not so much a sporting event, as it is a fashion event. Ladies dress up in their finest and all the whos who is out and about at the races.
Grand National – England
The Grand National is a major steeplechase event held in Liverpool England each year. I actually managed to get tickets to this race when I was visiting Liverpool in 2007. I didn’t have any fancy dresses with me at the time, but somehow managed to make do. It was the first steeplechase event I have ever attended, and a pretty iconic one at that. The Grand National is one of the biggest races in England and you can check out the Grand National Day runners & odds here.
Mackay Beach Horse Race – Australia
Something a little quirkier is the Mackay Beach Horse Race held on the beach on the central Queensland coast. The race is run along the beach and is no professional affair like the Grand National or the Melbourne Cup. Pretty much anyone can enter the race, and pretty much no one watches. Its more an event to dress up silly and drink a lot of alcohol (from my experience). Fancy dress rules apply here to, except you are expected to wear flip flops with your evening gown.
Mongol Derby – Mongolia
Probably the world’s most epic horse race, this race goes for 1000 km’s, with riders changing horses every 40 km. The course recreates Chinggis Khaan’s legendary empire-busting postal system and to win, participants must combine riding skills on semi-wild horses with survival skills in a wild and untouched terrain. This is something I would like to do myself, but independently and not as part of a race.