Finland’s biggest harness racing competition, Kuninkuusravit Championship, will be in Oulu in the summer of 2025. The city has prepared for the event for a long time with significant investments on the Äimärautio racetrack. The championship employs up to 500 people.
“This is the most important and largest event of the sport in Finland. We are very proud that we get to organize the event”, the chairperson of Pohjolan Hevosystävät ry Elina Peltola says about the Kuninkuusravit championship, which will arrive in Oulu at the turn of August next year.
The harness racing audience will witness almost 50 horse and pony races during the weekend. The event is expecting 23 000–25 000 attendees per day. The championship will begin on Friday evening and will last until midnight with an evening celebration and will finally come to a close on Sunday evening.
A sense of community separates this event from others.
“People come here with their families and friends, and alone of course. The atmosphere is terrific, and the audience encourages and applauds. The horses are at their best, strong and fast. The atmosphere is out of this world”, Peltola says.
Oulu made the application for the Kuninkuusravit Championship in 2019 and got the green light the next year. The authorization to organize the event is granted by the harness racing central organization Hippos ry.
Organizing the Kuninkuusravit Championship has required a lot of work even before application and for years before the event itself.
“The preparation can be seen in the investments. For example, we have invested in the racetrack area with a full-scale renovation of the stands and restaurant building and regional infrastructure has been improved”, Peltola explains.
There are still some investments to be made.
“We have to invest in technology to ensure that the event has a sufficient fiber-optic network and otherwise efficient data connections”, Peltola continues.
Accessibility, safe mobility and functional services must be taken into account in the organization. Poikkimaantie is under renovation, and it affects the organizing schedule.
“The racetrack yard cannot be asphalted before the renovation of the Poikkimaantie underpass by the stands is finished. This area has been promised to be complete before the championship.”
Horses are star athletes
The well-being of the horses has been taken into account in the environment. The Äimärautio racetrack is naturally suitable in this regard. Treatment of horses in the pit area is regulated in all harness racing events and the championship has strict rules regarding the treatment of the horses.
The Kuninkuusravit horses run three starts over the course of two days.
“The scheduling ensures that recovery between races will be optimal for the competitors. The horses are star athletes just as much as humans are.”
Pohjolan Hevosystävät ry, the operator responsible for Oulu’s racetrack, had a large-scale renovation done that supports the well-being of the horses. Ground has been dug out and 150 000 € worth of surfaces have been renewed. Renewing the surfaces eases the racetrack’s upkeep and ensures the safety and suitability for horse racing and practicing throughout the year.
“The surface must be elastic when the horses race. There cannot be any large rocks on the surface, and it has to be consistent in quality”, Peltola states. The surface is good for the horses’ joints.
The contractors managed to reuse some of the sifted hoof track surface in the track. The track is maintained every day, and it becomes easier after the renovation.
Hundreds of jobs
Pohjolan hevosytävät ry is responsible for the operative preparation of the championship. Executive Director Marja Pahkala serves as the Project Manager of the Kuninkuusravit Championship.
The operative management has been divided into different areas of responsibility that concern the championship and side events.
“At this stage of preparation, we are working with permanent staff and volunteers. In the event itself, we will have over 500 hired workers”, Peltola explains.
People interested in working at the event can contact Pohjolan Hevosystävät ry’s office. Peltola says that this year the organization will hire part-time employees for the championship for communication tasks and acquiring governmental permits for example. Additionally, full-time employees will be hired for next year.
“We would happily cooperate with, for example, different associations and sports clubs that want to take on larger portions of the event”, Peltola says.
Pohjolan Hevosystävät ry trains all event staff in matters of safety, first-aid and their own tasks. For example, the event needs hundreds of security workers; a security operator will be selected during this year. Additionally, a security plan and a security clearance will be compiled.
Working on traffic plans
The event organizers are now looking for suitable parking areas together with the city of Oulu. City traffic will be organized afterwards. There will be no parking in Äimärautio since the premises are reserved for the event itself, such as the stands and the event square. The centralized parking area will be located a little further away. Bus transport will be organized from the parking area to the racetrack.
Around 75% of the attendees will arrive from outside of Oulu, so the local accommodation and restaurant services will be in great demand during the event weekend.
“Accommodation offered by private individuals will play a significant role since Oulu’s and nearby regions’ accommodation supply cannot accommodate all of the demand during the event weekend. On top of Airbnb, we are searching for an operator that could convey accommodation offered by private individuals to those who need them.”
The event will be present in the city
The horses participating in the Kuninkuusravit Championship will arrive from all over Finland since the event is the largest horse sport event in Finland.
“We hope to see horses also from northern Finland in the competition”, Peltola says.
Finland’s best stallions and mares will be chosen for the championship by the Kuninkuusravit head committee. The competing horses will be accommodated in local stables between the event days where they will be treated as honorary guests.
“Local stable owners are offering us premises in the area”, Peltola explains.
Peltola hopes for all citizens of Oulu to make the best of the event weekend. She sees the championship to be present in the city centre on top of Äimärautio. Side events will be organized in the city already a week ahead of the event. Evening celebrations will be organized at the racetrack on Friday and in the city on Saturday, and others than just championship attendees are expected to attend.
“We expect a total of 55 000 ticketed attendees. Out of the parties, some will attend the championship, and some will visit other of Oulu’s sights”, Peltola estimates.
The city of Oulu recently granted a 125 000 € grant to support the organization of Oulu’s Kuninkuusravit. The championship held in the turn of August 2025 will be the 94. Kuninkuusravit competition and the sixth held in Oulu. The event has been held in Oulu previously in 1954, 1969, 1981, 1994 and 2010.