In the News: Il Palio di Atlantic City – horse racing on the beach – nears final approval reports that Atlantic City may be hosting an Americanized version of Italy’s annual bareback horse race in October.

Top photo: Palio 2006. Wikimedia Commons

The New Jersey state Assembly voted 76-0 today in favor of granting the New Jersey Racing Commission a special permit that would allow the race. Now, it’s up to the state Senate to pass the bill.

The race would take place over two days on the beaches of Atlantic City on Oct. 11 and 13. The event is modeled after the Palio di Siena, held each summer in Siena, Italy, since 1644. The Palio takes place around the perimeter of a city piazza, which the horses circle three times. Each horse and its jockey represents a different contrada, or neighborhood.

Here’s a video of last year’s Palio di Siena, replete with carnage (the turns are so tight that the most dangerous one is actually lined with mattresses) and a mob scene at the finish.

According to the report in, the Atlantic City version will be different–sort of:

In Siena, the horses race one half mile around the Town Square, while the American version will have horses competing in the American classic distance of three-quarters of a mile on the Atlantic City beach.

American Palio will have a total of 50 horses competing in a series of elimination races that will narrow the field to the 10 runners who will race for the American Palio Championship.

“This will attract horse fans, sports fans, families and those simply looking to see a unique event on the beach in the autumn,” state Assemblman John Burzichelli said in a statement.

It’s not the first horse-related idea that Atlantic City has had of late. Remember the Steel Pier Associates’ plan to bring diving horses back to Atlantic City last year? The plan drew fierce criticism from horse lovers, who unanimously agreed that forcing horses to jump off a 40-foot platform into a 12-foot-deep pool was a bad idea. Thousands of people signed petitions online opposing the idea, and it eventually got scrapped.

Not everybody is loving the Palio idea, either. An article earlier this month in Press of Atlantic City noted,

This rambunctious race has attracted criticism from animal rights groups, which have complained the way the race is run is cruel to the animals. Atlantic City’s proposal, expected to be run without turns on the resort’s beach, would likely evade similar criticism.

Perhaps. Jockeys galloping 10 racehorses at breakneck speed down the beach, bareback, while spectators scream from the sidelines–what could possibly go wrong??


A scary wreck during Palio 2010. Photo: Seattle Times

“Siete tutti pazzi”… I think that translates to “Y’all are crazy.”

Alternately, if the race really is going to be that different from Italy’s Palio, maybe they should call it something else entirely to skirt negative associations.

Yeah or neigh… share your thoughts, Horse Nation!

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