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The Biggest Horse Races in the World

Photo by Jeff Griffith // CC0 1.0

Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world, with even the Ancient Greeks and Romans enjoying it. Nowadays, jockeys and their horses partake in events around the world, with purpose-built racecourses existing on every continent. Here are some of the biggest and best horse racing events.

The Grand National

The Grand National is the biggest horse races in Britain. There are some that are more glamorous, such as Royal Ascot, which is attended each year by The Queen. However, the Grand National is the only race that attracts the attention of the entire population.

Held at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, the Grand National has as many as 40 runners and riders that partake in the 4 mile and 2.5-furlong (6.9km) race, navigating over 30 fences. It attracts people from all over the country, dressing up in their finest clothes to partake in the pageantry of the event. The Grand National also attracts more TV viewers than any other event on the British horse racing calendar. Many friends, families and workplaces partake in “sweepstakes”, where they pay to pick a horse at random. The cash is then pooled and awarded to the people with the top three horses.

Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is the most prestigious horse racing event in Australia. Similar to the Grand National in Britain, the Melbourne Cup is the race that is watched and talked about by nearly the entire population. It may actually be more important to Australia though, as the state of Victoria has a half-day public holiday on the day of the race. In other states, people stop what they're doing to watch the race. It is no surprise why it is called the “race that stops a nation”.

Caulfield Cup

The Caulfield Cup is held a couple of weeks before the Melbourne Cup and is one of Australia's most prestigious horse races. The winner of the Caulfield Cup, which this year will likely be Hartnell, Mirage Dancer, or Mer De Glance, is granted automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup.

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is the biggest horse racing event held in the United States, taking place each year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Held each May, the Kentucky Derby pays out a total of $3 million in prize money, with $1.86 million going to the winner. It is described as the “most exciting two minutes in sports” and the “run for the roses”, the latter recognising the roses that are draped over the winner.

While there may be countless horse racing events that take place each year, on every continent of the world, the Grand National, Kentucky Derby, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup are some of the biggest and most prestigious. They are the events that attract people that are not typically horse racing fans and are ingrained into their respective nation’s cultures.