Ever since I can remember, I have always been fascinated with horse racing. I owe my fascination to my granddad, who was one of the biggest horse racing fans you could ever meet. Before his passing a few years ago, I used to regularly go with him to many of the big horse racing events in the United Kingdom and Ireland. We were planning a trip to Sweden as we were both well aware of how much they love the sport, but, unfortunately, my granddad died before we managed to make it over. Therefore, to honour him, I decided to make the trip myself. This is my story.
How Horse Racing Started in Sweden
Before I talk a bit about my horse racing experience in Sweden, I think it is a good idea to take a quick look at the history of horse racing in this horse-mad country.
According to the record books, the first official horse race was held in 1814, as a way to celebrate the King of Sweden, Charles the XIII, passing on the reigns (excuse the pun) to Charles XIV. This race was held at Heden, which has the distinction of being the very first horse racing track in Sweden.
Some might think that horse racing took off from there, but the next recorded race didn’t take place until 1827. Four years later the Patriotic Association of Horse Culture (PAHC) was founded. This was the same year that Stockholm and Skåne (in the south of Sweden) held its first racing event.
Between the years 1849 and 1867, there was not much horse racing to talk of. In the year 1890, control was passed over to the Swedish Jockey Club and they dealt with all things related to horses and racing until 1959. From 1959 onwards, Swedish Galop took over.
Horse racing, it is fair to say, has grown in popularity over the decades and the only sport in Sweden that gets more spectators is, yes, you guessed it, football. It is no secret that Swedes love to gamble, especially when it comes to horse racing. Whether it is at an online casino or at live events, the horse racing gambling sector rakes in somewhere between 45-50 billion Swedish Kronar.
Why We Wanted to Go to Sweden
Being from England, my granddad and I obviously watched and know a lot about thoroughbred racing. There are plenty of thoroughbred races in Sweden as well, however, one of our main reasons for wanting to visit this wonderful country was to experience trotting.
Trotting is a sport that most Swedes have some sort of interest in. To give you an idea as to just how popular it is, there are TV channels that talk about nothing but trotting. If you are wondering what it is, well instead of the jockey sitting astride the horse like you see in thoroughbred racing, you will find him sitting in a small two-wheeled cart that has been attached to the horse.
There are around 33 trotting tracks in Sweden, with many of them being more than four decades old. In other words, when you are visiting this country, you are never too far away from a trotting track. The ones that I visited during my stay all had great facilities, ensuring that a fun day out is had by all.
Swedes are known for being laid back and relaxed, which is probably why trotting has become so popular. Trotting races happen at a much more leisurely pace than thoroughbred races, but there are more tactics involved.
Where I Went to Watch Horse Racing While in Sweden
As a huge fan of thoroughbred racing, I was obviously not going to miss out on experiencing some great Swedish thoroughbred racing.
When it comes to this type of racing, Bro Park Racecourse, located in Upplands-Bro Municipality, is the place to go. It took me about 45 minutes to get there by car from Stockholm, but I think I was quite lucky with the traffic. Races are held here regularly, so no matter when you are visiting Sweden, there should be some races that you can watch.
I went on a cold weekend afternoon in May, but I wasn’t going to let the freezing weather ruin my day. I spent a good few hours there and placed a couple of bets, just to add to the entertainment. To make my day even better, I even ended up winning one to make a small profit.
I went to Bro Park as I was staying in Stockholm, but if you are in the south of the country, then you can go watch thoroughbred horse races in Malmö, Gothenburg, or Höör.
When it came to trotting, I was lucky enough to be staying quite close to Solvalla, which is the largest trotting venue in all of Scandinavia. Also, I had booked my trip for May on purpose as the Elitloppet weekend takes place on the last weekend of May. This is the biggest and best trotting event in Sweden and was something I was definitely not going to miss out on.
When I arrived, I was amazed at just how many people had turned up. I have been to the Grand National a number of times with my granddad, so I’m used to large crowns, but I still didn’t expect to see that many people here.
I spent a good thirty minutes taking it all in and then I thought I’d try my luck with some bets. I mean, it would have been a wasted opportunity if I hadn’t. My first and second bets went terribly as the horses that I had backed finished last in both races. My third, fourth and fifth bets went a bit better, but I still hadn’t won any money. However, despite my bad luck, I decided to have one more bet as six was my granddad’s favourite number. I placed a bet on horse number six, and it only went on to win. Grandad must have been with me that day.
Once again, if you are farther south than Stockholm, there are some other great trotting tracks that you can visit. For example, there is the Aby Racetrack which is just 10km from Gothenburg. There is also the Årjängstravet, which is in Årjäng. This is said to be one of the most beautiful horse racing tracks in the country.
An Experience That I Will Cherish Forever
My time in Sweden is something that I will never forget. If you enjoy horse racing as much as I do, then a trip to Sweden really is a must. The people are extremely friendly and easy to talk with, especially when they find out that you are a big horse racing fan as well. I will cherish the memories forever, but my only regret is that my granddad can’t cherish them too.