Horse racing is a popular sport in North America. Of all the countries with an active horse racing scene in the region, Canada has its fair share of major events, famous racecourses, and racehorses. A country where the first racing event was held in 1767 with a purse of $40 has come a long way since then, as horse racing has become a major spectator sport with numerous events happening throughout the year.
Like other countries, a sovereign body, the Jockey Club of Canada oversees thoroughbred horse racing in Canada. The Jockey Club maintains a dynamic grading system, whereby the Graded Stakes Committee grades races and categorises them into grades I, II, and III, respectively, according to the statistical analysis of the field’s quality in preceding years, given the race meets the minimum purse criteria.
More on that later, but let’s first look at Canada’s most significant horse races.
The Canadian Triple Crown
The Canadian Triple Crown entails three of the most prominent horse races in Canada. The series is held annually and reserved for three-year-old thoroughbred racehorses, bred in Canada. The Triple Crown was launched in 1959 and is similar in format to the Triple Crown held in the US, but the three races are held on three different tracks.
Here are the three major races that take place as a part of the Triple Crown.
The Queen’s Plate
The first race in the Triple Crown is the Queen’s Plate, which is Canada’s most significant and oldest thoroughbred horserace. The race runs over a distance of 2000 meters and is open to three-year-old thoroughbreds foaled in Canada, whereby 17 horses compete at one time.
The Queen’s Plate is held at Woodbine racecourse in Etobicoke, Ontario, in June or July every year. The Queen’s Plate was launched in 1860 and was referred to as the King’s Plate, from 1901 to 1952, in accordance with the male monarch’s reigning during that time. The prize money of the longest-running race in North American history is CAD 1 million.
The Prince of Wales Stakes
The Prince of Wales Stakes is the second race of the Canadian Triple Crown Series. The race is also reserved for three-year-old thoroughbreds, which have been foaled in Canada. The race takes place in September and runs over a distance of 1900 meters on a dirt track at the Fort Erie racecourse in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.
The Prince of Wales Stakes happened for the first time in 1929 at the Thorncliffe Park Raceway in Toronto, which is now non-functional. In 1959, the race became a part of the Triple Crown Series. The Prince of Wales Stakes has a purse of CAD 400,000.
The Breeder’s Stakes
The third race of the Triple Crown is the Breeder’s Stakes, a stakes race that, like its counterparts, is reserved for three-year-old thoroughbred horses bred in Canada. The race takes place in august of every year at the Woodbine racecourse in Toronto, Canada. The race runs over a distance of 1.5miles, making it the longest race of the Canadian Triple Crown series and has prize money worth CAD 500,000.
The 133-year-old race was held for the first time in 1889 and became a part of the Triple Crown Series in 1959.
Graded Stakes Races in Canada
Graded Stakes races are races for thoroughbreds that meet certain criteria set by the Jockey Club of Canada. As suggested earlier, the races are categorised into grades I, II, and III, respectively, according to the past years’ statistical analysis of the field’s quality.
While various criteria are listed for races to be categorised as a graded stake race, the major conditions require that the race has been conducted for at least two years with the same format and conditions and has the minimum specified purse money. For instance, the purse for Grade 1 is $300,000 and above.
Here are two Grade 1 Canadian flat horse races.
The Woodbine Mile is a Grade 1 race open to thoroughbred horses ages three and older. The race runs over a distance of 1 mile at the Woodbine racetrack every year in September. With prize money of $1,000,000CAD, the Woodbine Mile is perhaps the most significant Grade 1 race in Canada.
The race took place for the first time in 1988 ad was titled the Molson Export Challenge, named after the signature beer of its main sponsor, Molson Breweries. Over the course of years, it underwent name changes as its sponsorship changed.
Canadian International Stakes
The Canadian International Stakes takes place in October every year at the Woodbine racecourse in Toronto, Canada. The grade 1 flat horse race is open to thoroughbreds ages three years and above and runs over a distance of 1.5 miles.
The Canadian International Stakes was held for the first time in 1938, and since its inception, it has undergone numerous modifications, including its location, name, distance, etc. Interestingly, the prize money for the race has reduced gradually since 2005, from CAD 2 million to CAD 800,000 in 2017. The intention behind increasing the purse was to lure European contestants who had not taken part in Breeder’s Cup Turf; however, it was reduced later.