At Ellis Park Racing, we wish there were more movies on how awesome and significant live horse racing is to society. While recent films such as Secretariat or Seabiscuit shed a little dramatic light on this equestrian sport, they never show the real grandeur horse races can have.

One of our favorite movies from a horse racing and cinematic standpoint is Ben-Hur. The famous horse racing scene captured the over-the-top thrills and edge of the seat excitement all horse races should have. We thought it would be interesting to talk about how this live horse racing scene came to be.

How the Chariot Racetrack Was Constructed

The directors and set designers modeled the arena after the Hippodrome in Jerusalem. Construction of the chariot arena began in January 1958. When it was completed, the racetrack for the movie was one of the largest sets ever built. It covered 18 acres and was 2,000 feet long and 65 feet wide. Construction of the arena cost $1 million dollars and required a thousand workers to erect it.

What about the Racehorses Who Participated in the Movie?

The importing and training of the racehorses started in 1957, before the construction of the arena. The production company and horse handlers imported seventy-eight horses, most of which were Lipizzans. They came from Yugoslavia and Sicily.

Training involved getting the horses to peak physical condition and getting them used to pull the chben-hur-horse-racingariot. Only thirty-six horses were used for the scene, but the others were used to replace one horse if there was an accident or if they got tired.The chariot scene took five weeks to shoot.

Come and See a Live Horse Racing Today

While Ellis Park Racing can’t erect a giant, golden arena and host chariot races anytime soon, we still offer the best live horse racing and historical horse racing machines in the country. Our racetrack in Kentucky will also host a wiener dog race near the end of the month.

Come on down to Ellis Park Racing and raise the stakes!