Horse racing dates back more than 2,000 years to the earliest Ancient Greek Olympic Games. Since then gamblers have been hooked on the thrill of the ponies. From the top horses to the infamous jockeys, it’s all part of the thrills. But which race reigns supreme over all others? Our experts have gathered data from the most renowned horse races to find out. Their criteria took into account:
Total prize purse for the owners and trainers
Total bets placed on the race
History and worldwide significance
Interest from spectators not specifically involved in horse racing
Here’s a look at the largest, most financially important and celebrated horse races in the world:
5. Epsom Derby
Date: Early June Location: Epsom Downs Racecourse, Surrey, England Prize Purse: £1.325 million, or around $2 million
The Epsom Derby was first held in 1780, making it the oldest race on our list. It’s the most prestigious flat horse racing event in Britain. Even the Royal Family attend.
The Epsom Derby is held every year in June and it serves as the middle leg of England’s Triple Crown. The race is a one mile, four furlongs and 10-yard dash along grass and is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies.
The Epsom Downs venue in Surrey, England has an impressive crowd capacity of 120,000.
4. Breeders’ Cup Classic
Date: Late October/Early November Location: USA Prize Purse: $5 million
The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the richest horse race on American soil. That’s despite the fact it’s a relative newcomer. The race was first held in 1984.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic covers 1.25 miles on dirt and is held at various tracks around the United States. In 1996 it was hosted in Toronto, Canada as a one-off.
Though the race comes with more prize money than the Triple Crown races, its lack of history drops it down to fourth position.
3. Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe
Date: First Sunday in October Location: Longchamp Racecourse, Paris, France Prize Purse: $5.5 million
Popularly known to as the ‘Arc’, the Prix is arguably Europe’s most distinguished horse racing event. It’s also the world’s richest turf race.
The Longchamp Racecourse in Paris plays host to the annual competition which is always held on the first Sunday of October. Three-year-old and older horses are allowed to participate in the 1.5 mile race which has been running since 1920.
Since the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club took over sponsorship of the event, the prize money has more than doubled from $2 million to over $5 million.
2. Dubai World Cup
Date: Last Saturday in March Location: Meydan Racecourse, Dubai, United Arab Emirates Prize Purse: $10 million
As with most things in Dubai, its World Cup is all about the money. The race has a guaranteed prize pool of $10 million!
The planet’s richest horse race still can’t claim first place in our list though. That’s because its history just doesn’t stretch back far enough. The 1.25 mile race has been held at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai every year since 1996. It’s almost always run on dirt too.
The race is open to Northern Hemisphere thoroughbred four-year-olds and up but is also open to Southern Hemisphere thoroughbred three-year-olds and up.
1. Kentucky Derby
Date: First Saturday in May Location: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky Prize Purse: $2 million
How can the world’s richest horserace not be number one? Because there’s only one Kentucky Derby. It was first run in 1875 and the leading leg of America’s Triple Crown is still the world’s most famous horse race.
The 1.25 mile race is also known as the ‘Fastest Two Minutes in Sports’. Sure, its $2 million purse pales in comparison to the Dubai World Cup but it’s the Kentucky Derby that’s horse racing’s biggest annual gambling draw. In 2015 $133 million was wagered on the race in the U.S. alone.
Throw in the extravagant hats and the celebrity attendees and you’ve got yourself the biggest horse race on Earth.