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Giddy' Up: Around the World in Five Horse Races

October 27, 2004 -- Some of the world's most prestigious horse races have a lot more to offer than horses and betting. Most are international events with boasting festivals, parades, high fashion, opulent hats, celebrity guests, and they give a whole new meaning to the concept of tailgating. Even if you don't particularly like "the sport of kings" or understand what all the fuss is about, attending these annual events can be the highlight of any social and travel calendar.

There's a horse race for all seasons starting this fall.

Melbourne Cup: Melbourne, Australia; November 2, 2004

If it's November than it has to be Melbourne. The first Tuesday in November is Melbourne Cup Day. So you say, big deal, it's just a horse race. Melbourne must be the only city in the world that has an official public holiday for a horse race (many people also take the Monday off for a four-day weekend). It is the mid-point of a week of Spring Carnival festivities including parades, parties, race-meets and fashion shows.

Considered one of the world's greatest handicap races, prize money for the event at the prestigious Flemington Racecourse is set at $2.5 million, and as many as 24 horses line up to run the half-mile course. Ticket prices are $22 general admission -- although if you have contacts or reciprocal rights from other international racing clubs, you may be able to secure the highly coveted member tickets which include exclusive access to the "members' car-parks" for the tailgating party to end all parties -- catered tents with silver service, French champagne & plasma screen TVs (you might not even see a real horse all day!). For further information regarding tickets, contact the Victorian Racing Club (tel. + 613/9258-4666; To find out more about what's happening in Melbourne during the Spring Racing Carnival visit

Getting to Melbourne is easy but a considerable distance from the US. United, Qantas and Air New Zealand all service this Transpacific route. November is considered shoulder season, so airfare prices are generally lower. Qantas (tel. 800/227-4603; currently has a web deal for roundtrip airfares to Melbourne from Los Angeles starting at $848 plus approximately $120 in taxes or $1148 plus taxes from New York. Valid for departures from now until December 9, 2004. Conditions apply and this deal expires on October 31, 2004.

Dubai World Cup: Dubai, UAE; March 26, 2005

Dubai is known as the horse racing capital of the Middle East. The top race of the season, and also the world's richest with a six million dollar prize pool, is the Dubai World Cup. This is your chance to rub elbows with sheiks and royalty and to experience a horseracing event without equal for its opulence and decadence.

The race, at the Nad Al Sheba racecourse, is always scheduled around the same time as the annual Dubai Shopping Festival so it is a perfect way to combine fashion and entertainment in one exotic location. For more information about the event and to secure tickets, visit For details regarding the shopping festival visit

Airfare Planet (tel. 503/345 0410; has roundtrip airfares from New York to Dubai in March 2005 starting at $794 plus taxes flying via Europe or direct flights on Emirates from $995 plus taxes. These prices include a $10 service fee.

Kentucky Derby: Louisville, Kentucky; May 7, 2005

2005 marks the 131st annual Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the esteemed Triple Crown. Southern society's marquis event invites you to the revered Churchill Downs racetrack where the drink of choice is a mint julep. Again the crowd is divided into the haves and have nots -- the infield for the general public and the terraces and clubhouse for those in the know (or in the money). Derby Week festivities include parties, parades, sports, music and fireworks but nothing overshadows the "Run for the Roses" where the best three-year-old thoroughbreds line up for America's most famous race. For further information and ticket sales ($40 general admission) visit or call 502/636-4400.

Obviously getting to Louisville will be a lot easier and less expensive than attending an international event. Depending on your departure point, it could be as easy as a roadtrip, or you might need to fly. Roundtrip airfares can be as low as $178 plus taxes at CheapAir (tel. 800/243-2724; We recommend that you book well in advance to secure your flights. Southwest (tel. 800/435-9792; also has low-priced regional fares to Louisville, however they are only accepting bookings up until April 2005 at present so be sure to try again next month.

Royal Ascot Races: Ascot, England; June 14-18, 2005

For a regal experience, nothing comes close to Royal Ascot. Due to redevelopment of the racecourse, the 2005 five-day event will be held at York Racecourse instead. The tailgating experience here is second to none featuring Rolls Royces & Bentleys, Harrod's picnic baskets, flowers and silver candlesticks -- of course, your own butler in essential. The traditional drink (that's been around for over a century) is Pimm's and lemonade -- a rather refreshing combination. Although the women are glamorous and dressed to the nines in ornate hats and couture, the men are often the stars of the show in morning suits, including top hats and tails. The Ascot is noted for its wealthy style including top-class thoroughbreds and race attendees in the height of fashion. The Queen's daily procession (yes, she and the royal family always attend) is a major attraction and takes places daily. For further information, visit Tickets, which went on sale this month, vary in price according to viewing area requirements and membership. Flights to London are so numerous and vary so much in price that we'll only offer a few suggestions here as prices will likely change before next June. Summer is high season so it is less likely that you will find any real bargains that are usually on offer during the winter months. The cheapest fare that we have found is a direct flight from New York to London during June with Kuwait Airways through Travelocity (tel. 888/709-5983; which is a mere $235 plus taxes. 1800 FlyEurope (tel. 800/359-3876; regularly has cheap deals to London including their current June rates of $391 plus taxes from Newark on a European carrier.

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: Paris, France; October 2005 (actual date to be confirmed)

The culmination of the European racing calendar is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, considered the most important flat race in Europe. Position is everything and the famed Longchamp Racecourse is located five minutes from the Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower. The racecourse features a 1.5-mile course and attracts more than 35,000 spectators for this epic race. Competitors include winners of classical races in England, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy all fighting for a purse, which is the richest in Europe (over two million dollars). The history of this race is deeply respected as it is a tribute to the courage of French soldiers during the First World War and represents the sporting spirit of the race's founders. For further information on the 84th annual Prix, call tel. + 33/1-4430-7500 or visit

It is still a little early to get prices for flights to Paris for next October as most websites only offer quotes of fares up to 330 days in advance. But it is never too early to start planning for a racing adventure at home or abroad.