Horse racing is hugely popular all over the world – it’s called the Sport of Kings for a good reason. With so many races every day in so many countries, how could we possibly define the biggest and most glamorous?
In truth, there are a wide array of criteria; the prize money, location and prestige of entrants all play a part in whether a race makes the cut as one of the biggest and best in the world. After much debate, we have devised our list of what we consider the 10 Greatest Horse races in the World.
We would love to know if your own picks differ from ours but here are our results to find the biggest horse races in the world!
- 1 Best Horse Races in the World
- 2 The Biggest Horse Races Explained
- 3 Other Notable Races
- 4 Summary of The Biggest Horse Races In The World
Best Horse Races in the World
Based on research and our personal expertise, here are what we consider to be the best horses races in the world:
- Aintree Grand National
- The Epsom Derby
- The Cheltenham Gold Cup
- Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
- Melbourne Cup
- Dubai World Cup
- Kentucky Derby
- 2000 Guineas
- Breeders’ Cup Classic
- St. Leger Stakes
The above are the cream of the crop, in fairness, we could keep you here for hours listing all the possible options!
The Biggest Horse Races Explained
Here is an explanation of why the horse races above made our top-rated list:
Aintree Grand National
The Grand National may not be the biggest prize pot but it is the most famous horse race in the world and is steeped in history. Even people with no interest in horse racing regularly make an annual pilgrimage to a local betting shop to place a wager on the Grand National. This explains why the event, run at Aintree racecourse each year, is the most valuable National Hunt race in Europe. Last run in 2019 (COVID-19 resulted in a simulated Virtual Grand National last year), the prize fund on that occasion was a cool one million.
The Epsom Derby
The Grand National may grab many of the headlines, but The Epsom Derby is the richest race in the UK calendar based on the prize purse. The second leg of the English Triple Crown, this race unfolds at Epsom Downs racecourse every year on the first Saturday of June. Run over a mile and a half, and only open to thoroughbred three-year-olds, the Epsom Derby is among the world’s premier Grade 1 racing events.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup
The leading National Hunt race of the season which crowns the top chaser of the year, perhaps unsurprisingly run at Cheltenham Racecourse, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is open to the top chasers aged five or above. Al Boum Photo claimed first place last year to add to his victory in 2019. Arguably jostling with the Grand National for status as the most famous jump race in the UK, this race attracts over a million eyes between live attendees and TV viewers.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
Second, only to The Everest as the richest horse race to unfold on turf, Longchamp Racecourse is the home of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – known as simply as, “The Arc”. The leading middle distance in Europe, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe sees a clash of the best of Europe from the UK, Ireland, France, Germany and the Rest of The World. It has been won by many greats over the years. Whoever crosses the post first at Longchamp Racecourse will take home a little over half of the title prize money of €3 million – a reward befitting for winning one of the most famous equestrian race events in Europe.
Over to Australia now for the much-celebrated Melbourne Cup, which takes place at Flemington Racecourse. This event is so popular down under that it is referred to as, “the race that stops the nation”, and with a prize fund over £4 million, it’s not hard to see why. The Melbourne Cup takes place on the first Tuesday of November.
Dubai World Cup
It is perhaps unsurprising that the United Arab Emirates hosts the richest horse race in the world. The Dubai World Cup frequently jostles with the similarly-named Pegasus World Cup for this title. With prize money of $12 million, however, it’s the Dubai World Cup that takes the number one spot at the time of writing (the Pegasus World Cup offered a comparatively measly $3 million in 2020, the cheapskates). Run at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai since 2006, the Dubai World Cup Night is a must-circle in the global racing calendar.
The Kentucky Derby is the most celebrated horse race in North America, and arguably worldwide. Held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May every year, this isn’t the world’s richest horse race – though a prize pot of circa $3 million is hardly to be sniffed at. Where the Kentucky Derby really excels is its speed and fury. Often described as, “the most exciting two minutes in sports”, the Kentucky Derby is watched around the world as a field of thoroughbred three-year-olds tear their way around the flat dirt track, which measures a mile and a quarter.
The first leg of the English Triple Crown, the 2000 Guineas is a Grade 1 flat race that marks the opening of the classic season in the UK. It takes place at Newmarket racecourse, usually in late April or early May. Open to thoroughbred three-year-olds only, the 2000 Guineas is one the biggest horse races in the UK, if not the richest race. The prize money is set at 2000 Guineas, hence the name, though obviously the prize purse is paid in modern money – which translates as around £2,100.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
The Breeders Cup Classic is another pivotal event for American horse racing enthusiasts. Run every October or November, the Breeders Cup Classic is held at a different venue each year. Open to the top worldwide thoroughbreds, this race typically lasts around two minutes but is one of the richest events in equestrian sport – the prize pot came in at $7 million in 2020. In addition, winning the coveted Breeders Cup trophy is a landmark achievement for any jockey.
St. Leger Stakes
First run in 1776, The St. Leger Stakes is the oldest of Britain’s Classic horse races, as well as the longest. The event, at the Doncaster racecourse, is also the last of the English Triple Crown events. Open only to thoroughbred three-year-olds, the race has an impressive prize pot of around £700,000. Whoever passes the post first will scoop around half of that prize money as well as the prestige of winning the oldest British classic.
Other Notable Races
Still hungry for more prominent races? Here are a handful of honourable mentions that just failed to make our top 10.
The Japan Cup is one of the biggest events in the Asian racing season, held in high esteem by racing fans across the globe. One of the richest race meets in the world, the prize purse of the Japan Cup often exceeds $5 million dollars.
Pegasus World Cup
First run in 2017, the Pegasus World Cup should not be confused with the Pegasus Invitational Stakes. In 2017 and 2018, this was the richest horse race in the world before the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse reclaimed this title by quadrupling the prize fund of this event. The Pegasus World Cup Invitational is a growing and popular international event.
This million-dollar race is held in New York annually in June, and acts as the third and final race of the American Triple Crown. Belmont Park, the home of this race, boasts a 1.5 mile flat track that is often dubbed the fairest in America. It is claimed that the most tactical horses win this race, which is perhaps why it attracts over 20 million TV viewers.
Taking place at the Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, this is the second race of the American Triple Crown. Also known as, “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” (the national flower of Maryland, a crown of which is placed over the head of of winner), this event offers a prize of $1.5 million dollars and is considered second only to the Kentucky Derby in the American racing calendar.
The Everest is among the richest races in the sport, taking place in Sydney. It only started in 2017 though, so we feel that this race needs to build a little more history – and earn Grade 1 status – before it can really make our list. All the same, with prize money of over £6 million, that’s surely only a matter of time.
Royal Ascot Gold Cup
No guide to the biggest race and best horse racing meets would be complete without a mention of Royal Ascot, the must-attend event of the summer for the great and good of British high society. The Ascot Gold Cup – not to be confused with the event of the same name at Cheltenham – unfolds on the fabled Ladies Day, and is the oldest surviving event at the venue.
Summary of The Biggest Horse Races In The World
There are plenty of “can’t miss” events in the global racing calendar – the races we gave mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg.
The beauty of horse racing is that anybody can enjoy it with racing found all over the world.
Whatever racing you enjoy watching, you’re sure to find something appealing each and every year – whether it’s the far-off exotic climes of the Melbourne Cup, the sophistication of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe or the homely charms of the Grand National. A horse race does not need to offer a million-dollar prize fund to considered among the biggest and best.
If you fancy a wager on some of these top races check out our top horse racing betting sites, where they are some fantastic offers for new punters.