The Biggest Horse Races in the World

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Some sports are popular in some countries but not others. In the US, the NFL is the most-watched sports league, but it’s very niche in most of Europe. In Australia, rugby and Aussie rules are dominant, while in India, cricket is the national sport. 

However, horse racing is a sport that’s popular everywhere. This ancient discipline can be traced back to before the Roman Empire. It was later adopted by the nobility and royalty in countries like England and then exported around the world. That is why it’s still often referred to as “the sport of kings”. 

The Biggest Horse Races in the World

While horse racing can be found everywhere, there are some differences in each country. For example, tracks in England and Ireland are mostly covered in turf, it’s common to see racing on dirt tracks in the US. Similarly, while flat and jump racing are popular in most of Europe, a competition known as Ban’ei is big in Japan. 

While track surfaces and other factors may vary from country to country, one constant is betting. Since the earliest recorded horse races, people have been placing wagers on who they think will be the winner.

The activity is popular on all races of every size and level, but some of the biggest events also attract many casual bettors who may not watch or wager on horse racing at any other time of the year. These fans don’t have the same insight and knowledge as more seasoned punters, so they turn to websites like OLBG who provide betting tips like these to help level the playing field.

These big events that attract the most casual bettors are usually the most famous races in the world, with one or two found in all of the biggest horse racing nations. 

The Grand National

The Grand National is the biggest horse race in the United Kingdom. It’s held every spring at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool and comes at the end of a three-day event known as the “Grand National Festival”. 

The race itself is a 4 mile and 514-yard steeplechase and sees as many as 40 horses take part. It’s one of the most-watched sporting events on British TV, and the organisers claim that as many as 600 million people tune in from 140 different countries. 

The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is the biggest race in the United States. It forms part of the US Triple Crown, alongside the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. It is a unique race in that horses are only permitted to take part once, making it incredibly difficult to win the Triple Crown. 

Known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports” and “the run for the roses”, the Kentucky Derby takes place each year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It was first run in 1875 and even after 2020, remains the longest-running uninterrupted sporting event in the US. 

At 1.25 miles, the Kentucky Derby is significantly shorter than the Grand National, but this doesn’t take anything away from the challenge or prestige that the race has. 

The Biggest Horse Races in the World

The Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most prestigious horse race. Run over 3.2 km (2 miles), this flat race is even older than the Kentucky Derby, having been first run in 1861.

With a prize purse of AU$8 million, the Melbourne Cup is the most lucrative handicap race that is run over a 2-mile distance. In comparison, the Grand national pays out around £1 million (AU$1.9 million) and the Kentucky Derby dishes out around US$3 million (AU$4 million). 

The race is often described as “the race that stops the nation” due to its importance in Australian culture. The day of the race is designated as a public holiday in the Melbourne metropolitan area and other parts of Victoria. 

Even those that are still required to work often keep one eye on the race, while several sources have cited a huge increase in sick leave taken on race day. This is why many businesses now close at lunchtime so workers have time to get home before the start of the Melbourne Cup. 

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is France’s most prestigious horse race. Open to thoroughbreds that are aged three and up, the race takes place at ParisLongchamp Racecourse, which is located to the west of the French capital. 

At 2.4 km (1.5 miles), the race is a similar length to the Kentucky Derby, but its €5 million prize purse is just slightly higher than that offered at the Melbourne Cup. 

This flat race was first run in 1920, making it the youngest on this list, but that hasn’t stopped it from being one of Europe’s most prestigious flat races.

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