1 man lists the 15 best circuits in the world

For all the buzz about the rebuilt mile chute and complaints about the new paddock bar, everything good about Saratoga has been around for a while. A long time

The old wooden tribune. The old gables of the roof. The old red and white awnings. The old footbridge of the jockeys. The old Shake Shack. Okay, most of it is old.

I haven’t been there in six years, but it feels the same. And I bet it feels the same. Those of us now, far away, have to look vicariously through the lens of the panning camera which is so low it looks as if it is mounted on a submarine on the shore of Loughberry. I look forward to one more trip back to 267 Union Avenue.

Is Saratoga the ultimate experience for racing and equestrian fans? It’s up there. But at what height?

This question and the desire to feed the comments at the bottom of this page are why we have lists. So these are the 15 best tracks I’ve raced at.

1. Flemington. I lived in Australia for three years so I was lucky enough to attend three Melbourne Cups, as many Victoria Derby races and many other races at a venue that is now 182 years old and is constantly reinventing itself. To me, this is the best place in the world for any sport. period My favorite place to watch and bet was on the second floor of the five-story members’ stand, with a huge indoor ring of bookies and an easy walk to seats overlooking the last 150 meters to the finish. Just as entertaining as the races were the high-heeled patrons’ attempts to keep their shoes on as they poured onto the train back into the heart of Melbourne. Sobriety optional.

2. Of the Sea. My favorite track in America used to be Arlington, with its perfect, clean grandstand. Now that he’s gone from horsemeat to pigskin, Del Mar stepped up. It’s not just the quintessential ocean environment. The sight lines, happily unblocked by the trees in the field, are well placed. It’s not hard to place a bet, especially in and around the wonderful restaurants, bars and gift shops, and even close to the barbershop and shoe shine stand. If only I could afford one of those white apartments on the hill that look like a slice of Santorini.

One week closer to this???????? ??

Secure your tickets for summer at Del Mar. #DelMarRacing

??? pic.twitter.com/ld63iAd111

— Del Mar Racetrack (@DelMarRacing) June 24, 2022

3. Saratoga. I understand and respect any argument that this rating is too low. That’s not to disparage the atmosphere of the smartest people in sports in a place that deserves to be at least as revered as Fenway Park and Lambeau Field. In addition to hosting the best and highest quality meet in the country, Saratoga is like an old scrapbook where memories are stored even as they are made. That doesn’t even take into account the catchy drumbeat of a city that makes every waking hour worth savoring. Click here to Saratoga tickets and results.

4. Santa Anita. Is there a better backdrop in America? The view of the track is as good as the view of the San Gabriel Mountains. This is a fun place to hang out from sunrise to sunset, and with Clockers’ Corner it’s a great place for breakfast. The downhill grass course with the only right turn in American racing is an absolute treasure. If only the quality of racing wasn’t going in the wrong direction.

5. Compiègne. An hour’s train ride north from Paris leads to this obscure little track with its Tudor-style clubhouse and some competitive local racing. Think Los Alamitos with a Euro twist. Seven years ago this is where I spent half an hour with trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, who was there to race some entry-level horses the week of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. A side story: Compiègne is the city on the river Oise where the armistice was signed on a wagon in 1918 to end the First World War.

A highlight: my visit to the Compiègne racecourse. pic.twitter.com/EgO6Au1ySa

—Ron Flatter (@ronflatter) October 5, 2015

6. Keeneland. Rolling hills covered with Kentucky blue grass and homebred horses are where Messrs. Headley and Beard decided to drop into a racetrack in 1936. The quality of racing in April and October is fantastic. That’s the whole scene. From the expansive fan-friendly paddock to the tastefully decorated Godfather Grandstand to the nearby big-money farms, Keeneland is heaven for horses and equestrians.

7. Monmouth Park. The 152-year-old crawl along the Jersey Shore is stubbornly old-fashioned, except for the weekend invasion of food trucks. Management always seems to keep a fresh coat of paint and all the bulbs on the old dashboard. Without breadcrumbs, it can be difficult to navigate the 76-year-old grandstand. There never seems to be an elevator where it should be, and the alternate puff of stairs can be a heart challenge. The reward for this effort is a view from a parterre. It’s hard not to like a place that still has flower beds. oh yeah Monmouth has the best backcourt cuisine in the country.

8. Listening The Royal Meeting is still on my to-do list, but I have been there in the autumn to do some British Champion Stakes. The racecourse is more than 300 years old, pre-dating the railway which leaves fans arriving from London a half-mile tree-lined walk to the historic entrance. Cards full of really good horses are worth the price of admission alone, and hopefully a point or two. The current grandstand, which is only 16 years old, looks a little too modern, but the trade-off is maximum space and comfort, and there is no shortage of competing bookmakers. By the way, this is where I got close enough to Her Majesty in 2016 to take my hat off her head. Let the record show that I resisted.

Brush with #QEIhere with #JohnWarren in BCS @Ascot 2013. Seconds before it was 1m from me. I turned red (real color). pic.twitter.com/piauZsiUmz

—Ron Flatter (@ronflatter) June 14, 2016

9. Chantilly. With all due respect to the Saratoga and Keeneland stables, this is truly horse heaven. Next to the parking lot, two old show jumping horses live in barns at the entrance to serve as greetings. The rest of the huge complex is located in a forest surrounding the racecourse. The training takes place in the middle of a large meadow through which observers have to walk in boots to see them. Again, horses come before humans. The races take place in front of the majestic Grandes Écuries, stables that have been converted into an equine museum.

I was there to see her win the first and second time at the #QPAT and almost wins his third. And see her win it @BreedersCup. What an unforgettable trip #Enable gave us all Or to turn back the clock. (@ronflatter pictures) pic.twitter.com/Ct8dnYyrzB

—Ron Flatter (@ronflatter) October 12, 2020

10. Oaklawn. It’s as much about the town of Hot Springs, Ark., as it is about the track itself. The annual meet braves the harsh winters in a berg that swells the population on big race days. The rink, hotel and casino moved to Main Street USA, so Oaklawn is the setting for the scenic Ouachita Mountains. Big purses and outstanding horses more than make up for the lack of turf racing. So do the people who show up by the tens of thousands to challenge anyone who dares to declare the death of racing.

11. Kentucky Downs. When I lived in New York and then Las Vegas, Kentucky writer-turned-publicist Jennie Rees practically begged me to appear one year. Now that it’s on the road, I wish I’d come sooner. Remember the polo scene in “Pretty Woman”? That’s what this place in the Kentucky-Tennessee notch feels like. With huge purses, there are no better turf races in the country when measured on a day-to-day basis. If only it were open more than seven days a year.

12. Churchill Downs. This homage to the NASDAQ and big-box real estate has grown too big for its arms for all but three days of the year. But these three days. There is no better American scene in any sport than the Kentucky Derby. Oak Day may be second best. The misnamed Thurby (wouldn’t Derbsday be better?) gets there fast. Regardless of the corporate image, there’s no denying the sense of historical significance just walking around the grounds of what is truly the home office of racing.

13. Belmont Park. I never take it for granted when I stroll through the expansive backyard that brings me back to nature. The non-stop birds provide a symphony that makes it easy to forget that Manhattan is less than an hour by train and less than seven hours on the Long Island Expressway. Belmont Park offers plenty of good racing in the unique setting of a 1 1/2 mile main track. As long as I live, the memory of being at American Pharoah’s Triple Crown triumph in 2015 will be as indelible as watching the television with my father when Secretariat beat the daylights out of the same track in 1973.

14. Tampa Bay Downs. Call it Monmouth Park South. It feels a lot like that. Unlike Gulfstream Park, which caters to everyone but horsemen, the Oldsmar, Fla., track is all about old-school racing. From the betting windows to the food and beverage outlets to the relaxed seating configuration, Tampa Bay Downs feels welcoming to everyone from the upper crust to the railbirds.

15. Pleasanton. Talk about punching above your weight. The track at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Northern California is easy to get to from the Bernal Avenue exit of I-680. The grandstand is functional if not shabby. Betting windows and beers are never far away. To turn all the cards around, this was one of the first songs I covered when I was in my salad days in the 80’s at Tracy Press. He attributes this one to personal nostalgia.

Not too hot for live racing today @ACFair Join us from your favorite song or OTB! pic.twitter.com/Lsxc9TtMUH

— Pleasanton Racing (@Ptownracing) July 6, 2018

I give honorable mention to Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Horseshoe Indianapolis, San Isidro in Argentina, Turffontein in South Africa and even Aqueduct, whose good bones have seen better days.

Admittedly, this list doesn’t have places I’ve never been, but that I might enjoy. The big tracks of Japan that I crave are conspicuous by their absence.

Finally, I was able to identify the track that I considered the worst I have ever experienced. But what is the old saying? If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Miserable experience, yes. Destination again? No.

Source link

Jamie Lynch

Jamie Lynch