1. Velka Pardubicka
This historic race has been in existence since 1874 and is run over 6.9 kilometres and over 31 unique obstacles. Pardubice is around 100km east of Prague in the East Bohemia region of the Czech Republic and is well known as a horse-loving area.
The course itself is made up of a mixture of turf and ploughed fields. In earlier years more than half the race was run over ploughed fields but now it’s down to less than a quarter because it was deemed to be too draining on the horses. There’s a stream that runs through the course and runners jump over three times during the race.
- Irish Bank
- English Jump
- Water Course
- Havel’s Jump
- Big Water Jump
- Snake Ditch
- Popler’s Jump
The last name on the list brings into focus how dangerous this race as jockey Rudolf Poler died while riding in the race back in 1932.
Most Wins (Horse): Zeleznik – 3 Wins
Most Wins (Jockey): Josef Vana – 8 Wins
Fastest Winning Time: 8m:56s
Most Famous Fence
The fence that has become synonymous with the race is the Taxis Ditch which is 140cm in height and is 8 metres wide.
Over thirty horses have died when attempting to clear this obstacle alone.
“When I saw the Taxis for the first time I thought those who claimed it was jumpable were joking. The Taxis is, without doubt, the toughest of the tough, it takes the biscuit. It’s probably the hardest obstacle in the world “ (Chris Collins who won the race in 1973 )
2. St. Moritz
Some of the most dangerous horse racing in the world takes place on the “white turf at St Moritz.
The white turf racing takes place at the beginning of February and is built up and sold as an exclusive event taking place in the wonderful winter sunshine, on the frozen lake, among the stunning scenery of the snow-capped mountains of St Moritz.
There is no doubt that it’s s great spectacle but racing on the ice comes with obvious dangers and unfortunately George Baker is all too familiar with those dangers. In 2016 the young jockey landed his first classic victory when he partnered Harbour Law to win the St Leger for Ian and Laura Mongan.
In February 2017 Baker’s high flying, career came to an abrupt end when his mount Boomerang Bob found the ground giving away from underneath him which is understandable given that it’s ice. Boomerang Bob fatally landed on Baker who suffered brain damage and for at least 5 weeks later he had post-traumatic amnesia. He had to learn how to walk again but thankfully he has made a recovery albeit not a total one as on doctors advise, he had to retire in November 2017.
This is honestly one of the craziest things I have ever seen, where skiers are pulled along by horses. The first signs of the sports existence came when skier went behind reindeer in Stockholm at the Nordic Games of 1901
All in all, it’s some of the most dangerous racing in the world and something I wouldn’t be attempting.
3. Palio di Siena
Last Tuesday evening saw the annual running of the Palio di Siena and there were some famous racing faces in attendance including Jamie Spencer, Frankie Dettori and Andrea Atzeni who’s cousin actually won this year’s running.
The race was inaugurated in 1633 and sees ten horses that represent the neighbourhoods of Siena. There is no finely watered carpet-like turf or freshly ploughed all-weather surface. Instead of this the runners’ race on the sand in the city’s central square.
There are none really with riders free to barge their way around the course and interfere with other horses as they see fit. The saying “wild wild west” springs to mind when trying to picture the race.
- The whips the jockey’s using during this historic race are made out of ox penises
- It’s the horse, not the rider that wins the Palio di Siena with riderless horses having won the race on numerous occasions. I wish the same rules applied to the Grand National as I’d have had countless winners.
It’s definitely the world’s most chaotic race and is just as dangerous with no rules and the rough terrain.
4. The Golden Button
This race is for thoroughbreds and non-thoroughbreds alike and is hosted by the Ledbury Hunt in Gloucestershire. The Golden Button is run over approximately 3 miles and over 22 natural obstacles.
It’s quite popular amongst professional jockeys with the likes of Eddie Ahern and Paul Carberry both previous winners of the race. The Youtube videos of the race are quite scary to watch with fallers galore and loose horses everywhere. There is a mix of big hedges and rails to overcome if you are to emerge triumphantly and it’s not a race for the faint-hearted. That being said anyone that weight over 11 stone and is over 16 is allowed to ride in the race.
The Golden Button is a hugely popular but controversial race and that’s no surprise given how challenging the obstacles are. In 2015 the race returned after a three-year hiatus but unfortunately, there were three fatalities with one horse breaking their back and another two suffering cardiac arrest following their excursions.
Another rider was airlifted in a separate incident with back injuries but was released later that day. There is no doubt it’s a real thrill for the riders both professional and amateur but it comes with a health warning.
5. Grand National
The English Grand National is run over four miles and two and a half furlongs. The Grand National is one of the most famous National Hunt races on the sporting calendar. The race is held annually at Aintree Racecourse and it attracts a massive following from racing fans, punters and the public alike.
The Grand National was first run in 1839 and hosts an impressive history. In more recent times, the size and safety of the fences have been much improved but yet it is a tough challenge as the fences are bigger and more dangerous than any other National Hunt contest in the UK and some of the fences have become known to the public such as Becher’s Brook, The Chair and the Canal Turn. It is the most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund of £1 million.
The race is definitely the highest profile of the more dangerous races with over 550 million viewers annually. This has raised a lot of question marks around the race with many claiming it’s too dangerous with some high profiles fatalities, most notably Gold Cup winner Synchronised in 2012.
Ginger McCain trainer of the winning most horse in the race Red Rum previously said:
“It’s speed that does the damage, the faster they go, the heavier they fall and the more likely they are to fall,” says Ginger McCain
- Fastest Winning Time: Mr Frisk – 1990
- Largest Field: 66 Runners – 1929
- Smallest Field: 10 Runners – 1883
- Fewest Horses To Finish: 2 – 1928