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More stunning racecourses you must visit when we're free to travel again

Enable wins the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at its temporary home, the beautiful Chantilly, in 2017
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The days of travelling to even local racecourses feel very distant in this time of lockdown, but eventually the restrictions will loosen and we'll be able to go racing around the world again. When that happens, here are nine more tracks in Britain, Ireland and around the world that our writers think you should put on your must-visit list.

Santa Anita: where equine and scenic divinity are married

Nestled under the majestic San Gabrial mountains and baked in California sunshine, Santa Anita is privy to one of the most beautiful racecourse settings in the world.

Horses train on Santa Anita's main track against the backdrop of the San Gabriel mountains

The art deco grandstand might not have quite the same aesthetic allure, but it is an enormous edifice that fills the eye and adds to the general sense of wonder on arrival at the Los Angeles venue. 

Behind that cavernous unit, the saddling boxes and the parade ring are intimate focal points that allow you to get close to the horses, and there have been some good ones grace the old venue through the years. 

It was at Santa Anita that Seabiscuit bowed out from his racing career when breaking the track record in the 1940 Santa Anita Derby, and it has witnessed numerous iconic Breeders' Cup moments as well, not least the Turf dead-heat between High Chaparral and Johar and seminal Classic triumphs for Raven's Pass, Zenyatta and Arrogate.

The thought of such a glorious marriage of equine and scenic divinity is enough to sustain any racing fan during this barren spell.

Richard Forristal

Pontefract: friendly and full of atmosphere

Pontefract's status as one of British racing's best-kept secrets has rather been blown by the course being crowned as Showcase champion at the Racecourse Association's awards night last year.

It was a tribute to the love and care that has been lavished upon it for decades by the course's indefatigable managing director Norman Gundill and his team.

The Pontefract paddock: the racecourse has a reputation for friendliness and a great atmosphere

Pontefract is in the heart of industrial West Yorkshire and does not benefit from the scenic views that Goodwood or Cheltenham do, but what Pontefract does have is a reputation for friendliness, a great atmosphere from the healthy crowds who attend and competitive racing.

I first went to Ponte Carlo in the 80s when I saw the likes of Infamy and Orban before they went on to Group 1 success. Having moved south it has been a while since I have got to Pontefract but every year I think I must go and enjoy a day at the races there. After all this is over, I will have to address that.

Bill Barber

Ballinrobe: buzzing on a summer's evening

The racecourse where Tiger Roll was first successful in Ireland is a hidden gem.

The legendary dual Grand National winner won twice at Cheltenham and at Market Rasen before he bagged a beginners' chase at Ballinrobe in May of 2016 and the only racecourse in County Mayo is attracting more quality with every passing year.

They don't race in the depths of winters so the chances of good weather at Ballinrobe is quite high.

Ballinrobe: facilities are as good as any provincial track in Ireland

Like Windsor in Britain, most of Ballinrobe's fixtures are held on a Monday evening and there is no better place to start the week. John Flannelly and his team run a really good show and facilities are as good as any provincial track in Ireland. The bars are always buzzing, the betting ring is always bulging, and they are usually two or three deep around the parade ring.

If you haven't been, put it on the bucket list.

David Jennings

Gavea: a unique jewel at the foot of a modern wonder of the world

There are not many places in the world quite like Rio de Janeiro. From partying, to relaxing, to sightseeing, it is hard to fit everything in, but be sure to include a trip to the Gavea racecourse in your hectic schedule – you won't be disappointed.

Situated by the stunning Lagos Rodrigo de Freitas, the facilities at the racecourse vary – as can the quality of racing depending when you visit. The track was built in 1926 and there are some areas of the course where that is particularly obvious. Stray dogs and cats walked the area of the grandstand closest to the parade ring when I visited on a quiet midweek evening meeting, but it is a big complex and the facilities do improve and there are some very nice restaurants on site too, and, as you will find out when in Rio, plenty of bars and nightlife.

Picture-postcard setting: Gavea, Brazil's most celebrated racecourse, sits in the shadow of the arms-outstretched statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Hill in Rio de Janeiro

Entry to the course is free and it is just a short taxi ride from the Copacabana, although the Praia de Ipanema is just a short walk and is a stunning beach with a fraction of the crowd of the more popular beaches. 

However, there is one particular jewel that makes this track a must-do for all racing fans and that is that it sits at the foot of Christ the Redeemer.

There is something very special about watching horseracing with a modern wonder of the world dominating the background – it is even better on an evening when everything is lit up.

There is no backdrop in horseracing quite like it and it is sure to live long in the racing memory bank.

Tom Park

Champ de Mars: where the tarmac meets the turf 

There are some strange sights on the world's racecourses but perhaps Champ de Mars in Port Louis, Mauritius, takes a bit of beating. 

Quite apart from the battery of low-roofed betting parlours jammed into a cramped infield and the hushed Banyan trees that give shade and serenity to a courtyard behind the grandstand, there's the small matter of Dr Eugene Laurent Street. 

A firework show at Champ de Mars, the only racecourse in Mauritius

If you arrive close enough to the start of racing you might not notice anything unusual, in other words the main road you must cross to pass from the grandstand to the running rail. That Tarmac expanse might just be mistaken as part of the enclosure. But as soon as racing ends the road reopens to everyday traffic and punters browsing for discarded betting slips better beware.

Suffice to say, as you sip the last of your rum and recount your winnings, where moments ago there was a crowd of gesticulating racegoers, the sight of cars speeding left and right brings an ethereal conclusion to the day.

Tony Smurthwaite

Newmarket July: good things come to those who wait

The town of Newmarket is one of the key engines of British horseracing. Whether you walk down the high street, go to a bar, or even leave the place completely – there is always a reminder of how booming the equine business is and how serious it is to the residents.

But discreetly tucked away in that hustle and bustle is the Newmarket July course – a place with all the same excitement and passion for racing but with a warming atmosphere and in a picturesque setting.

The July course parade ring: an excellent place to see the next generation of racing stars up close

Racing is only held between June and August with the three-day July festival the highlight event on the calendar. Cards are normally stacked full of high-class prospects from the top stables in the town while the July Cup itself is one of the biggest sprint races in the world.

As the powerhouses of the sport unleash their finest juveniles, you cannot escape that sense that you may be about to see something special. A feeling felt by racegoers in August 2010 when they saw Frankel start his career.

The course itself is a bit smaller than the Rowley Mile but it caters perfectly for the summer months with big outside bar spaces and a large lawn overlooking the parade ring. With the sun shining, ice-cool refreshments in hand and the best equine talent on show, there is no place like it.

James Stevens

Chaddesley Corbett: the home of the pointing world's Gold Cup

The second or third Saturday in April is always Scottish Grand National day, but for those who prefer their jump racing at a more grassroots level it is also Lady Dudley Cup day at Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire.

This race is the highlight of the point-to-point calendar, attracting decent runners whose names you will be familiar with, together with thousands of fans who love their sport dearly.

Heading down the home straight at Chaddesley Corbett point-to-point course

Get their early – very early – and you might be lucky enough to secure a spot somewhere in the first row of cars with unrivalled views of the final fence and the winning line. Arrive a bit later and you'll be parked on the wide bank with panoramic views across the track and a small slice of countryside heaven. 

The remainder of the pointing season might have been cancelled, but chalk a visit to Chaddesley on your wishlist for next year and you won't be disappointed.

David Dew

Chantilly: for those who are tired of Longchamp

Years of dashing over to Longchamp on the first weekend in October for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe nearly came to a hiatus when the race was switched to Chantilly while the Paris track was being rebuilt.

Chantilly? Somewhere out in the countryside, isn't it? How do we get there? Probably going to be a schlep from Paris. Oh well, it's the Arc, we never miss it, might as well give it a go.

Now, after two glorious years of the Arc at the lovely, leafy course in the heart of horse country north-east of Paris – as easily reached from the city as the more central Longchamp, if not more easily, on a half-hour train journey from the Gare du Nord – we wouldn't go anywhere else.

Chantilly: the lovely, leafy course in the heart of northern Paris's horse country

After being unimpressed with the revamped ParisLongchamp on the Arc's return to the course in 2018, we instead chose the more relaxed experience of the Prix du Jockey Club last year. Being at half-term we could even travel over early and spend more time in the city beforehand.

French Derby Sunday, May 31, was already in the diary for 2020 and, while racegoers are unlikely to be allowed in if the race goes ahead this time, we'll be heading back just as soon as we can. 

Paul Crabtree

Moonee Valley: exhilaration on turf

Moonee Valley is one of the world's great racecourses and offers one of the world's greatest racing experiences, particularly if you can get there on the day when it stages Australia's most prestigious prize.

It's a bit like Chester, and there are echoes of Happy Valley, but the Valley takes it to a higher level because of the quality of racing staged around the tight oval with a home straight that provides a scramble of just 200 metres to the line.

If the Cox Plate is staged this year it will be the 100th running of a contest that has risen in stature thanks to the record-breaking four wins of Winx and the 2019 victory of Japan's Lys Gracieux. If you have never been, and if by then we are allowed to travel, it would be a wonderful time to succumb to the velodrome on turf that lies just a short tram ride from marvellous Melbourne's beating heart.

Redevelopment work is due to begin in 2024. Moonee Valley will remain wonderful and exhilarating but you won't regret experiencing the place as it is now, perhaps for one of its Friday night floodlit fixtures.

Yes, it's a very long way to go. It is, however, most definitely worth it.

Lee Mottershead


Got a suggestion for a track to visit? Simply send us an email at editor@racingpost.com and let us know your favourites


Read more of our Lockdown Guides:

Part one: the racecourses you must visit when we're free to travel again

Epic moments: relive some of the great performances over jumps and on the Flat

'Jilly Cooper this ain't' – must-read novels and betting books from our writers

Digital delights: the best clips, shows and documentaries to enjoy on YouTube

From Sir Anthony McCoy to Phar Lap: must-see films and documentaries

Non-fiction reads: From Barney Curley to the greatest footballer never seen

What to do in lockdown: our top tipsters on how to hone your skills


Keep up to date on the must-have news, tips, photos and more by following the Racing Post across all social channels


 

What Pontefract does have is a reputation for friendliness, a great atmosphere from the healthy crowds who attend and competitive racing
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