Friday, July 3, 2009


We are two weeks away from the biggest horse race in all the ACC states – Virginia’s $750,000 Virginia Derby Gr.2 at Colonial Downs. OK, when Gulfstream hosts the Breeders Cup there are some bigger races in Florida, but…

Obviously, this weekend there will be a host of big horse races held across the country, but the best racing in the world for a weekday took place yesterday in Italy.

The Paoli Di Sienna.

Every year on July 2 and August 16, the beautiful medieval city of Siena comes alive for one of the world's most breathtaking folk festivals, Il Palio. The event is known around the globe for its totally unique horse race.

The seventeen contradas (neighborhoods) in the city compete for bragging rights with a win in the race. To prepare for the actual race they eat and drink, drink and eat, eat and drink…you get the point.

They have a big party where they eat and drink the night before in each of the contradas and then 50,000 folks (locals and tourists) descend on the Piazza del Campo for the main event.

The rules are simple: The first horse across the finish line wins, and it doesn’t matter if he has a jockey on his back or not. First is first.

There is a great deal of pomp and circumstance and, evidently, a bribe or two…Hey, it’s Italy. The locals call this making “secret deals.”

Like the big horse races in America – the Kentucky Derby and Preakness to name two – the race draws a large crowd to the center of the plaza, or the “infield” in American parlance. Of course the party rages on in the middle where little is seen of participants other than the jockey’s heads and horses’ ears. Some things are the same worldwide.

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