The Most Exciting Horse Races In The World

The most exciting horse races in the world  

Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world. It involves two or more horses (with or without jockeys) competing each other over a set distance. The distance is typically in the range going from one mile to a mile and a 16th. This equestrian performance sport is usually called the sport of kings. The main reason lies behind enormous prize funds. While horse races have been held ever since humans began to ride horses, the interest for these grew dramatically with the rise of the betting industry. Back in the 2010s, the pastime managed to generate more than $120 billion in a worldwide market on average per year. The profits are now exponentially higher and we can only expect further growth in the years to come.

Massive prizes are constantly added to the ever-growing horse race calendar. King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh is a perfect example. The Saudi Cup was held in late-February 2020. The prize pool went up to the sky-high $20 million on the occasion.

We thus decided, together with the horse racing betting tips experts at, to create a list of the biggest horse races in the world, considering the total prize fund, history, betting interest, and media coverage.


Dubai Sheema Classic & Dubai World Cup

Horse racing became a very popular pastime in the Middle East thanks to the huge interest shown by Princes and Sheikhs. Dubai is now home to two massive events.

Dubai Sheema Classic is a race where four-year-old (and older) thoroughbreds compete over a distance of one and a half-mile. The maiden race at the turf track at Meydan Racecourse was held in 1998 when Stowaway (trained by Saeed bin Suroor and with Frenkie Dettori as a jockey) clinched the top spot. William Buick has been the most successful jockey as he won the event four times, including three successive wins in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The grandstand at Meydan Racecourse has a capacity of 80,000 seats.  The race takes place on the last Saturday in March every year.  

Dubai World Cup is two years older than the Sheema Classic. It is held on the same day and at the same place. The difference is in the length, surface, and prize pool. It has the double prize purse of the Sheema Classic ($12 million), the surface is dirt (unlike turf at the Sheema Classic), and the thoroughbreds run over a distance of 1 mile and 1/4.

Interestingly, the first-ever winner of the vent back in 1996 was Cigar, a thoroughbred that has later entered the United States Hall of Fame. Thunder Show is the only dual winner as it won back-to-back races in 2018 and 2019. Jerry Bailley is the race’s most successful jockey with four wins, while Saeed bin Suroor won the competition nine times as a trainer.    


Breeders’ Cup Classic

The Breeders' Cup Classic has a unique concept. The event is held annually on the first Saturday in November at a different venue in the United States. The race was inaugurated in 1984. As an exception, the 1996 edition was held in Toronto as the first and only Breeders’ Cup World Championship event to have taken place outside of the United States. Although it is overshadowed by The Kentucky Derby, the Breeders' Cup Classic is known to be among the richest races in the world. Usually, the winner has high chances of clinching the US Horse of the Year rewards. The event is also the fourth station of the horse racing Grand Slam. The distance is 1 mile and 1/4 and the race is open for thoroughbreds aged three or more. Tiznow is the only thoroughbred to have won the race twice (in 2000 and 2001 respectively). Bob Baffert is the most successful trainer with three wins, while Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey have won the race five times each as jockeys.


Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

The race for three-years-old and higher thoroughbreds at Longchamp Racecourse in Paris is arguably the biggest European event of the kind (together with the Epson Derby). The Arc had a reputable one-century-long history as the inaugural race took place back in 1920. The race was not held in 1939 and 1940 because of World War II, while the 1943 and 1944 editions happened at Le Tremblay. The distance is 1.5 miles, while the prize purse is set at $5.6 million. The race usually takes place on the first Sunday in October, once a year.  

Eight distinct horses clinched a double win, but none managed to win the event three times so far. Frankie Dettori is the leading jockey with 6 wins, while Andre Fabre has been the most successful trainer with as many as eight victories.  


Kentucky Derby

With a prize purse of $3 million, the Kentucky Derby is by no means the most valuable race on this list. Nonetheless, we can hardly imagine a more popular and famous race than this. The Kentucky Derby usually happens on the first Saturday in May, completing the 14-day Kentucky Derby Festival. The event is for three-year-old thoroughbreds exclusively. The run distance is 1 mile and 1/4. The race has a huge history dating back to 1875 when the maiden competition was held at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky.

As proof of the race's greatness, it is worth saying the event has never been interrupted. Most other sports leagues and competitions were forced to be cancelled during either the Great Depression or the World Wars, but not the huge Kentucky Derby. The event is also known as the first leg of the US Grand Slam or Triple Crown (features the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes as well). To win the Triple Crown, a thoroughbred needs to win each of three races. The Kentucky Derby holds the top position in North America in terms of attendance. It is extremely popular among US bettors who have reportedly gambled $133 million on a race in 2015.

Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack are the famous Kentucky Derby jockeys who have won the competition five teams apiece. Ben A. Jones is the most successful trainer with six wins in the event.