Whilst any horse race has the potential to be exciting, there are certain famous horse races you need to know if you’re considering betting on this popular sport. These races not only draw in huge crowds, but they also provide excellent betting opportunities.
On this page, you can learn about the biggest and most famous horse races from around the world. From races in India to the UK, we explain what makes these races so popular, thrilling, and rewarding.
Horse racing has been evident in society for thousands of years, and betting has gone hand in hand with the sport throughout the years. Although horse racing is ubiquitous, there are several countries around the world where the most famous horse races are run. Most of the big contests happen in Asia, the UK, France and Australia and although most countries run their program of big races on an independent schedule, in an increasingly global society, horses from different countries have famous races in all corners of the globe as their targets.
Horse racing in the United Kingdom is huge. It sits only behind football as the most watched spectator sport and some of the main racing meetings such as Royal Ascot and Cheltenham are etched in the calendar for hardcore fans and casuals alike. Although racing had begun thousands of years before in Greek and Roman times, it wasn’t until 1750 when The Jockey Club codified the rules of racing. These rules and regulations set the foundation for the development of handicapping, with different weights etc. being implemented. In the 18th century, Britain had quite the reach on the world after colonising many nations and through British rule, the sport spread across the globe. All of today’s horses can be traced back to one of three sires who were imported into Britain in the late 17th century and there has been a record of all horses bred since.
In the UK, there are several famous races throughout the year, both on the flat and over jumps. On the flat, the big two races start in early May, with the 1000 Guineas and 2000 Guineas. These races are held for the top female and male 3-year olds respectively and the contests are over 1 mile. Following on from the first Classics of the season are the jewels in the crown of the British horse racing season – the Oaks and the Derby. Contested at Epsom, these two races are separated for female and male horses and the winners of the 12-furlong contests are immediately extremely valuable for breeding purposes. The final and oldest classic of the season comes in September at Doncaster and is named the St Ledger. First run in 1776, this race is run over 14 furlongs and the winner is normally crowned the premier 3-year-old stayer in the world.
India has the same five classics as in Britain (1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Oaks, Derby and St Ledger), in the same order, but at a different time of year. These races whet the appetite of online betting enthusiasts in India and the first four of the races are run December-February, with the St Ledger being held in September, several months later. In addition to the Classics, India also hosts some other important races at the Invitation Weekend in early March. In previous years, jockeys from the UK would travel to India to ride in these huge events, but with more stringent and controversial rules in the country, what have been perceived as unfair bans on high profile jockeys has deterred other riders from travelling for the prestigious contests.
The Middle East is an extremely wealthy part of the year, and royalty and other rich folk alike have contributed significant sums of money to racing in recent years. The Dubai World Cup Carnival held at the impressive Meydan race track is one of the greatest races in the world, and has the richest day of racing around the globe with over $10 million in prize money available on Dubai World Cup day. The illustrious meeting and generous purses serve as a magnet, with horses regularly coming over from the USA, UK, South America and Asia.
Japan has become a hub for fantastic racing and wagering, and thoroughbred action has been interwoven into the fabric of Japanese history for hundreds of years. The average prize money for Japanese racing is some of the richest in the world, and the most prestigious contest of the season is the Japan Cup, which has become one of the greatest horse races. Contested over 12 furlongs on the last Sunday of November, the purse is close to $6million and over the years, it has attracted runners from far and wide, with ten foreign-trained starters allowed to line up in the eighteen-strong field each year. In recent years, there have been fewer foreign raiders and there has been a domestic trained winner in each of the last eleven running’s of the contest.
Singapore is another affluent jurisdiction with a penchant for horse racing. The most famous and richest race in the country is the Singapore Airlines International Cup (SAIC), which was first held back in 2000 at Kranji racecourse. Worth over $3million dollars, the contest was run over 10 furlongs, and was won by a slew of different foreign trainers before the race was discontinued in 2016. By 2019, there are plans to introduce the Kranji Mile (which will carry prize money of $3million) and on the same schedule, race organisers also want to introduce the Lion City Cup, a sprint over 6 furlongs. These major additions to the racing calendar are tentatively scheduled to be held on the third Sunday in May (taking over from the spot of the SAIC).
There is no doubt that Asia is an epicentre for quality thoroughbred action and there are many famous horse races run on the continent each year, allowing bettors to get their teeth stuck in, both at the track and when betting online. The excellent prize money attracts top class fields, both domestically and from abroad and the fierce competition makes for some of the greatest horse races on the planet. With the bloodstock industry so important from a financial perspective, winning contests such as the Japan Cup, Dubai World Cup and the Indian Derby can have a significant impact on the fees that can be commanded by equine talent when they go to stud to start breeding. Asia has some of the best racecourses in the world with top quality facilities and these courses are ideal locations to hold famous horse races.
Recently in Asia, there has been an amazing, enigmatic performer by the name of Pakistan star. Racing in Hong Kong, the horse went off as a prohibitive favourite for his debut at Sha Tin, only to miss the break severely. At least 30 lengths behind the leader for the most part of the race, backers of the market leader will have been ripping their tickets up, but in an amazing turn of events, the horse displayed a ballistic turn of foot in the home stretch and won comfortably.
That amazing and surprising horse race left Pakistan Star a Youtube sensation, and his debut performance is well worth a watch. Many other famous horse races came in the UK back in the day under National Hunt rules when jockeys could remount their horses (this rule has since been scrapped). When a runner had a soft fall, there have been instances where the jockeys have got back onboard and finished the race and in some instances. A famous example is when Sir Tony McCoy got back on his mount to win at Southwell after it had come to grief at a fence.