The Top 35 Largest Horse Races in the World

By in Sports & Betting on

Horse racing is a popular equestrian performance sport worldwide. Races take place around the world all weeks and months of the year with purses of over $1.5 million for some races.

Although thoroughbred flat racing is a widely popular favorite, other races such as jump racing and endurance racing can also be found.

Horse racing is an exciting and quick sport and crucial moments can be missed in a blink of an eye. Here are 35 of the biggest horse racing events you’ll want to catch around the world.

1 – Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby, also known as the Derby Stakes and The Derby, is located in Surrey, England and is open to thoroughbred colts and fillies that are 3 years old.

It takes place at the Epsom Downs Race course on a track that’s over 1.5 miles long. The track is left handed and the surface is turf.

The Epsom Derby is known as Britain’s richest and most prestigious horse race and is the middle leg of the Triple Crown. It’s held on the first Saturday of June annually.

The term derby has become popular throughout the world but the Epsom Derby was the first to use the phrase in 1780 when they were inaugurated. The 2017 race marks their 238th annual race.

2 – Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Louisville, Kentucky and is open to thoroughbreds that are 3 years old.

It’s held at Churchill Downs track that’s 1 ¼ miles long and on the first Saturday of May annually. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It’s the first leg of the American Triple Crown and is known as “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports”, “The Run for the Roses”, and “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”.

The Kentucky Derby was inaugurated in 1875 and is the top attended horse race in North America.

The 2017 race marks their 143rd annual race and has a purse of $2 million guaranteed.

3 – The Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Elmont, New York and is open for thoroughbreds that are 3 years old.

It’s held at Belmont Park track that’s 1.5 miles long and on a Saturday in June annually. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

The race is known by its nicknames “The Third Jewel of the Triple Crown”, “The Run for the Carnations”, and “The Test of the Champions”.

The Belmont Stakes was inaugurated in 1867 and drew a television audience count of 21.9 million in 2004 which was the highest viewing rate since the year of 1977.

The 2017 race marks their 149th annual race and has a $1.5 million purse.

4 – The Preakness Stakes

The Preakness Stakes is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Baltimore, Maryland and is open for thoroughbreds that are 3 years old.

It’s held at the Pimlico Race Course that’s 1 3/16 miles long on the third Saturday in May annually. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It’s the middle leg of the American Triple Crown and is known by its nicknames “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” and “The Second Jewel of the Triple Crown”.

It was inaugurated in 1873 and is the second highest attended horse race.

The 2017 race marks their 142nd annual race and has a $1.5 million purse.

5 – Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is a Group 1 race that’s located in Paris, France and is open for thoroughbreds who are 3 years or older.

It’s held at the Longchamp Race course that’s 1 ½ miles long and is usually held on the first Sunday of October annually. The track is right handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1920 and is considered Europe’s most prestigious race and is known as the “Arc”. Their slogan translated to “It’s not a race, it’s a monument”.

6 – Dubai World Cup

The Dubai World Cup is a Group 1 race that’s located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and is open for thoroughbreds that are 3 years or older for the Southern Hemisphere and 4 years and older for the Northern Hemisphere.

The event offers 8 thoroughbred contests and 1 purebred Arabian contest.

It’s held at the Meydan Race course that’s over 1 mile long and is held the last Saturday of March annually. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1996 and was the world’s richest horse race with a purse of $10 million from 2010 to 2017 when it was passed by the Pegasus World Cup.

7 – Diamond Jubilee Stakes

The Diamond Jubilee Stakes is a Group 1 race that’s located in Ascot, England and is open for thoroughbreds that are 4 years or older.

It’s held at the Ascot Race course on their 0.75 mile long track. The track is straight and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1868 and is held in June annually. Its past names include All-Aged Stakes, Cork and Orrery Stakes, and Golden Jubilee.

8 -The Grand National

The Grand National is a Grade 3 race that’s located in Liverpool, England and is open for horses that are 7 years or older and with a rate of 120 or more by the BHA.

It’s held at the Aintree Race course and is a handicap steeple chase. The horses run over 4 miles and jump 30 fences over the course of 2 laps. The track is left handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1839 and has been broadcasted in the UK since 1960.

9 – Breeders’ Cup World Championships

The Breeders’ Cup World Championship is a Grade 1 championship event series race. The location of the event varies and have all been in the United States except for the year of 1996 when it was held in Canada.

It’s a thoroughbred race with age, weight, distance, and surface varying each year. The purse also varies but is typically $1 to $6 million.

It was inaugurated in 1984 and has been broadcasted on television every year. It has 13 races that take place during the event with 12 of them having 14 starters and 1 having 12 starters.

The top three countries with a Breeders’ Cup winner include United States with 232 winners, Ireland with 26 winners and Great Britain with 15 winners.

The oldest horse to win was 9 years old and won the 2012 event.

10 – Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is a Group 1 race that’s located in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years or older.

It’s held at the Flemington Race course that’s 2 miles long and on the first Tuesday of November annually. The track is left handed and the surface is turf.

The Melbourne Cup was inaugurated in 1861 and is known by the locals at “the race that stops a nation”.

11 – Nakayama Grand Jump

The Nakayama Grand Jump is a Jump Grade 1 race that’s located in Funabashi, Japan and is open for thoroughbreds that are 4 years or older.

It’s held at the Nakayama Race course on their track that’s over 2 miles long. The track is both right and left handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1999 and is held in mid-April annually. It has been won by overseas runners only 5 out of the 19 events.

The race consists of a twisted path with inclines, declines and jumps with the dirt course crossed several times. The last lap is held around the outer turf course and has 3 final jumps.

12 – Cotillion Stakes

The Cotillion Stakes is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and is open for thoroughbred fillies that are 3 years old.

It’s held at the Parx Racing and Casino on a track that’s 1 1/16th mile long. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1969 and is held in late September or early October annually. The purse has been $1 million since 2012.

13 – Florida Derby

The Florida Derby is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Hallandale Beach, Florida and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years old.

It’s held at Gulfstream Park on their 1 1/8 mile long track. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1952 and is held in late March or Early April annually.

It has been known as the prep race for the Kentucky Derby since 2013 and is held 5 weeks before it in order to allow racers to take part in both races. The purse has been $1 million since 2011.

14 – Pennsylvania Derby

The Pennsylvania Derby is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and is open for thoroughbred horses that are 3 years old.

It’s held at the Parx Racing and Casino track that’s 1.125 miles long. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1979 and is held in late September annually. In 2016 the purse was $1.25 million.

15 – Pegasus World Cup

The Pegasus World Cup is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Hallandale Beach, Florida and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 4 years or older.

It’s held at Gulfstream Park and the track is 1 1/8 mile long. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 2017 with a purse of $12 million and a 2018 purse of $16 million, making it the richest horse race in the world.

Any pre-entered horse that does not go to the Pegasus World Cup becomes eligible for the Poseidon Stakes which is similar to the Pegasus but with a purse of $400,000.

16 – Cigar Mile Handicap

The Cigar Mile Handicap is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Queens, New York and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years or older.

It’s held at the Aqueduct Racetrack on their 1 mile long track. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1988 and is held in late November annually and has a current purse of $500,000.

The original name NYRA Mile was changed to honor the famous horse named Cigar who is a U.S Hall of Fame horse and won the race in 1994.

17 – Japan Cup

The Japan Cup is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Fuchu, Tokyo, Japan and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years or older.

It’s held at the Tokyo Race course on a track that’s 1 ½ miles long. The track is left handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1981 and is held on the last Sunday of November annually. It’s considered Japan’s most prestigious horse race and is an invitational event.

The current purse is $5.2 million, making it one of the richest races in the world.

18 – W.S. Cox Plate

The W.S. Cox Plate is a Group 1 race that’s located in Victoria, Australia and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years or older.

It’s held at the Moonee Valley Race course on a track that’s over 1 mile long. The track is left handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1922 and has a current purse of $3 million making it Australia’s second richest race that’s weight-for-age. It’s held in late October annually.

19 – Pacific Classic

The Pacific Classic is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Del Mar, California and is open for thoroughbred horses that are aged 3 years or older.

It’s held at the Del Mar Racetrack on a 1 ¼ mile track. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1991 and is held in August annually. It has a purse of $1 million.

In 2003 a Hall of Fame Jockey Julie Krone won the million-dollar race making her the first female rider to do so.

20 – The Haskell Invitational

The Haskell Invitational is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Oceanport, New Jersey and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years old. It was made invitation only in 1981.

It’s held at the Monmouth Park Racetrack on a track that’s 1 1/8 mile long. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1968 and has a purse of $1 million.

The trainer Bob Baffert has trained horses that won 8 of the races between the years of 2001-2015, giving him the most wins by trainer title at this event.

21 – Santa Anita Handicap

The Santa Anita Handicap is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Arcadia, California and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 4 years or older. The event was open to horses 3 years and older until 1969.

It’s held at Santa Anita Park on a track that’s 1 ¼ mile long. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1935 and is held in early March annually. It has a purse of $1 million.

Famous horse Seabiscuit raced in the Santa Anita Handicap in 1937, 1938, and 1940.

22 – Arlington Million

The Arlington Million is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Arlington Heights, Illinois and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years or older.

It’s held at the Arlington International Race course with a track that’s 1 ¼ miles long. The track is left handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1981 and is held in August annually. It’s a weight for age event with a purse of $1 million.

The Arlington Million was the first race to have a purse of $1 million.

Previous names of the race include Arlington Million Invitational Stakes, Budweiser Million Stakes, and Budweiser-Arlington Million.

In 1988 the race was held in Toronto, Ontario because of a fire that took place in 1985. There were no races in the years of 1998 and 1999 due to a 2 year shutdown of the Arlington Park.

23 – Arkansas Derby

The Arkansas Derby is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Hot Springs, Arkansas and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years old.

It’s held at the Oaklawn Park Race Track on a track that’s 1 1/8 mile long. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1936 and is held in April annually. It has a purse of $1 million.

The most popular horse to race and win the Arkansas Derby is a horse named American Pharaoh who won the 12th Triple Crown making him the only winner of this in 37 years.

Before American Pharaoh a horse named Curlin was the highest decorated Arkansas Derby Winner for winning the Eclipse Award American Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008, and winning the Preakness Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Dubai World Cup.

24 – Travers Stakes

Travers Stakes is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Saratoga Springs, New York and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years and are American-bred.

It’s held at the Saratoga Race Course on a 1 ¼ mile long track. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1864 and is held in mid-summer annually. The race was not held in 1896, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1911, and 1912. It has a purse of $1.25 million.

The Travers track length has varied throughout the years:

  • 1 1/8 mile in 1895 and 1901 to 1903
  • 1 ¾ mile in 1864 to 1889
  • 1 ½ mile in 1890 to 1892
  • And 1 ¼ mile in 1893, 1894, 1897, and 1904 to present day

25 – Prince of Wales’s Stakes

The Prince of Wales’s Stakes is a Group 1 race that’s located in Ascot, England and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 4 years and up.

It’s held at the Ascot Race course on a track that’s over 1 mile long. The track is right handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1862 and is held in June annually. The purse is over $800,000.

The race was originally named after the Prince of Wales but was discontinued after WWII because there was no longer a Prince of Wales. It returned in 1968 with a new distance and age restriction.

26 – Sussex Stakes

The Sussex Stakes is a Group 1 race that’s located in W. Sussex, England and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years or older.

It’s held at the Goodwood Race course on a track that’s 1 mile long. The track is right handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1841 and is held in late July or early August annually. It has a purse of over $1 million as of 2016.

It’s held on the second day of the Glorious Goodwood 5 day event meeting.

27 – Santa Anita Derby

The Santa Anita Derby is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Arcadia, California and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years old.

It’s held at the Santa Anita Park on a track that’s 1 1/8 mile long. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1935 and is an official race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby. It has a purse of $1 million.

The youngest jockey to win the Santa Anita Derby was Pat Valenzuela at the age of 17 in the 1980 race.

28 – Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes

The Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Lexington, Kentucky and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years or older.

It’s held at the Keeneland Race Course on a track that’s 1 mile long. The track is left handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1986 and is held in early October annually. It has a purse of $1 million.

The Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes was a Listed race from 1986-1987, a Grade 3 from 1988 to 1997, a Grade 2 from 1998 to 2001, and finally became a Grade 1 in 2002.

The race track was 1 1/8 mile through the year of 1993 but it was turned into the present day mile long track in 1994.

29 – Kentucky Oaks

The Kentucky Oaks is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Louisville, Kentucky and is open for thoroughbred fillies aged 3 years.

It’s held at the Churchill Downs on a track that’s 1 1/8 mile long. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1875 and is held the Friday before the Kentucky Derby annually. It’s known by its nickname “Lilies for the Fillies”. It has a purse of $1 million.

The Kentucky Oaks distance has varied throughout the years:

  • 1 ½ miles from 1875 to 1890
  • 1 ¼ miles from 1891 to 1895
  • 1 1/16 miles from 1896 to 1919
  • 1 1/8 miles from 1920 to 1941
  • 1 1/16 miles from 1942 to 1981
  • And 1 1/8 mile since 1982 to present day

30 – Queen Anne Stakes

The Queen Anne Stakes is a Group 1 race that’s located in Berkshire, England and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 4 years and older.

It’s held at the Ascot Race course on a track that’s 1 mile long. The track is straight and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1840 and is held in June annually. The purse is over $600,000 as of 2016.

The event was originally open to horses aged 3 years or older and called the Trial Stakes but in 1930 it was renamed to honor Queen Anne.

The event was named a Group 3 race in 1971, a Group 2 in 1984, and a Group 1 in 2003. In 2003 they raised the minimum age of the horse to 4 instead of 3.

The Queen Anne Stakes is a first race on opening day for the Royal Ascot meeting.

31 – All Aged Stakes

The All Aged Stakes is a Group 1 race that’s located in Sydney, Australia and is open for thoroughbred horses of any age. Admission to the race is determined by a weight for age ratio.

It’s held at the Randwick Race course on a track that’s 0.87 of a mile in length. The track is right handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1865 and is held in April or May annually with the ATC Autumn Carnival. The purse is $600,000 as of 2017.

32 – Golden Rose Stakes

The Golden Rose Stakes is a Group 1 race that’s located in Sydney, Australia and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years old.

It’s held at Rosehill Race course on a track that’s 0.87 of a mile in length. The track is right handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1978 and is held in late August or early September annually. The purse is $1 million as of 2016.

The initial event was named after famous horse Peter Pan but was renamed in 2003. They were named a Group 1 race in 2009.

33 – Victoria Derby

The Victoria Derby is a Group 1 race that’s located in Melbourne, Australia and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years old.

It’s held at the Flemington Race course on a track that’s 1.5 miles long. The track is left handed and the surface is turf.

It was inaugurated in 1855 is held the first day of the VRC Spring Carnival annually. The purse is $1.5 million.

It was a principal race from the years 1855 to 1978 and in 1979 it was named a Group 1 race.

34 – Suburban Handicap

The Suburban Handicap is a Grade 2 race that’s located in Elmont, New York and is open for thoroughbred horses aged 4 years or older. It’s the third of three raced in the New York Handicap Triple.

It’s held at the Belmont Park on a 1 ¼ mile long track. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1884 and is held annually except for the years of 1911, 1912, and 1914. The purse is $500,000.

The event was dropped from a Grade 1 race to a Grade 2 in 2009.

35 – Personal Ensign Stakes

The Personal Ensign Stakes is a Grade 1 race that’s located in Saratoga Springs, New York and is open for thoroughbred fillies and mares aged 3 years and older.

It’s held at the Saratoga Race Course on a 1 1/8 mile long track. The track is left handed and the surface is dirt.

It was inaugurated in 1948 and is held the third week in August annually. The purse is $750,000 as of 2015.

In 1997 they named this event after the famous filly named Personal Ensign who is named in the U.S Racing Hall of Fame. Personal Ensign’s grand-daughter named Storm Flag Flying won the race in 2004.

The track length has varied throughout the years:

  • 1 1/16 mile from 1948 to 1950
  • 1 mile from 1960 to 1961
  • 1 3/8 mile in 1975
  • 1 1/8 mile from 1976 to 1994
  • 1 ¼ mile from 1995 to 2011
  • And 1 1/8 mile from 2012 to present day

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter if you live in the United States, Europe, or Australia, there’s a horse race happening there. Spend some time at the biggest horse racing events in your country and watch these expertly trained horses in action.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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