White Turf Races: The horse race with an alpine edge

Story highlights

  • The White Turf races are held on a frozen lake
  • Take place in "special" ski resort St Moritz

(CNN)Most horses would be used to running across the soft turf of a racing paddock, or maybe even on a sandy beach. But the White Turf snow race in the ski resort of St. Moritz, Switzerland, poses a new challenge for race horses: a frozen lake.

"There's something so special here about the racing here on the frozen lake with the whole town buzzing," British trainer John Best told CNN. "I don't really know how to quite explain it."
Best has raced horses all over the world, and he admits that it's impossible to know how well they will run over ice and snow.
    "You get some horses that you think will be perfect out here, but then they're not; others that you're not sure about and they just thrive on it," he explained.
    "And we've got one [Berrahri] horse that we've brought out for the last three years now -- this is his third year -- and he just loves it out here. Every year he runs way above what he would normally do at home."
    Berrahri has proven his form over the frozen lake, finishing third last year and second in 2015.
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    If people wear crampons to hike on ice and snow, it makes sense that horses have their own special shoe for wintery conditions, too.
    Best is developing a horse shoe that he hopes to use at St. Moritz next year.
    "The beauty of this is it's a glue-on shoe. There are fewer parts that a horse can catch to pull the shoe off as they're racing. There's a special insert... that gives support to the horse's foot underneath."
    St. Moritz is host to this year's Skiing World Championships. On top of its bizarre horse race, it's a resort that has a reputation for glamor and luxury with wealthy visitors able to enjoy caviar and truffles at 8,000 feet.
    "It's really special, but the whole place is special," says Best. "It's not just about the racing. Everywhere you go in St. Moritz is just beautiful."