The Biggest Horse Racing Countries in the World

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Two horses with mounted jockeys racing on a turf track.
BetMGM @BETMGM Sep 09, 2022, 1:42 PM

Horse racing is more than just entertainment. In many countries around the globe, it’s deeply embedded in history and tradition and counts as one of their most popular sports, both to watch and to bet on.

We take a look at the countries that value horse racing most and have a vibrant online sports betting culture, as well as these countries’ most iconic horse races and racecourses.

The USA

The history

Horse racing in the USA dates back to the mid-17th century, with the country’s first races taking place in New York in 1655.

Types of horse racing

Most horse racing in the USA involves thoroughbred horses with lineages that can be traced back to the American Stud Book, which was started in 1868. The most popular types of races for thoroughbreds are flat races, but the USA also engages in a mix of endurance races and quarter-horse racing.

Notable racecourses

The States is home to Belmont Park and Saratoga (top thoroughbred horse racing tracks run by NYRA) as well as Pimlico Park, Churchill Downs and other world-famous racecourses.

Most famous horse races

The best-known races in the USA are the legendary “Triple Crown” series: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Horse racing betting culture

Betting on horse racing is a widespread pastime in America. Online sports betting is particularly popular, with a strong focus on NYRA bets. While sports betting isn’t legal in all states, betting on horse racing is one of a few exceptions allowed under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

The UK

The history

Horse racing is a significant part of British culture and it’s one of the most popular spectator sports, second only to football. It’s centuries old – the practice dates back to the days of the Roman empire, while the iconic General Stud Book was first published in 1791.

Types of horse racing

Like the USA, the UK focuses on flat racing, but National Hunt racing is also widespread (these are races that involve certain hurdles that horses need to jump over.)

Notable racecourses

Aintree, Epsom Downs, Goodwood, Ascot and Cheltenham are just a few of the major racecourses in the UK.

Most famous horse races

These are the Cheltenham Festival, the Epsom Derby and the Grand National.

Horse racing betting culture

Betting is part and parcel of any horse racing experience in the UK. It’s easy to find bookies and betting shops at the racetracks or make online bets if you’re unable to attend an event in person.

Australia

The history

Horse racing began in Australia in the 18th century following the arrival of the colonists. During these times, races started taking place regularly in Sydney amongst workhorses and it was only in the 19th century that wealthy colonists started importing thoroughbreds.

Types of horse racing

The Australian horse racing scene is very similar to horse racing in the UK, with both flat racing and National Hunt/steeplechase racing dominating the industry. Another type of racing commonplace in Australia is harness racing. These types of races are usually run by standardbred horses who pull a driver in a two-wheeler cart (known as a ‘“sulky.”)

Notable racecourses

Some of the most prominent racecourses in Australia include Flemington, Royal Randwick and Moonee Valley.

Most famous horse races

The Caulfield Cup, the Victoria Derby, the Golden Slipper Stakes and the Melbourne Cup are a handful of the most famous horse races hosted “down under.”

Horse racing betting culture

Since racing is one of the biggest spectator sports in the country, it’s no surprise that most Australians enjoy participating in online sports betting and trying their luck at different types of horse racing bets.

Japan

The history

Horse racing was enthusiastically received when it was imported to Japan by the British in the middle of the 19th century. But there are many experts who insist that, in Japan, horse racing has deeper, more traditional roots. They believe that racing horses was part of a religious ritual that dates back to the 8th century. Regardless of its origins, today Japanese horse racing fans enjoy over 20,000 races annually.

Types of horse racing

The British influence is still present when looking at the most prominent types of horse races in Japan. Most races are either flat or steeplechase races, but there’s also a type of race that is unique to the Japanese, called “Ban’ei kyōsō” racing (which translates to “pull racing.”) These races revolve around draft horses who pull jockeys up steep sand ramps while said jockeys balance on sleds.

Notable racecourses

Tokyo Racecourse is arguably Japan’s most iconic. Other courses include Tenno Sho and Ohi Racecourse.

Most famous horse races

Head to Japan for the Japan Cup, the Japanese Derby (Tokyo Yushun) and the Tenno Sho.

Horse racing betting culture

Betting on horse racing is a favorite pastime when it comes to sports betting in Japan. Pundits can bet on the majority of popular horse racing events held there, either in person or online.

Online sports betting at BetMGM

Are you keen to wager on any of the global events highlighted above? Choose BetMGM as your go-to platform for betting on international horse races and catching up on horse racing news. Access live horse racing odds and get in on the action whenever it suits you. While we specialize in NYRA betting across all NYRA entries, we allow for effortless betting on the majority of international events.

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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.