10 Race Tracks Every Horse Racing Fan Should Visit

Updated on March 26, 2020
JohnnyComeLately profile image

I'm a race track aficionado. Santa Anita was the first track I ever visited, and it's still my favorite.

Seeing a horse race live from the track is an unforgettable experience.
Seeing a horse race live from the track is an unforgettable experience.

If you spend your time playing the races at some stuffy OTB or at home with TVG on the tube, then you're missing out on the greatness of the thoroughbred racing experience. Every horse racing fan should visit the great race tracks to soak up the ambiance, feel the crowd's adrenaline, and see the beautiful and magnificent thoroughbred horses up close and in person. Below, I've listed ten horse racing tracks that everyone who loves the sport of kings should visit at least once in their lives—and preferably much more than just once!

1. Santa Anita Park

Ah, "the Great Race Place." Santa Anita Park was the first track I ever visited, and it's still my favorite. Nothing can beat the majestic backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, and there's no more beautiful or better-designed paddock in the country. Even on a slow Friday, the track still gets enough visitors to make it feel alive and happening, and there's no track in the country that handles large crowds better. Getting in and out is a breeze even when there are 40,000 people packing the place, as does still happen on occasion.

2. Saratoga Racecourse

Saratoga is a gorgeous historic racetrack in a racing-mad city packed with horse racing fans. What could be better? A trip to "The Spa" is like a trip back in time, and it's something every racing fan should do at least once in their lives. Saratoga can be hot and humid in August, but who cares? A muggy day in Saratoga is better than a perfect day anywhere else. Saratoga has a country fair atmosphere that makes it the most family-friendly of tracks. Be sure to visit the Horse Racing Hall of Fame located just across Union Avenue from the race track.

3. Keeneland Race Course

There's something magical about Keeneland. From the well-manicured grounds to the lovely stone clubhouse, there's an understated elegance to the place that makes you feel like you're somewhere very special. The racing is always top-notch, and big daily crowds make for a fun and lively atmosphere. My only complaint is that it's sometimes too crowded, making it hard to get a look at the horses in the beautiful paddock and walking ring. The spring meet is a fun time to visit because everyone has derby fever, but the weather is typically better during the fall meet.

4. Del Mar Race Track

Don't you just love it when they play Bing Crosby's "When the Surf Meets the Turf" at the start of every day's racing at the Del Mar Race Track? It's a fantastic track just a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean, with big crowds and six-day-a-week racing that's as good as California horse racing gets these days. Make an effort to go on opening day, when all the Southern California ladies dress up and show it off for the boys.

5. Churchill Downs

Personally, I hate huge crowds, so I never have and will never visit Churchill Downs on Derby Day, but how can any horse racing fan pass up the chance to visit the home of the Kentucky Derby. Sadly, the famous twin spires have been somewhat eclipsed by grand new construction, but it's still a thrill to see them as you pull into the parking lot. Churchill is very much a neighborhood race track, and that gives it a friendly, urban vibe. If you time your trip right, you can hit up both Churchill and Keeneland in the same week, since their meets are contiguous and they're only an hour and a half drive from each other. Be sure to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum while you're at Churchill—they've got lots of cool memories and memorabilia.

6. Monmouth Park

"The Shore" is a very cool historic race track situated near the Atlantic in the wilds of suburban New Jersey. The racing at Monmouth Park isn't quite major league, but there is still plenty of good-stakes action during the long summer meet. Weather can be hot and humid, so dress accordingly.

7. Ruidoso Downs

Quarter horse racing, anyone? New Mexico's Ruidoso Downs is a Mecca for the Quarter horse set and a great place to visit even if you're more interested in the thoroughbreds. The beautiful mountain setting has a magic feel to it, and the racing is quite good, too, including the All American Futurity with its purse of more than $2 million.

8. Arlington Park

Located in suburban Chicago, the Arlington Park grandstand, which was rebuilt after a 1985 fire, is probably the nicest of any race track in America. The summer racing isn't on a par with Del Mar or Saratoga, but the fields are full and a good turf course and one-mile chute on the dirt track make for interesting racing. Reserve a table in the Million Room, a nice restaurant with a killer view of the track. It's a perfect place to settle down for the day, and the cost is very reasonable.

9. Belmont Park

The grand old lady may be a little down on her luck, but she's still got what it takes. Sure, it's a little sad to see such a magnificent track with only a few thousand people rattling around the cavernous grandstand, but on a beautiful autumn day, there are few better places to be. Even Belmont Stakes day is a good time to go for a crowd-phobe like me, at least if no horse is going for the Triple Crown, since Belmont can easily accommodate 50,000 people with room to spare. Visit now before it gets turned into a shopping mall.

10. Oaklawn Park

A great little track in the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, Oaklawn Park has a nice, glass-encased grandstand with (ugh) slot-type machines inside. There's also a lot to see and do in the surrounding area. They offer very decent quality day-to-day racing, but plan your trip during the Racing Festival of the South—this event boasts lots of good stakes races on tap, including the Kentucky Derby prep race Oaklawn Derby. My only compliant is the lack of a turf course. What's up with that?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Glen bratcher 

      11 months ago

      What the red mile?

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      Aqueduct Park is the place you have to see. Pissing on the door. The smell of marijuana everywhere. Security no where to be seen. Etc. Etc etc. Trust me shen i say, you will never forget the experience.

    • profile image

      Joe Nixon 

      13 months ago

      Gulfstream a surprising.omission

    • profile image

      Lance guranovich 

      14 months ago

      How does anyone feel about hialeah? I saw forego beat true knight in the widener in 1974 and i was really impressed with the track. Tanforan was a west coast version of churchill

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      Iv been to most tracks on the west coast.Longacers in washington was my fav.To bad they closed it years ago.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I always figured that there's no turf course at Oaklawn because they only race in the winter -- not a good time for grass.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Has anyone been to the old Dueling Grounds, now Kentucky Downs?

    • profile image

      Joe B 

      3 years ago

      Nice List. Been to 8 of them. Missing Ruidoso Downs and Oaklawn Park. Some comments: Delaware Park is a beautiful track. Racing is not so good there and they've cut their meet down but still one of those throwback tracks. Trying to take in as many tracks as I can these days before most of them go out of business. Monmouth Park is my home track and as you've said one of the top ones in the country. Unfortunately if it doesn't get sports betting it's future is in doubt. Keep up the good work.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I really want to visit some of these

    • profile image

      robert cruice 

      3 years ago

      a great race place should have a park/picnik area adjacent to the grandstand with trees barbiques benches etc. so a day at the races can be a family day out too that used to be delaware park haven't been theree in over 65 years hope it hasn't changed at all.

    • profile image

      Dennis Trujillo 

      3 years ago

      Santa Rosa,CA. Great fair meet and there is so much to see and experience that are close by. Russian River, Napa Valley, and the people there are awesome host. Yes, I know it's not a main circuit place, but it should be with Bay Meadows gone. I plan to go East to check it Out.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Its FONNER time!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      On a business trip to Chile, I had the chance to visit Club Hipico de Santiago. Built in 1869. Amazing place. With image googling it.....

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      The slot-type machines at Oaklawn are not in the glass enclosed grandstand. They are in the casino which is separate but attached.

    • jericho911 profile image

      Kenneth Claude 

      7 years ago from Ohio

      Remington Park is very beautiful. It's been a long time since I was there, but on the day I passed through, the ex-49ers quarterback Steve Young was there. I can't remember the reason why, though. It was around 1994 or so ! Great article !

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The major KY derby prep at Oaklawn is the $1million Arkansas Derby, not Oaklawn Derby.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      JCL,what ever happened to Kenny Church? He was one of the great riders at Arlington when we were there.And there off.

    • profile image

      Richard Reese 

      9 years ago

      I have to agree with your number one listing of Santa Anita Race Track. I've been to all of the tracks on the West Coast and Santa Anita is the most beautiful. I hope to visit Keeneland and Belmont in the near future. Thanks for the great list.

    • kingis profile image

      Patrick King 

      10 years ago from Springfield, IL

      Although it has been years since I last was there, Arlington is a great track. Some good races especially the Million are run there. I am surprised you did not include Meadowlands in New Jersey. It is a great track for harness racing with plenty of history.

    • Racing Saturday profile image

      Racing Saturday 

      10 years ago


      Great list!! The only thing I would add is that Arlington (yes I'm a little biased) has the top Turf course in North America. The Arlington Million in August is a very wonderful time of the year.

      Have fun. Here's to your racing luck!!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, howtheyplay.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)