The world’s biggest horse races cause millions of people to come to a standstill in order to watch the exhilarating action unfold. These are the leading contenders in the battle to be crowned the biggest race of the year:
More than 600 million people around the world tune in to watch the Grand National at Aintree each year. It is broadcast in more than 140 countries, and it generally attracts more viewers than any other race. The Grand National is big in every sense of the word. A field of 40 runners will slog it out over an epic trip of 4 miles and 514 yards, and they must clear 30 fences during the race.
These fences are extremely fearsome, particularly Becher’s Brook, The Chair and Canal Turn. Many horses fall during the race, and fewer than half typically complete the Grand National. It is a huge betting event, and it boasts the largest prize pool in jumps racing. The National is also steeped in heritage. It was first run in 1839 and it has been growing in prestige and popularity ever since, so it has a legitimate claim to being the world’s biggest horse race.
The Melbourne Cup is perhaps the only race that can match the Grand National in the popularity stakes. It is also beamed out to a global audience of more than 600 million people each year, but it is a particularly important event in Australia. The Melbourne Cup is dubbed “the race that stops a nation” due to its unique ability to bring the country to a halt. It is celebrated with a public holiday in the state of Victoria, and it is another major betting event.
The first Melbourne Cup took place in 1861, when a hardy colt named Archer won 710 gold sovereigns and a hand beaten watch for his owner by surging to victory. It is now the richest handicap in the world, and it regularly attracts the leading trainers, jockeys and stayers from across the globe. Irish and British raiders have an impressive record in recent years, although local hero Vow and Declare prevailed in 2019. You can see just the dazzling depth of quality in the field by checking the racecard at Punters. The Melbourne Cup is the most famous race in Australia, but it could well be the biggest race in the world too.
The Kentucky Derby is billed as the fastest two minutes in sport. It is the most important event in the annual US racing calendar, and it generates a tremendous buzz each year. The winner goes on to bid for the Triple Crown by winning the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, a feat that only American Pharaoh and Justify have achieved in the modern era. The Breeders’ Cup Classic has a larger prize pool than the Kentucky Derby, and it is arguably more prestigious among those in the know, but the Derby is more popular and it attracts a far larger wagering handle. It has been held in Louisville since 1875, and it provides the local economy with a huge boost. Most Americans would say that the Kentucky Derby is the biggest race in the world, although it might be tricky to back up those claims with statistics.
Dubai World Cup
The Dubai World Cup was created in 1996, so it lacks the heritage of the other contenders on this list. Yet it makes up for a lack of history with bundles of cold, hard cash. The Dubai World Cup carried an eye-watering prize pool of $12 million in 2019. There is a cool $35 million up for grabs on Dubai World Cup Day, which also features the $6 million Dubai Turf and the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic. That makes it the richest day of racing in the world, and the Dubai World Cup is very much the main event. The inaugural Saudi Cup actually eclipsed the Dubai World Cup as the world’s richest race by offering a $20 million prize purse in 2020, but it has not actually paid out on the winning horse due to a doping scandal, and we do not yet know if it will return in 2021 with a similarly impressive prize pool, so the Dubai World Cup seems like a bigger and more stable annual event right now.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
There are many more contenders for the biggest race in the world – including the Japan Cup, The Everest, the Derby at Epsom and the Cheltenham Gold Cup – but we thought we would round out this list with the Arc. It is known as Europe’s second most prestigious race after the Derby, and the world’s second richest turf race after The Everest, but many people see it as number one in terms of prestige. It has been held at Longchamp Racecourse in Paris ever since 1920, and its recent roll of honour features such legends as Enable, Found and Treve. It is difficult to say which of these races is the biggest in the world, as they each excel in different departments, but they are all monumental events that will continue to vie for supremacy in the years to come.