A list of the most popular race courses and their architectural design, Horse racing buildings, Kentucky Derby USA

Architectural Designs of Popular Race Courses Guide

17 Nov 2021

Architectural Designs of Popular Race Courses

A List of the Most Popular Race Courses and Their Architectural Design

Horse racing is one of the world’s oldest sports, beloved by both the ancient Greeks and Romans. Modern horse racing owes itself to King Charles II of England, who was known as “the father of the English turf.” He is credited with establishing the first national horse racing rules. Later, French monarch Louis XVI organised a jockey club and introduced the requirement of certificates of origin for horses, a practice that continues until today. Both of these kings helped to establish racing as we know it today.

Architectural Designs of Popular Racecourses List

Unsurprisingly (because of racing’s royal roots), racecourses are intricately designed, often with the help of the world’s most sought-after architects.

This article will present a list of the world’s most popular and architecturally magnificent racecourses:

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs is one of America’s most famous, popular, and recognisable racecourses. It is located in Louisville, Kentucky, and hosts the annual Kentucky Derby, which is unquestionably one of America’s most popular sporting events. The racecourse was opened in 1875, the namesake of its founder Samuel Churchill.

The Downs’ most recognisable architectural feature is the twin spires, which emerge from the top of the grandstands. These spires were designed by Joseph Dominic Baldez and were built in 1895. The spires are in the Italianate style, and are eight-sided, sitting atop octagonal cupolas.

Architectural Designs of Popular Race Courses

Piazza del Campo

The Piazza del Campo, which is located in rural Tuscany, is not a dedicated racetrack, although it hosts races twice a year. For most of the year, the Piazza del Campo is an ordinary town square, used by locals as a place to do business and congregate. It is one of Italy’s most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture.

As aforementioned, twice annually, the Piazza del Campo is transformed into a racecourse for the Palio di Siena, which is one of Italy’s most famous sporting events. The event is enjoyed by most of the town, nearly two thirds, and others from around the world.

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham is one of England’s most famous racecourses, not least because it is a haunt of the British royal family. The Cheltenham Racecourse is also very popular with sports betters. In fact, one could argue that the Cheltenham Festival is the most popular time for betting all year round in Britain. Most sports betting websites and shops offer Cheltenham free bets in the run-up to the festival, to entice gamers into betting. Cheltenham isn’t just a fantastic racecourse because of the excitement surrounding the festival and the prestigious guests who attend, but also because of its architecture.

The racecourse’s iconic grandstand houses a bar, private seating and booths, as well a restaurant. The racecourse has undergone lots of redevelopment over the years. Racing has been taking place at Cheltenham for over two hundred years. The first recorded race there took place in 1815.

Happy Valley

Happy Valley is widely considered to be Asia’s best racecourse. The course is located in Hong Kong, overlooked by the city’s skyscrapers and apartment buildings. The multi-levelled racecourse was first constructed by the British, in 1845.

Over the years, the racecourse has undergone redevelopment and regeneration. The course’s largest redesign was in 1995 when large areas were demolished, rebuilt and new parts added. The racecourse is also home to a large racing museum, which was opened in 1996. In addition to the museum, there are sports and leisure facilities on-site for members of the public.

Happy Valley is not only one of the world’s finest racecourses, but it is also one of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attractions.


Meydan is located in Dubai and was completed in 2010. The racecourse’s visionary design has contributed to it becoming one of the world’s most popular racecourses. The arena is one of the longest single structures in the world, stretching a mile in length. The grandstand can hold 60,000 spectators. The most prestigious race that is held there is the Dubai World Cup. In addition to the racecourse, the building has a gallery, a nine-hole golf course [located on the grounds], a horse-racing museum, and the world’s first trackside five-star hotel. The United Arab Emirates is a country that is always at the forefront of design and innovation, and this racecourse is no exception.


Ascot is another of Britain’s most popular [and royally frequented] racecourses. The racecourse has been in operation for over 300 years now, making it one of the world’s oldest still used racecourses. The racecourse was opened during the reign of Queen Anne, and since then, has been a favourite of the royal family. Annually, 26 equestrian events are held there.

The architects who designed the modern grandstand designed it to mirror Berkshire’s beautiful and diverse countryside. Ascot is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year and is undoubtedly the world’s most prestigious racecourse.

Flemington Racecourse

Flemington Racecourse is Australia’s most prestigious. The racecourse is located in Melbourne, by the Maribyrnong River. The racecourse hosts Australia’s most famous race, the Melbourne Cup. The racecourse is recognised on Australia’s National Heritage list.

Every year, celebrities, royalty, and socialites descend on Flemington for the Melbourne Cup. In 2018, a second grandstand was completed, the Club Stand. The Club Stand is a member’s only grandstand that features several bars and restaurants. It has proved to be very popular among patrons of the Flemington Racecourse. Its sleek, modern design is credited to architectural firm Bates Smart.

Chantilly Racecourse

As this article’s introduction notes, France has long had a connection to horse racing. Chantilly Racecourse is located north of Paris. Annually, several races are held there, including the famous Prix du Jockey Club.

The racecourse’s iconic design is credited to famous architect Pierre Jerome Honoré Daumet, who designed and built the palatial grandstand in 1879. The Chantilly Racecourse is another of the world’s most prestigious and is adored by fans of architecture and equestrian pursuits. Tickets to the Chantilly Racecourse’s events can be very expensive, which isn’t surprising considering its history.

Architectural Designs of Popular Race Courses Summary

Horse racing is still today one of the world’s most popular sports, and for good reason. It’s fun, exhilarating, and can be very lucrative if you bet effectively. The race courses mentioned in this article are the world’s most prestigious, but there are many more that are just as fantastic in terms of design.

Location: Hong Kong, Eastern Asia

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Contemporary Racecourse Architecture – architectural selection below:

Concept design for Ireland’s most prestigious racecourse
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The Curragh Racecourse
image courtesy of architects office
The Curragh Racecourse

New Longchamp Racecourse Paris

Horse Park in Yeongcheon, South Korea

Doncaster Racehorse Facility

Wellington Racecoures, Belgium
Design: BURO II
Belgian Racecourse Building
picture from architect
Wellington Racecoures

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