The Biggest Horse Races in the World

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A person touching a horse’s face with a gloved hand.
BetMGM @BETMGM Jan 13, 2023, 10:17 AM

Long before online sports betting was popularized, horse races were a favorite pastime that appealed to people from different backgrounds and social standings. Dubbed the “Sport of Kings,” even the late Queen Elizabeth II was highly invested in horse racing. Because of their mass appeal, horse races vary in their prestige and financial compensation to accommodate the respective audiences and target markets.

While the origins of horse racing remain debatable, they can be traced as far back as 700 BC. The earliest form of horse racing was at the Greek Olympic Games. Thereafter, it spread and evolved in various parts of the world before the introduction of online sports betting. This has increased its reach and influenced the growth of the industry because of the relatively easy access and convenience it offers horse racing betting enthusiasts. Online platforms are quite inclusive, with some even offering live horse racing picks and odds where possible.

Standout moments throughout horse racing history

Given its rich history and public appeal, it’s no surprise that there’ve been several standout moments in horse racing over the years. These moments left many stunned by the outcome, even those who had spent time getting a better understanding of pace handicapping and other key considerations before placing their bets. 

The most memorable moments in horse racing history include: 

  • American Pharoah breaking a nearly four-decade Triple Crown dry spell at Belmont Stakes in 2015.
  • Canonero II’s unexpected three-length victory at the 1971 Kentucky Derby after facing various hurdles.
  • War Emblem missing out on a Triple Crown victory at the 2002 Belmont Stakes and finishing eighth!
  • Red Rum’s first of three wins at the 1973 Grand National, after an unlikely comeback to beat Crisp, who was initially 15 lengths ahead.

Below are some of the most notable and acclaimed horse races from across the globe, in no particular order.

Kentucky Derby

When it comes to horse races with a decent prize purse, the Kentucky Derby is one that immediately comes to mind at $3 million. There are very few races more famous than this one. In 2015 alone, roughly $133 million worth of bets were placed. The horse race is covered by NBC and live-streamed on various social media platforms.

Epsom Derby

With a prize purse somewhere between $1,5 million and $2 million, it’s no wonder that England’s Epsom Derby is known as the most prestigious of the five British Classic races. In fact, Queen Elizabeth II was a regular spectator at this race, with several images of her dressed to the nines being captured by the media over the years. In 2022 alone, more than 100,000 patrons made their way to one of the most anticipated events on the horse racing calendar, while others enjoyed the broadcast on ITV1.

The Everest

This Australian horse racing event’s prize purse stands at a staggering $14 million! This fact alone continues to attract enthusiasts from all over the world. Although not as inclusive as its counterparts in terms of its horse racing class system, as it doesn’t have Group/Grade 1 races yet, it remains popular nonetheless. Broadcast and streamed by the likes of Channel 7 and Sky Racing, the 2022 edition of the horse race was sold out, proving yet again just how popular it is. 

Dubai World Cup

With a prize purse of approximately $12 million, the Dubai World Cup was first held in 1996. Since 2010, it has been held at the Meyden Racecourse, except in 2015. The last Saturday in March is set aside for those who have a vested interest in the races in the hopes of winning big. Fox Sports is one of the most notable channels that offers live coverage of the Dubai World Cup 

Belmont Stakes

Since its inception in 1867, the Belmont Stakes has spawned several memorable moments in horse racing history, some of which have been noted above. Its prize purse stands at $1,5 million. Its TV viewership record was set in 2004 when nearly 22 million people tuned into the races. The Belmont Stakes’ media coverage includes NBC and Peacock.

Saudi Cup

The inaugural Saudi Cup was held in 2020, yet it currently stands as the most lucrative horse race. Boasting an impressive $20 million as its prize purse, half of which goes to the winner, the Saudi Arabian horse race managed to climb up the ranks of the most anticipated races in a relatively short period. Despite an attendance of only a few tens of thousands, this Saudi Cup reaches many through its broadcast on TVG, Fox Sports, Dubai Racing Channel and Al Kass.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.