While Canada probably is not your first association with horse racing, the Big North has a lot to show in this department. The majority of us think of the Kentucky Derby or The Grand National when horses and racing are the subjects at hand. After reading this article your opinion is going to change.
The vast size of Canada meant that there was plenty of space for these noble animals to run free. Once they were tamed, the culture of horse racing did not come to Canada, it was already there. Below, we are going to discuss how far they have come in the department of horse racing.
1. The Kings Plate
As we said, Canada has a long history in horse racing, it’s just that you didn’t know it. The most notable event of this kind in the Big North is The King’s Plate. This popular race was once known as The Queen’s Plate. It’s been going strong since 1860. As one could have guessed it is a thoroughbred race in and out. The new name came around in September of 2022, and you probably know the reason why the name changed.
For all of you, fans of the sport, the venue that holds this magnificent event is the famed Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario. This is one of the biggest horse racing events during the summertime, and Canada has all of its visitors in mind when organizing it. It is usually held at the start of June.
Sometimes it’s the first Saturday of June, while sometimes it’s the second Saturday of the month. The surface is made out of polytrack and it’s 11/4 miles long. This is the most expensive horse race happening in Canada with the winner going home with CAD 1 million. If you’re not a jockey the best way to come out with a prize from Woodbine Racetrack is to visit Boylesports to wager on the King’s Plate.
This track is a legendary one for Canadian sports fans, and its landmark event was in 1964 when the legendary horse named Northern Dancer took the trophy home. Other names that are written in the annals of racing tracks both in Canada and worldwide include Sir Barton and Secretariat.
2. The Prince of Wales Stakes
Moving on we have another massive horse track happening in Canada. This track is a vital part of the Canadian triplet that is made out of the race we mentioned above and the next one. But, we’ll leave the surprise for later. This event was organized at Fort Erie Racetrack. Every thoroughbred older than three years is allowed to participate. This one is a bit longer than the previous one standing at 13/6 miles.
While the distance is longer, the prize is quite lower standing only at $400, 000. The surface is a dirt track, and The Prince of Wales Stakes dates back to 1929. Probably the most recognizable horse name that managed to snatch a win on this track is Izvestia and it is a horse that followed through on this race and delivered the Canadian Triple Crown Home in 1990.
What makes this race so amazing is the famed dirt track that requires horses to be not only fast but also strong with high endurance. Stamina is the key to a win here. With almost a century old tradition this race is vital not only for Canadian horse racing culture but also for the community surrounding the racetrack.
3. The Breeders’ Stakes
The Breeders’ Stakes is the last jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown. The smallest of all big venues, it still holds a vital role in the annals and culture of Canada and its horse track racing. Its home venue is the notorious Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario. The length stands at 11/2 miles. The prize is also $400,000. For a horse to participate it needs to be a three-year-old thoroughbred at least.
While it’s the last race in the CTC, it has a longer tradition than The Prince of Wales Stakes with the initial iteration being organized back in 1889. The most famous name that came out victorious from this horse race is Peteski who won in 1993, making him one of the few horses who completed the Canadian Triple Crown.
With the emphasis of this track being on endurance, it’s no wonder it is quite popular among the fans of this sport in Canada.
4. The Canadian Derby
One would be wondering how a Grade III race is on our list but The Canadian Derby is quite a special event. It is adored by both fans of the racing and the bettors who are looking to make some money out of it.
The history of this race started at the Manitoba Stakes back in 1930. It then moved to the Polo Park racetrack in Winnipeg. Today, this event is held at the Century Mile racetrack in Alberta.
At the start, it was a closed race that only accepted horses bred in Manitoba. Later on, it opened to all of the country’s thoroughbreds. This statute was held from 1936 to 1941. The race we have today accepts horses from all parts of the world, and thus the name The Canadian Derby fits it nicely. The interesting part is that a race called the Manitoba Derby still exists today.
5. Canadian International Stakes
The last event on our list is the Canadian International Stakes. We are talking about a 1.5-mile long race which is organized each October at the Woodbine racecourse in Toronto, Ontario. It’s a grade I flat horse race entitled only to thoroughbreds that are older than three years.
The initial race at this venue was held way back in 1939. Since then, the race changed a lot starting from the venue, distance, and the name itself.
The reason why this race isn’t higher on the list is precisely the amount of changes that it endured during the years. One of the biggest hits that it received was the reduction in the amount of money taken home by the winner. Back in 2005, this number was 2 million CAD. Today, it stands at 800,000 CAD. The high purse was intended to attract European racers, but this endeavor failed.
Canada has a storied history in this sport and you can now see why. Some of its races are older than one century showing that the culture of horse racing was always strong in the Big North.
The five races above show just how high the stakes are in Canada when it comes to horse racing. Visiting any of these races will show you just how highly valued this sport is in Canada.