Top 10 Global Horse Racing Events (& Crazy Amounts They Bet)

Horse racing is a huge betting event, and depending on where you live you might be surprised to learn horse racing is truly — forgive the pun — a globe-trotter of a sport. But how much money do people typically wager on races? We look at the 10 biggest horse races around the world, and the (sometimes) outrageous sums of money people bet.

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Horse racing has never been so popular. Online access to the sport means fans from around the globe can now enjoy horse racing betting on events that 10 years ago they would only dream of following.

For US bettors, the expansion of horse racing betting sites means players can now follow races in the UK, France, the Middle East and Australia in just the tap of a screen.

With more fans watching and betting on horse racing comes bigger events, with larger prize purses and even more prestige. Horse racing may be a sport that is over 300 years old but in the last five years new races have been created and stamped their hooves on the sporting map.

Here, we look at the 10 global horse racing events you need to know about, and the crazy money bet and won every year.

1. Pegasus World Cup, Florida

  • January – $3m purse – First run in 2017

One of the biggest horse races in the world is also one of the youngest. The Pegasus World Cup only came into being in 2017 when Arrogate charged home to collect the lion’s share of a $12m purse.

The Pegasus World Cup is a dirt track race over nine furlongs at Gulfstream Park that initially invited shareholders to buy a position in the race at $1m each. It is a lucrative race but in recent years the money has dried up. There is still a $3 purse and it offers some entertaining racing during the dry month of January. Iconic trainer Bob Baffert has already won this race twice (2017 and 2020).

2. Saudi Cup, Riyadh

  • February – $20m purse – First run in 2020

Another new race that packs a big purse, the Saudi Cup is in fact the richest horse race in the world. Its timing in February means horses that ran in the Pegasus Cup can fly over and compete here.

The first prize is $10m and inaugural winner Maximum Security charged to victory in the 1.1 mile race in less than two minutes. The race is run on dirt and attracts racing betting fans mainly because of the purse, rather than the standard of horses. Irish-bred, British-trained Mishriff won the race in 2021.

3. Cheltenham Gold Cup, UK

  • March – $652,000 purse – First run in 1924

Arguably the most prestigious horse race on the planet, the Cheltenham Gold Cup marks the pinnacle of the National Hunt season in the UK and Ireland, and attracts millions of bettors each year.

The race, which is run over jumps rather than on a track, is famed for iconic winners such as L’Escargot, Best Mate and Al Boum Photo. The Cheltenham Festival acts as the World Series or Olympic Games of horse racing, and is not to be missed. Back in 1990 Norton’s Coin won the race at odds of +10000, earning punters who bet $10 a $1000 profit.

4. Dubai World Cup, Dubai

  • March – $12m purse – First run in 1996

Another race from the Middle East but with a bit more history to it is the Dubai World Cup. This 10 furlong sprint attracts race horses from both the northern and southern hemispheres and is one of Dubai’s iconic night races. Bettors plough millions into the bookmakers seeking a winner here.

horses racing during dubai world cup horse race

Horses at the Dubai World Cup.

In 2017 Arrogate – who had just won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup – claimed victory as the -300 favorite. He stormed to victory and delivered a major blow to the bookmakers. Two years later the prize purse leapt from $6m to $12m.

5. Grand National, UK

  • April – $1m purse – First run in 1839

The Grand National is the ultimate steeplechase – a race that runs over fences and can stretch to over four miles. With 30 jumps and 40 horses, the Grand National is a spectacle like no other in horse racing. This is the race where racing betting fans get their family to join in a sweepstake and bet on a horse based on nothing more than a number, name or jockey’s silks.

Lottery was the first official Grand National winner in 1839 and over the years the race has created icons of the sport: Red Rum, Hedgehunter and Tiger Roll to name just three. Races last over nine minutes and five horses – including 2009 victor Mon Mome – have won this race at odds of +10000.

6. Kentucky Derby, Louisville

  • May – $3m purse – First run in 1875

American racing doesn’t get more prestigious than the Kentucky Derby. The Run of the Roses is a one-and-a-quarter-mile race open to three-year-old thoroughbreds that often catapults winners to superstardom. First run back in 1875, the race has attracted Kentucky Derby betting fans annually for generations and is known as the most exciting two minutes in sport.

The race takes place on a left-handed dirt track, and the bolt out of the gate is a sporting spectacle like no other. The Kentucky Derby forms part of the US racing Triple Crown and the victor earns $1.8m of the $3m purse. The race takes place on the first Saturday of May each year and 1913 champion Donerail boasts the biggest against-the-odds upset, coming in at +9100.

7. Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, France

  • October – $3.6m purse – First run in 1920

Thoroughbred race horses in France, UK and Ireland intermingle during the National Hunt and Flat seasons, and so it’s not unique to see a mix of nationalities on the start line. The ‘Arc’ is the second richest turf race in the world and is run every October on flat, meaning the ground is usually softened by the fall rains but not sodden.

It is a one-and-a-half-mile race at Paris’ glorious Longchamp Racecourse and is noted for being open to all horses aged three and over. Trainer André Fabre has overseen eight winners of the Arc, while Frankie Dettori (6) is the all-time leading jockey. Only two horses this century have successfully defended their Arc crown.

8. The Everest, Australia

  • October – $11.5m purse – First run in 2017

Another new run in the horse racing calendar, The Everest is the most lucrative turf sprint in the world. There is a $436,000 entry fee just to have your horse in the race, and millions of Australians bet on The Everest each October.

horses and jockets racing during the everest horse racing in australia

Horses during The Everest horse race in Australia.

The race is just 0.7 miles long and is finished in slightly over a minute. Redzel won the first two Everest races in 2017 and 2018, to be considered one of the most successful Australian racehorses in history.

9. Melbourne Cup, Australia

  • November – $6.2m purse – First run in 1861

If The Everest is the new kid on the bloc, the Melbourne Cup is the ancient grandpa still going strong at the age of 180. Australia’s most prestigious race is a two-mile charge at Flemington Racecourse in Victoria.

Four horses have won the Melbourne Cup at odds of +10000, including Prince of Penzance in 2015. That victory was one of the biggest horse racing upsets of the century and caused a real headache for bookmakers! A crowd of between 80,000 and 100,000 spectators bet on horse racing from Flemington Racecourse on Melbourne Cup day, while over two million Aussies watch the race on TV.

10. Breeders’ Cup Classic, USA

  • November – $6m purse – First run in 1984

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is raced in a different US location every year as part of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. It marks the last big race of the year in US horse racing and is run on dirt over one-and-a-quarter miles.

The race is open to three-year-olds and offers allowances, which means we often see upsets in this iconic sprint. The prize purse has doubled since Wild Again won the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic at Hollywood Park in 1984.

In 199, Arcangues rocked the racing community with a remarkable win at odds of +13300, beating favorite Bertrando in the final yards.

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