Sunday, 26 July 2009

World's Weirdest Racetracks: #2

Combining the spirit, and spirits, of an apres-ski party with the slightly (okay, decidedly) elitist posh of old-style spa racing, Switzerland’s most important racecourse is neither turf nor dirt; and it’s not an artificial surface either. Races at St. Moritz Racecourse are run on snow, which itself is covering the frozen surface of a lake.

So there may not be much potential for a St. Moritz Racecourse "Midsummer racing at the Spa" meeting, but the track’s three racedays in February, labeled the "White Turf", are singular in the world of racing. As is the concept of conducting thoroughbred races on a frozen lake.

Due to its location at 1822 meters (5.978 ft.) above sea level, in the middle of the Swiss Alps, the surface can usually be counted on to support runners and racegoers - the grandstand is on the lake, too. Nevertheless, racedays have occasionally been shortened and parts of the grandstand have remained closed off if the ice was getting a little thin.

Conducting upper-class events on the frozen lake fits in with several of the towns other sporting highlights such as the Polo World Cup on Snow, which uses the same grandstand, and the Cricket On Ice tournament.

St. Moritz's feature event, the 121.121 Swiss Francs (about 105k$) Grosser Preis von St. Moritz, regularly attracts a number of quality horses from other European countries. Racing at this traditional Alpine winter resort offers by far the highest purses in Switzerland, and the Grand-Prix is also the country's most valuable race, beating the only other noteworthy race (the Swiss Derby at Frauenfeld) by 21.121 Francs.

Besides Thoroughbred racing, other disciplines contested are harness trotting (with skates instead of wheels) and Skijoering, a horse-drawn ski racing discipline of Scandinavian origin. St. Moritz's White Turf races are one of the most important societal events in Switzerland.

(Skijoering is a sport for people who wanted to be harness drivers but couldn't afford the sulky and can't get their horses to remain trotting; images by Heinz Schmid)


  1. I was expecting to see this one as #1! Certainly would be a cool event to see one day.

  2. I have a sneaking suspicion that #1 will disappoint some people. It might be a case of "too obvious to get the idea".

  3. This is another horse racing story that the AP likes every year. Always lots of photos move on these races.