Seven reasons to follow international racing

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

November 25th, 2014

For the casual fan who's getting more involved in the racing scene, taking the plunge into international waters might seem daunting. But it's never been easier to follow the sport globally, and you'll be rewarded on a number of levels.

This is as good a time as any to jump in, with the Japan Cup coming up Saturday night U.S. time and the Hong Kong International Races on tap December 14. Then after the holidays, it's Carnival time -- Dubai World Cup Carnival, that is, kicking off January 8 and culminating in the March 28 extravaganza of World Cup night.

Here are seven reasons to spark your motivation:

1. All-time great champions. The world stage has been graced by some magnificent specimens of the Thoroughbred in recent years, and it's been a privilege to watch from afar the likes of Dubai Millennium, Galileo, Montjeu, Makybe Diva, Deep Impact, Sea the Stars, Black Caviar, Treve and Frankel. (Apologies to all the other worthy candidates I've left out, but this is dashed off the top of my head). If you get chills seeing superb horses flaunting their class in the best races, and savor those "I saw it live" moments, then international racing is tailor-made for you.

2. Stimulating variety. Unlike North American racing, which can be monotonous with similar track layouts and fairly typical distances, international racing offers unique course configurations and a vast distance spectrum. Left-handed or right-handed, flat and spacious or turning and undulating, gentle bends or sharp curves, level or uphill finishes, lengthy straightaways or relatively shorter dashes to the wire -- there are courses with contrasting features that suit some horses better than others. And if you love history as much as I do, it adds yet another layer of local texture. Horses have been racing over some of these sites for centuries, and in the case of the Curragh, for millennia.

3. Panorama of festivals. Wherever you are on the calendar, it's peak season somewhere: from South Africa's Cape summer season in January, to the Dubai Carnival, Australia's Championships, the spring classics in Europe and Japan, Royal Ascot, Argentina's "Estrellas" card, Newmarket's July Meeting, the Durban July, Glorious Goodwood, the Ebor Meeting, Deauville, Irish Champions weekend, Arc weekend, British Champions Day, the Spring Carnival in Melbourne, Japan's Autumn International, the Hong Kong International Races. And that's not even all.

4. Readily available information. Fans can find an unprecedented amount of information available online to help with homework. News, race replays, and records are accessible for just about every racing jurisdiction. Of course, for a handy guide, stay tuned to's Handicapper's Edge -- and this blog -- for analysis of the leading players in the marquee international events.

5. Globalization of the sport. Horses routinely ship around the world for big races, so time spent watching or studying a major international race is never wasted. Instead, it is a great advance preparation for future races. For example, a few of the horses you watch on TwinSpires in Japan this weekend could well show up in Dubai, England or France later in the season. And whenever any prominent internationals ship in for our Grade 1s, you'll be way ahead of the game.

6. Actionable intelligence. The more familiar you get with the international scene, the more confident you'll become in forming opinions, and translating them into winning wagers. Many times, there's great value on offer, and you'll be able to recognize and take advantage of it. That opportunity could just as easily come in a U.S. race, where the foreign horse won't look so foreign to you. Even if you don't know that import directly, you might well recognize his company lines, the types of races he's been competing in, the courses he's liked or disliked, and his former connections.

7. Community of fans. As with our other favorite pastimes, social media has revolutionized how fans experience racing, both domestic and international. Twitter, for instance, provides a tremendous forum to interact with racing personalities and fellow fans. You can ask questions, compare opinions, and react together in real time as the race unfolds. That kind of community support can be particularly helpful for the international side, making it easier to bridge the divide and more enjoyable to get involved.

So if you haven't made bold to try international racing, come along on a grand tour!