The Most Exclusive Horse Races in the World

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A view of the horse racing track and stands before a race.
BetMGM @BETMGM Dec 09, 2021, 12:23 AM

Looking for a change of pace from your regular online sports betting activities? There’s not much that beats the thrill of standing at the rail and watching your horse crossing the finish line a nose ahead of the competition. This sentiment is shared by some of the world’s elite, so it’s not surprising that there are several horse racing events that have achieved fame as being the most exclusive in the world.

Obviously, US horse racing is in the mix: Some top-notch US-based horse racing events make the list, not least the prestigious Triple Crown series, which comprises the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, which falls into the NYRA horse racing ambit, and on which you may have placed your NYRA bets in the past. Let’s start right there!

The Kentucky Derby

Held at Churchill Downs in Kentucky on the first Saturday of May each year, the Kentucky Derby attracts more than 150,000 racing fans. As the first leg of the Triple Crown, fans are eager to see which horse will “take the roses” in the 1¼-mile race that has been dubbed the “greatest two minutes in sports.” Winners are adorned with a garland of roses, hence the reference, which has even been immortalized in the song “Run for the Roses,” an emotional tale of a colt’s rise to fame as a Derby runner. In spite of the vast numbers of spectators, only a select few make it to the Millionaires Row, where tickets cost thousands of dollars. Of course, if you’re really among the elite, you may be invited to purchase tickets for the even more exclusive Mansion, at $25k per couple. 

The Preakness Stakes

The third Saturday in May sees the second leg of the Triple Crown, the annual Preakness Stakes, held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Here the winner of the race is presented with a silver trophy created by Tiffany & Co, and decked out in a blanket of black-eyed Susans. The horse racing tournament draws the high-society set, who mingle in designer outfits in the upper grandstands, although there are also concerts and beer tents for the party crowd, if champagne and haute couture are not your thing.

The Belmont Stakes

The final jewel in the Triple Crown is held on the first Saturday in June at Belmont Park near New York. The oldest race in the series, the Belmont Stakes is also the longest, at 1½ miles. The ultimate goal of trainers and horse owners is to have a runner who wins all three, following in the hoof prints of the inimitable Secretariat, who earned the title of the world’s greatest racehorse when he won the Belmont by 31 lengths in 1973. Owning a horse like this brings with it a level of prestige few can aspire to, but for a while you can pretend as you hobnob with the celebrities in the Terrace seats overlooking the finish line.

The Royal Ascot

With racing being the sport of kings, you probably won’t have learned how to bet on horse racing without having come across Royal Ascot, held at Ascot Racecourse in the south of England. This race meeting is so exclusive that it’s attended by the Queen (an avid horse-racing fan herself,) so it’s not surprising there are strict dress codes, and of course the Royal Enclosure is reserved for those with the right connections. The race was first run in 1711, and has a wealth of tradition attached, with spectators being treated to a royal procession, military bands and various activities during the event.

The Grand National

A different type of horse racing, the Grand National steeplechase is run over a 4.5-mile grass track that includes 30 fences for the field of 40 horses to jump over at speed. The event, held early in April each year at Aintree in England, spans three days and culminates in what is described as the world’s most prestigious (and gruelling) jump race, with a purse of £1 million ($1.3 million). While the purse is not as large as others, the excitement draws spectators who don’t generally follow racing, making it one of the world’s most recognized horse racing tournaments.

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

The French are no strangers to VIP experiences, and what better venue to host a high society event than one located in Paris. The Qatar Paris Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – or simply “the Arc” – is held on the first Sunday of October each year at Longchamp Racecourse. Situated on the banks of the Seine, the race is attended by Europe’s smartest set, who sip champagne and enjoy jazz as horses vie to win one of horse racing’s largest purses. At €4 million (around $4.5m,) the race attracts some serious contenders – along with their well-heeled owners.

Dubai World Cup

A good way to draw out the world’s elite is to promise them a hotly contested race – and with $10 million in prize money, the Dubai World Cup is the most lucrative horse racing event on the global calendar. Not simply promising VIP seating for guests, the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai is situated alongside the Meydan Hotel, so spectators can book an entire suite to watch the racing. If you want to push the boundaries of exclusivity, try getting into one of those rooms!

Breeders’ Cup World Championships

On the topic of big prizes, few can match the $31 million offered to winners during the two days of horse racing at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships (this total is spread over 14 races, so the Dubai Cup still comes out on top for the heftiest purse.) Held at a different venue each year, the 2022 event will be hosted by Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s a racing highlight for horse owners because it draws the best thoroughbreds in each division, so having a runner brings with it a high level of prestige.

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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.