Horse racing has been a fixture in Moscow since the 1780s. To begin with, winter races were held right on the Moskva River near Neskuchny Garden and watched by Muscovites from the nearby hills. Summer races often took place at Khodynka Field, where the first Russian hippodrome was built in August 1834.
Initially attended by horse lovers and breeders, they began to attract a more diverse crowd when betting was introduced. The hippodrome hit peak popularity in the 1920s, the time of the New Economic Policy. It drew the cream of Moscow society.
In 1949, the post-war period, a fire caused severe damage to the building, which was reconstructed by renowned Soviet architect Ivan Zholtovsky in the spirit of Stalinist architecture with majestic columns, porticos, and bas-reliefs depicting scenes of the peaceful working life of Soviet citizens. Whereas the old hippodrome reminded contemporaries of the Paris Opera, the new one resembled the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Today the hippodrome is not only a place for gambling. It is also a training ground and test facility under the All-Russian Research Institute of Horse Breeding. In addition, it hosts a variety of shows for the general public. Regardless of weather or circumstances, every Sunday at 1300 trotters take to the racetrack, while in summer, from May to September, spectators can see Thoroughbred and Arabian breeds being put through their paces.
The Moscow Hippodrome covers an area of around 40 hectares and has a throughput capacity of more than 1,200 horses a year. The racetrack itself is 1.8 km long, and the two-tier grandstand can accommodate 3,500 spectators.