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World’s most beautiful race courses: From beaches to frozen lakes

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CNN —  

If the thunder of hooves and the thrill of the racing doesn’t grab you, the sublime settings surely will.

From the grounds of a 16th-century chateau, to beaches, snow-covered lakes, glorious greensward and a track squeezed among skyscrapers, the sport of kings offers some spectacular venues for racegoers to savor.

Here is a look at some of the most beautiful horse racing locations in the world.

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Meydan, Dubai

Boasting the world’s first five-star trackside hotel, restaurants and a museum, Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse is a cathedral to 21st-century racing.

The grandstand alone is more than a mile long and can host 60,000 spectators. What’s more, there is a rooftop infinity pool.

Since it replaced the Nad Al Sheba racecourse in 2010, Meydan has been home to one of the richest horse races in the world – the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup.

Meydan is the jewel in Dubai's horse racing scene.
Francois Nel/Getty Images
Meydan is the jewel in Dubai's horse racing scene.

Recently the prize fund was boosted to $12 million and the 2019 winner will take home an eye-watering $7.2 million.

READ: Dubai ruler finally wins Melbourne Cup

St. Moritz, Switzerland

The upmarket ski resort is known for world-class winter sports, glitz, glamor and … horse racing?

The venue for the White Turf event, which is held three days a year, isn’t your typical racecourse. Horses and jockeys compete on a frozen lake against the wintery backdrop of the Engadine mountains.

It’s no wonder the event attracts more than 35,000 spectators each year, drawn in by the gallop and trotting races, as well as fan-favorite skijöring, where skiers are pulled behind unsaddled horses around a 2,700-meter icy track.

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02:37 - Source: CNN
White Turf: St. Moritz's horse race on snow

Flemington Racecourse, Australia

Home to the famous Melbourne Cup, Flemington is the oldest metropolitan racecourse in Australia.

It was first used in 1840 when the town of Melbourne was just five years old.

The revamped venue bursts into a kaleidoscope of color and energy during the Melbourne Cup meeting. The historic race – dubbed the “race that stops a nation” – is a cultural and sporting icon, not just in Australia but around the world.

02:27 - Source: CNN
Australia's golden horse racing heritage

The Melbourne Cup had long been the richest race in Australia before being overtaken by The Everest. The prize pot still sits at about $5.3 million with 2018’s winner collecting $2.8 million.

Piazza del Campo, Italy

Simply put, there is no racecourse in the world quite like the Piazza del Campo in Italy. The Palio di Siena horse race, which is held twice every year in July and August, dates back to medieval times when its first events were held on buffalo.

Twice a year, riders from 10 of the city's 17 districts, known as "contrade", race three times around Siena's central square to win the Palio.
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images
Twice a year, riders from 10 of the city's 17 districts, known as "contrade", race three times around Siena's central square to win the Palio.

The course – which is held in the central piazza of Siena – is lined with spectators on all four sides and in the center with racing taking place on the ring formed around it.

The race has been dubbed by some as “the toughest horse race in the world” with jockeys, who wear the respective colors of their districts, riding bareback.

READ: Is this racing’s most unique horse?

Happy Valley, Hong Kong

Nestled amongst the skyscrapers in Hong Kong is Happy Valley Racecourse, which was originally constructed in 1845 to provide racing entertainment for British expats in the city.

Happy Valley Racecourse is surrounded by giant apartments and skyscrapers.
Getty Images
Happy Valley Racecourse is surrounded by giant apartments and skyscrapers.

It’s a magnificent city center racecourse surrounded by giant apartments and skyscrapers – giving visitors an unusually beautiful scenic view while watching horse racing.

Happy Valley’s seven-storey stands are regularly packed out with local fans and tourists alike, and can accommodate up to 55,000 spectators.

With a beer garden, live music and entertainment between races, the racecourse has become a regular after-work gathering place – especially for what they call “Happy Wednesday.”

READ: Is this the hardest horse race in the world?