THIS WEEKS ALL WEATHER FIXTURES - 26th March KEMPTON PARK- 27th March WOLVERHAMPTON- 29th March WOLVERHAMPTON - 30th March LINGFIELD PARK, KEMPTON PARK & SOUTHWELL - 31st March WOLVERHAMPTON & CHELMSFORD CITY - 1ST aPRIL LINGFIELD PARK & WOLVERHAMPTON - 2nd April KEMPTON PARK -

Perhaps Racing for Change can take a few ideas from the Italians of Siena!

Each summer, Siena, Italy, gears up for the Palio, a bareback horse race that's been held twice annually in the city's main piazza since 1644. The races take place July 2 and August 16, but the three days leading up to it are filled with intense preparations—processions, blessings from priests, community dinners that reveal the jockey's game time strategies. An outsider might have a tough time understanding it all!

This is how it works: A jockey and horse represents each contrada, or neighborhood; 10 of the 17 districts, chosen at random, compete in each Palio; and the winner earns bragging rights for the rest of the year. The actual race is short—the horses circle the Piazza del Campo three times, which usually takes less than 90 seconds. Even if the jockey falls off (which happens often enough that mattresses are piled against the wall next to the most dangerous turn) the horse could finish the race and win on its own.

Three days before the races there practice events at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Watching these can be a great way of soaking up the atmosphere without the race-day crowds and heat.

A good suggestion is rooting for one of the participating contrade and following its processions, which are filled with songs and festitivities in the days leading up to the race. You'll also want to know your enemy—most neighourhood have rivals, and rooting against those horses is part of the fun.

On race day, people get to the piazza early to claim their seats. If you'd like to watch the jockeys receive their pre-race blessings, head to the Cappella della Madonna piazza at 8 a.m; the horses get their own benedictions at 2 p.m. in neighborhood churches. And then the procession begins: 600 participants in Renaissance garb wave flags and wind their way from the Duomo to the piazza, accompanied by a raucous noise of drums.

The best place to watch the race is from the balconies of the surrounding buildings or from the stands that create an amphitheatre around the piazza. There is no central ticket office; individual property owners sell these seats, so you'll need to ask around to buy tickets. If you can't find a ticket, the centre of the piazza is free and open to the public. Even so, the superstitious stay away. While there are those who watch the Palio from every different corner of the piazza or from the stands, some stay well away from the race praying in church or closing themselves up in their neighbourhood meeting hall since they can’t bear to watch.

After the August races, residents from the champion contrada sing the Te Deum hymn in the Duomo to thank the Madonna for victory. Then the party starts: The winning contrada back to its neighborhood to celebrate, and weekend festivals continue into the fall.

Horse Racing Tips: 14-1 or 13-2?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Perhaps Racing for Change can take a few ideas from the Italians of Siena!

Each summer, Siena, Italy, gears up for the Palio, a bareback horse race that's been held twice annually in the city's main piazza since 1644. The races take place July 2 and August 16, but the three days leading up to it are filled with intense preparations—processions, blessings from priests, community dinners that reveal the jockey's game time strategies. An outsider might have a tough time understanding it all!

This is how it works: A jockey and horse represents each contrada, or neighborhood; 10 of the 17 districts, chosen at random, compete in each Palio; and the winner earns bragging rights for the rest of the year. The actual race is short—the horses circle the Piazza del Campo three times, which usually takes less than 90 seconds. Even if the jockey falls off (which happens often enough that mattresses are piled against the wall next to the most dangerous turn) the horse could finish the race and win on its own.

Three days before the races there practice events at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Watching these can be a great way of soaking up the atmosphere without the race-day crowds and heat.

A good suggestion is rooting for one of the participating contrade and following its processions, which are filled with songs and festitivities in the days leading up to the race. You'll also want to know your enemy—most neighourhood have rivals, and rooting against those horses is part of the fun.

On race day, people get to the piazza early to claim their seats. If you'd like to watch the jockeys receive their pre-race blessings, head to the Cappella della Madonna piazza at 8 a.m; the horses get their own benedictions at 2 p.m. in neighborhood churches. And then the procession begins: 600 participants in Renaissance garb wave flags and wind their way from the Duomo to the piazza, accompanied by a raucous noise of drums.

The best place to watch the race is from the balconies of the surrounding buildings or from the stands that create an amphitheatre around the piazza. There is no central ticket office; individual property owners sell these seats, so you'll need to ask around to buy tickets. If you can't find a ticket, the centre of the piazza is free and open to the public. Even so, the superstitious stay away. While there are those who watch the Palio from every different corner of the piazza or from the stands, some stay well away from the race praying in church or closing themselves up in their neighbourhood meeting hall since they can’t bear to watch.

After the August races, residents from the champion contrada sing the Te Deum hymn in the Duomo to thank the Madonna for victory. Then the party starts: The winning contrada back to its neighborhood to celebrate, and weekend festivals continue into the fall.