Horse Racing is ancient, it goes back over 2,000 years as a sport played during the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece. This may be an eternity ago but the thrill for punters has lived on. For horse racing as a sport, there are plenty of aspects which have kept the interests of the public peaked, whether it’s seeing the 12 biggest horse races in the world, or getting a glimpse of the great horses like Black Caviar, Makybe Diva, Winx, or Seabiscuit. Heck, there are even infamous jockeys that have been known for their antics and personalities alone.

One thing is certain; the sport which is known as having two of the greatest moments in sports racing ‘the race that stops a nation’ and the ‘greatest 2 minutes in sports!’ really does live up to its name in the United Kingdom as ‘The Sport of Kings’!

What you will likely not know about horse racing is that it actually covers quite a few different types of activities, not just the obvious racing which sees widespread popularity on TV – some of these various horse racing activities are:

  1. Flat – gallops on straight or oval tracks
  2. Jumps or Steeplechase (national hunt in the UK and Ireland) – gallops over obstacles of varying height and depth
  3. Harness – trotting or pacing pulling a driver in a sulky
  4. Saddle trotting – trotting with a rider under saddle
  5. Limited distance – cross country racing over longer distances up to 25km
  6. Endurance – cross country racing over distances between 25km and 100km

When it comes to the horses for each of these events, it is not a case of a ‘one horse fits all’ mentality. There are various horse breeds that have been bred specifically and developed to specialise in each of the styles of racing:

  1. Flat racing – thoroughbred, quarter, Arabian, paint, pony and appaloosa
  2. Jump racing – thoroughbred, pony and AQPS
  3. Harness – standard, pony, Russian and French trotter, Finn and Scandinavian cold bloods

The Biggest Horse Race in the World

There are so many horse races in the world, and many of them have their own history or aspect which increases popularity with punters. Whether it’s the hugely popular races with big money at stakes or large races that cover some distance, there is one thing for sure: there will always be a race on somewhere in the world for every punter.

Check out our list of the 12 biggest horse races in the world! How many of these horse races have you witnessed or heard of before?

Kentucky Derby – United States $3 million

The Kentucky Derby is the premier horse race for the United States, and the most prestigious leg of the Triple Crown. This race is held at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May each year. It was first raced in 1875 and covers just over 2010 metres. Although one of the shortest races, the Kentucky Derby is known as the ‘greatest 2 minutes in sports!’ Get this: the winning horse receives a garland made of 100s of roses!

Royal Ascot – United Kingdom $12 million over 5 days

The Royal Ascot even is held over 5 days in mid-June at Ascot, Berkshire, England, and has raced since 1711. A Royal event ‘hosted’ by the British Monarchy, the racing does not start until Queen Elizabeth arrives each day. It’s a strictly formal event which women are expected to wear a day dress with a hat, and men in morning dress with top hat.

Prix de l’Árc de Triomphe – France $9 million

Considered one of the most prestigious racing events on the calendar, it is popularly known as ‘the Arc’. It was named in honour of the French soldiers who fought in World War II. The Arc is held at Longchamp in Paris and dates back to 1920. The horse racing covers a 2400 metre track designed for thoroughbred horses, and up until the Dubai and Pegasus World Cup races – the Arc was the richest horse race in the world.

Grand National – United Kingdom $2.4 million

This is probably the most challenging horse race in the world, held on the first or second Saturday of April each year. The race has been held since 1839 at Aintree, Liverpool, England, and consists of 30 fences over a track which is 6900 metres long. Although the track is considered a fairly dangerous one, the race is still able to attract the top Steeplechasers from all over the world.

Melbourne Cup – Australia $9 million

The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most famous horse race, regarded as the most prestigious 2-mile handicap race in the world. The Melbourne Cup is held on the first Tuesday of November at Flemington, Melbourne, Australia since 1861, and is known everywhere as the ‘race that stops a nation’. While the race itself is run over a 3200 metre turf track, all racing horses must be 3 years or older to compete.

The Melbourne Cup was also the first race in the Southern Hemisphere to surpass $1.5 million in prize money. This race attracts horses and trainers from around the world as they all flock to be part of the prestigious race. Race goers are expected to wear hats, and they also hold the widely popular ‘fashions on the field’ competitions for the best dressed man and woman. Typically, over 110,000 spectators attend the race every year.

Dubai World Cup – Dubai $18 million

One of the more outstanding horse racing events on the racing calendar – and arguably the biggest single gambling event too. The Dubai Gold Cup is once again known as the richest race in the world after being surpassed in 2017 by the Pegasus World Cup – which lowered its prize money in 2019.

A grade 1 flat race which was first held in 1996, and part of the Dubai World Cup night event – which consists of prize monies totalling almost $50 million! Like the Kentucky Derby, Melbourne Cup, and Royal Ascot, the Dubai Gold Cup has become a large fashion event.

Held on the last Sunday in March at the magnificent Meydan racecourse, this race is restricted to 4-year olds and over from the Northern Hemisphere and 3-year olds and over from the Southern Hemisphere.

Preakness Stakes – United States $2.2 million

The Preakness Stakes is held at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland, two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, is stage two of the Triple Crown. First run in 1873, this horse race is raced over 1900 metres of dirt track and restricted to horses 3-years and older. 

This horse race is famous for it’s in-field festival, where racegoers enjoy plenty of alcohol while watching the race; think a classy version of NASCAR! The winning horse receives a thick garland of the Maryland state flower, and the owner is presented with the Woodlawn Vase made by Tiffany & Co in 1860.

Belmont Stakes – United States $2.2 million

As the final Stage of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes is held 3 weeks after the Preakness Stakes, at Belmont Park, on Long Island, New York. The event which was first run in 1867 is one of the oldest races in the United States and is raced over 2400 metres. The Belmont Stakes is also known as the ‘run for the carnations’ as the winning horse is draped in a white carnation blanket.

The Breeder’s Cup – United States $41.5 million (across 13 Races)

Considered as the ‘world championship’ of horse racing and held at various racecourses around the USA in late October/early November of every year. The Breeder’s Cup was first held in 1984, over 2 days with the event for grade 1 thoroughbreds and the winning ‘team’ being awarded four trophies. The top horse receives a garland of flowers and is paraded across the race track.

In terms of the big races, the two biggest races in this world championship are the Breeder’s Cup Turf – a weight for age race which is run on turf with prize money of about $6 million and, the Breeder’s Cup Classic – the premier thoroughbred race in the USA. Also, a weight for age race for thoroughbreds aged 3 years and older – the prize money for the Breeder’s Cup Classic is $9 million!

Pegasus World Cup – US

The Pegasus World Cup had previously surpassed the Dubai World Cup as having the largest purse in horse racing at $17.75 million in 2017, until the purse was reduced in 2019. This flat race is held in Florida, USA in late January over 1800 metres making it more of a sprint event. Horses racing in the event must be thoroughbred and aged 4 years or older to participate.

Japan Cup – Japan $8.5m

Our biggest horse racing list finally takes us to Asia with the Japan Cup, held in Tokyo, Japan on the last Sunday in November since 1981 – this race stretches over 2400 metres of turf and is for thoroughbreds. The Japan Cup with its large purse attracts some of the finest horses and jockeys across the world, and is one of the most important sports events in Japan each year.

Nakayama Grand Jump – Japan $2.5m

Held at Nakayama, Funabashi, Japan, in mid-April each year. The Race consists of over 4250 metres and was first held in 1999. The Nakayama track is deemed to be one of the most challenging courses in the world, and includes several skill tests for horses and jockeys alike. This steeplechase race is for thoroughbreds aged 4 years and above.

Other Top Horse Races of the world

  • Australia – Quilty Cup for endurance horses and the Shahzada at 400km is the longest ride in the world
  • Canada – the Canadian International and the Woodbine Mile
  • Czech Republic – the Velka Pardubicka
  • Dubai – the Dubai Kahayla Classic
  • France – Grand Prix de Paris, Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and the Prix de Diane
  • Great Britain – the Triple Crown consisting of the 2000 Guineas, The Derby and St Leger
  • Japan – the February Stakes, Takamatsunomiya Kinen, Yasuda Kinen, Takarazuka Kinen, Arima Kinen, Tenno Sho
  • Mauritius – the Duchess of York Cup, Barbe Cup, Maiden Cup and the Duke of York Cup
  • South Africa – the Durban July Handicap
  • United Kingdom – the Cheltenham Festival, Epsom Derby

Horse Racing Betting Tips

We have shared with you the 12 biggest horse races in the World, now we will share some of our helpful horse racing betting tips to help you get stuck in and place your bets on these great races, as well as many of the smaller races at your local track.

There are two choices when placing a bet on a horse race:

  1. Straight wagers
  2. Exotic wagers

Straight Wagers

The Straight Wager option is the most sensible option for beginners. Simply pick a horse and select a win or place wager. Of course, you also decide on the value of your wager, but in terms of your wager type, punters have the following options:

  1. Win

If your horse comes in first – you are a winner.

  • Place

Here your wager is on your selection of horses to come either first or second. The payout is lower than a Win bet but your chances to win your bet are much better.

  • Show

This option covers your horse placing first, second, or third – punters have a much higher chance of receiving a payout but the odds are reduced.

  • Across the Board

Also known as a ‘combo straight bet’ because this bet covers your horse to win, place and show. So, you are placing three bets covering each of the options only receive the maximum payout if your horse wins.  Note that the payouts reduce if your horse places second or third.

  • Win/Place, Place/Show

Like the above, this bet covers more options and is more expensive – four Bets. For the win/place bet if your horse wins you collect win and place bets, second you collect on the place bet.  For the place/show bet if your horse comes second you collect on the place and show bets. If it comes third you collect on the show bet.

Exotic Wagers

Beginner beware, as this option is for the more experienced punter and enables you to select a number of horses over a number of racing options – much harder to win, but the payouts can be worth it.

The exotic wager allows the possibility of larger payouts due to having multiple legs involved, but this is obviously harder to predict. As you become more experienced with researching horse racing form, jockeys and race tracks you will find it easier to make selections. When placing an exotic wager your options are as follows:

  1. Exacta

With this bet you are predicting which horses will come first and second and their order. Another version is to ‘box’ your selections whereby your selections can finish either first or second.

  • Quinella

Although this type of wager is the same as a ‘box’ Exacta bet, it is cheaper. The payout is lower as the cost is cheaper.

  • Trifecta

With the Trifecta wager punters select which horses will finish in first, second and third places and the order too. You can also ‘box’ your selections, but it is six times more expensive as there are a number of combinations.

  • Superfecta

With the Superfecta wager punters are selecting four horses to finish first, second, third and fourth in an order. Once again you can ‘box’ your selections but also with a much-increased cost.

How do You Select a Winning Horse?

Now that you know the types of bets available to you, it is time to consider what horse(s) you will select. There are thousands of websites and sportsbooks which will tell you how and which horses to pick. Using ‘luck’ could work in your favour, but without the excitement of selecting based on your own research.

  1. Check the programme for the day’s racing

Checking this valuable goldmine of data is the best source of information for punters. Every conceivable statistic is usually there for you to consider when evaluating where to pace your money, it can be very interesting reading about this information too.

  • Who is the Jockey?

Find out whether the jockey has completed a ride on the horse before. Consider how did the duo compete? A good jockey riding an average horse could bring the performance of the horse up significantly.

  • Surface Type – grass, dirt or turf.

Check out the horse’s past results with the same surface type. How has the horse fared on previous outings for each surface; has there been much deviation in the results?

  • Check the types and level of races previously run by the horses

Good trainers change the level that they put their horses in and good results at lower levels do not always equate to wins at the higher levels.

  • What are the betting odds?

When it doubt, stick to the easiest option and bet on the favourite! Some interesting facts when it comes to the favourites of horse races:

  1. Approximately one third of horse races are won by the favourites
    1. Approximately half of all favourites place in their race
    1. Almost two thirds of all favourites show in their race – so come either first, second, or third

For a high chance of a small win – bet the favourite to show.

  • How does the horse look? 

If you can visit the paddock before the race, check out how each horse you fancy is acting. Think of it like watching a child who is about to get up on stage at school assembly – is the horse sweating, jittery, showing anxious or nervous moments, rearing etc.

  • Random

Most of us have a good luck charm, method, favourite number, or colours – or you can develop your own handicapping system. If you really cannot do any of the above six tips and don’t fancy the favourite – just pick what sounds or looks cool when you first look at the horses in the program.

Horse Racing Betting Frequently Asked Questions

Is Online Horse Race betting available in Australia?

Yes, it is and these days there are numerous online sports betting sites which offer odds on horse races across the world.

What is the best site?

There are so many sites available, the choice really comes down to which site works well with you as a punter.  For a good start on where to bet, check out our reputable and recommended sports betting sites and have a look for which one suits you the best. If you only care for horse racing, there is no point going with a sports betting site which offers an average amount of horse racing when there are others that offer a tonne more.

Is it safe for me to place a bet online?

Yes, providing you are using a reputable sports betting site, although these days there is so much competition that these websites use their security and peace of mind as an attraction for punters. You should always ensure that any device you use to access these sites or the internet in general have suitable security measures.

How do I sign-up to a horse betting site?

It is a simple process and involves filling out a quick and easy player registration form. Ensure that you read the terms and conditions before submitting your registration. To save you time we have a host of reputable sites and links to the best promotions which can get you straight to the player registration section.

How do I deposit funds?

You can place funds into your online player account via plenty of methods including credit and debit cards, bank transfer, eWallets like Neosurf, PayPal, and many sites even accept Bitcoin.

How do I win if I place a win, place or show Bet?

Win pays only if your selection finishes first, place pays if your horse finishes first or second and show pays if the horse finishes in the top three.

What is an exotic bet?

Any bet which involves more than one horse, think of the exotic bet as the sports multi-bet of the horse racing world!

What happens when my selection is scratched?

A horse that is removed from a race before post-time is considered as scratched. Any bets involving that horse will be void. If your bets only cover that horse your stake will be returned. However, some bets that involve other horses will usually receive the portion relating to your scratched selection. Other bets will depend on the terms and conditions of the individual sports bookmaker – which is why it is important to check out the terms and conditions first.

What happens if horses are tied or dead-heat?

Both horses are determined to have finished in both positions and bets are paid out on both – but at reduced odds.

Kevin Wellington
Kevin Wellington is a freelance writer whose favorite topics are casinos (online and land-based), travel, and food. When he’s not contributing to Planet 7 Oz, he’s out trying to convert Millennials from phone zombies to surfers, mainly by chucking them into the sea, smartphones and all.
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