Horse racing is something of a cultural phenomenon. Steeped in a rich history, we offer you a glimpse of several different races as well as an introduction to some of the most impressive thoroughbred rescue organizations and retirement homes.
What: New Market
Where: Newmarket, England
Who: British Royals
Newmarket is the home of horseracing. The sport was established in medieval times by James I as a way to display horse-riding skills around the heartland. Charles II developed Newmarket as the center of horseracing. It is home to the longest racecourse in the world, the July Racecourse. The classic Sagitta 200 Guineas is run in May on the other course in Newmarket, the Rowley Mile. Today, people walk the town in jodhpurs, riding boots, jackets, and are oft covered in hay having just come from the stables. Newmarket is home to the National Horseracing Museum that provides a wonderful walk down horse history, showcasing one woman’s collection of Ascot finery that she and her son designed for her over the years. Visitors can test their skills on a mechanical horse, try on racing skills, and view equine art on loan. Another must-see in Newmarket is the National Stud, originally q working farm, opened by the Queen in 1967. A former stud director designed a birthing barn complete with skylights so he could astrologically chart a foal’s racing and financial potential for the Stud. For more information on Newmarket: go to www.newmarketracecourses.co.uk
Lodging: The Jockey Club on the Estates. Entry to the Jockey Club building is by invitation only. A private club, past members include Winston Churchill. Rooms are available from L80 and upward. Story goes that powerful men would bring their paramours through an underground secret tunnel to their rooms for trysts.
The Bedford Loge Hotel on Bury Road, Newmarket is another top pick for lodging in the area. There are also many local Bed and Breakfast that provide lovely accommodations.
What: Royal Ascot
Where: Ascot, England
Who: Royals, celebrities, footballers
Why: The fashion and the history, Ascot racecourse is steeped in centuries of tradition, heritage and prestige. In 1711, Queen Ann saw the potential for a racecourse at Ascot, then called East Cote. Riding, she came upon an open health, the “ideal place for horses to gallop at full stretch” away from Windsor Castle. Ascot’s first race meeting took place on Saturday August 11, 1711. Royal Enclosure dress code was decreed when Beau Brummell, a close friend of Prince Regent, said men of elegance should wear waisted black coats and white cravats with pantaloons. This evolved into the wearing of morning suits and equally respectable clothes for ladies, who must wear hats. Ascot’s fashion; especially that seen in the Royal Enclosure, has been a main draw to the famous race. Even today, inappropriate dress can get one expelled from the Royal Enclosure (reportedly Rod Stewart was asked to leave this past year for not adhering to the dress code). Entrance to the Queen’s lawn is by invitation only. Applicants to the royal Enclosure must be sponsored by Royal Enclosure badges holders who have attended the Royal Meeting on at least four occasions. Public enclosure admission is L3. Other enclosure admissions must be confirmed as they vary. For more information on Ascot, go to www.ascot.co.uk
Logging: Nearby hotels and B&B accommodations can be found on www.windsor.gov.uk
Dining; Though Ascot has wonderful restaurants and pavilions to dine in, the real Ascot experience is a “boot party” – known in the US as “tailgate parties.” Boot party protocol calls for fine linens, crystal, champagne, candelabrums, silver flatware, and fine china. Somme “bootsies” even bring chairs so as to not rumple their Ascot finery.
Where: Curragh, County Kildare, Ireland
Who: Royals, business men, international film stars
Why: History. Irish racing dates back to the third century. Chariot races were held at the “Cuireach,” now known as the Curragh Racecourse and Training Grounds. The Irish Turfs Club, housed at the Curragh, was founded in Co. Kildare in the 1760s to encourage Horse Racing in Ireland, and now the Curragh is the headquarters of Irish flat racing. The definitive horseracing day in Ireland is the Irish Derby. Race-goers must be prepared to encounter all the four seasons in one Irish Day. Torrential downpours are no deterrent for fashionable Irish women with Burberry umbrellas. On a day with a chill, they will still sup outside at the little wrought iron tables, wrapped in a coat, prepared for the moment or hours of sunrise. While England’s Royal Ascot has become known as the racing place to see and be seen, the class and elegance of Irish beauty at the Curragh races has Ascot beat. Bagpipers greet cars, buses, and cabs that arrive in droves at the Curragh. General admission is 13€. Reserved super balcony admission is 26€. The Curragh is 35 miles out of Dublin. It is accessible by the motorway, train, as well as the bus lines – but buses fill up fast, so arrive and book early. For more information, go to www.curragh.ie
Lodging: Acoommodations are found in hotels in Dublin, or in B&Bs dotted throughout the countryside. Road signs mark homes offering guest accommodations. B&Bs that are pat of the Tourism Board are marked with Three Leaf Clover signage. Feel comfortable to stop and knock on a BéB door without reservations. There is always lots of room. If it is filled, the host will refer you to a B&B up the road. B&B rates are upwards from 30€ for a single, to 45€ for a double. An Irish breakfast comes with the bookings.
Where: Del Mar, California
Who: Rockers, athletes, movie glitterati
Why: Betting. History. American horseracing tends to be more about betting than its European counterparts. Delmar’s racing season is summer when the ‘surf meets the turf.’ Bing Crosby, crooner of Del Mar’s signature’s song, greeted the first Del Mar fan in 1937. Legendary races have been run and won there, including the infamous duel of Seabiscuit beating Ligaroti in 1938. Historic American trainers such as Charlie Whittingham, and Noble Threewitt got their starts in the Del Mar Backstretch. Soon becoming a playground for the stars, race-goers would bump into Ava Gardner, Dorthy Lamour, Red Skeleton, Mickey Rooney, Betty Grable, and WC fields. Bill ‘The Kid’ Shoemaker claimed the track’s first title. Tickets can be booked online at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.dmtc.com.
Lodging: Nearby accommodations must be booked early. Hotels and inns include Best Western Beach View Lodge, and Cardiff by the Sea Lodge. Del Mar Thoroughbred Club provides a list of hotels on their website. Nearby in Carlsbad and San Diego are premier accommodations at world class hotels such as the Four Seasons.
The mythic bond between horse and man is amplified between man and Thoroughbred. These are not just any horses. These are horses bred to race and run. Retired, they remain Thoroughbreds, still wanting to run free and fast. Hobbled by age, spirit, and condition, centers for Thoroughbred rehabilitation, rejuvenation, and retirement are dotted throughout the UK and US. Here are a dew exemplary facilities.
International League For Protection Of Horses (ILPH)
The International League For Protection Of Horses was founded in 1927 by Miss Ada Cole. Born into a wealthy Norfolk; England family, Miss Cole, working as a nurse, became involved in campaigns to improve shipping conditions for live animals sent abroad for slaughter. Visiting Antwerp, she watched abused animals arriving for European abattoirs. Animals destined for death were not seen as needing kindness, water, rest, or food. Cole lobbied British parliament until it passed the 1914 Act of Parliament forbidding the export of horse unable to work. Cole’s goal was to prevent ill-treatment of horses, donkeys and ponies exported to Europe for slaughter. Political alliances realized Cole’s dream after her death in 1930, at 70 years of age. She established foundations for today’s ILPH, running five recovery and rehabilitation centers around the UK. Fifteen field officers investigate allegations of cruelty and neglect. Three hundred horses of all breeds undergo rehabilitation at any one time. One thousand seven hundred rehabilitated horses and ponies are rehomed currently. The ILPH teaches farriery, saddlery, veterinary care, and nutrition courses to developing country horse owners in countries like Afganistan, Egypt, and Pakistan. The ILPH concern for equine welfare around the world os funded entirely on voluntary contributions and memberships.
International League for the Ptotection of Horses, Anne colvin, Snetterton, Norfolk NR16 2LR; www.ilph.org
Linda Sadler’s Holistic Rest And Recuperation Center
Bloodstock manager Linda Sadler, established Chippenham’s Equine Holistic Rest and Recuperation Center Rose Cottage Stables five miles from Newmarket. Sadler, a member of the Federation of Bloodstock Agents (GB), has more than 20 years of experience in the racing industry. Each horse receives individual attention and treatment aiding its recovery from illness or injury, or simply to improve its well-being Sadler uses daily treatments, homeopathic, and herbal treatments including oils essential for massage. Sadler works closely with vets, osteopaths and chiropractors
Bioscan’s therapy for equine athletes. Rose Cottage Stable 17 High Street, Chippenham, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 5PP. www.lindasadler.cwc.net
California Equine Retirement Foundation (CERF)
Right on Red, Stormin George, One Moment in Time and Fine as Silk – these are just a few of the great thoroughbreds enjoying a slower pace in a California retirement home for racehorses. Located in Winchester, Southern California’s Inland Empire, California Equine Retirement Foundation (CERF) is run by racing fan and grand-mother of American equine rescue, Grace Belcuore. A former schoolteacher, Grace has devoted her retirement to rescuing race horses from the track. Not a traditional rescue organization, the horses she boards are well cared for, but are emotionally and physically due for retirement. CERF either takes in these former race horses, and provides a comfortable and happy place to retire as permanent on the ranch, or helps them find a new job and new life, depending on the age and condition of the horse. The organization also provides assistance to performance horses and educational programs for potential industry employees. Since 1986, CERF has rehabilitated over 200 thoroughbreds. It holds, at maximum capacity, up to 75 horses. CERF’s mascot is Little Man, a miniature pony rescued by the founder who, gives lots of love and entertainment to those who visit CERF. CERF supports its resident horses on public and private donations, and is unique in that 100% of money donated to the organization goes directly for the horses’ support.
For more information about the organization, go to www.cerfhorses.org
By Carrie Devorah.