The richest and most prestigious horse racing events in the West
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The horse racing industry continuously grows strong in the West. Find out on this page some of its richest and most prestigious horse racing events.

Sustainment is a challenge. History has taught us that what we learn from the past helps us  understand the present in order to build a path for a better future. Out of all the lessons, the longevity of a civilization and a sustained culture are two of the most remarkable things to learn about. An example of this is the ancient and royal sport called horse racing.

 

Beyond speed, endurance, and talent, this rich spectator sport is an established socio-cultural institution and economic tool. In spite of its centuries-old record, it only continues to grow stronger and better, making it very impossible to be overshadowed by other ascending sports today. All of its grandeur are, without a doubt, a resounding contribution by the West. 

 

While the concept and practice of using equine species for farming and transport also started in Asian countries, the horse racing format that we know today is a product of Great Britain. However, which other Western countries do you think also play a huge role in the sport’s massive success and long-standing reputable status? Let’s find out on this page the names as well as their richest and most prestigious horse racing events.

 

Horse racing in the West by continent

 

While the industry sees the fast-rising culture of horse racing in Asia, most horse racing beginners often begin with Great Britain’s Royal Ascot, the U.S.’ Kentucky Derby, and/or France’s Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and for good reason. These are the grand leagues that have a strong global stage presence, which have become the standard that every other race follows.

 

Europe

  • Great Britain

 

Horse racing is one of Great Britain’s longest established sports and today’s second-largest spectator sport. With a history that dates back to many centuries, it's an enduring attraction and tradition where the most prestigious races are often viewed as festivals. Its two main racing forms are flat racing and National Hunt racing.

 

If you have heard or read about the horse racing culture in Asia, you would understand the important role of Great Britain. The colonial era paved the way for this superpower nation to spread the sport’s format, establish institutions, jockey clubs, and betting systems. 

 

Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, and India are some of the examples of Britain’s influence. Most of their events were created as equivalent to the country’s major horse races, which are as follows:

 

  • English Triple Crown 

 

Triple Crown is a series of three G1 (grade 1) classic and renowned flat races for three-year-old Thoroughbreds. Winning all of them in one calendar year is the highest achievement in the field of Thoroughbred racing, and only a few racehorses in the world have managed to do so.

 

This series and winning term started in the mid-19th century in Great Britain and the U.S. Other countries where the sport is legalised and popular followed thereafter. As for England, its three legs are the following: 

 

  1. 2,000 Guineas Stakes: Contenders run over 1,609 metres at Newmarket Racecourse. It takes place either in late April or early May.
  2. Epsom Derby: Racehorses compete over a distance of 2,423 metres at Epsom Downs Racecourse. It occurs on the first Saturday of June.
  3. St. Leger Stakes: Racehorses run at Town Moor over a distance of 2,937 metres. It is scheduled to transpire in September.

 

  • Royal Ascot

 

While the richest horse race is in the U.S. and Dubai, Britain’s Royal Ascot is arguably the most famous, valuable, and elegant race meeting. It annually takes place in June at Ascot Racecourse. Members of the royal family, social elites, and celebrities arrive in their most extravagant and fashionable outfits. It’s a celebration of the sport’s grandeur, royal tradition, and fashion.

 

Aside from the luxurious set-up, the event also attracts many of the world’s finest and talented racehorses to compete across five days for a purse worth millions of pounds. In 2019, it reached over £7.3 million. 

 

  • Grand National

 

An event that collectively includes steeplechases and hurdle races is called National Hunt racing in the U.K., France, and Ireland. At the pinnacle of this type of racing is the Grand National. It’s a handicap steeplechase where seven-year-old and above racehorses compete over a distance of 6,907 km at the left-handed turf track of Aintree Racecourse. While the richest steeplechase is Japan’s Nakayama Grand Jump, Britain’s Grand National holds the status as the world’s most valuable and top-flight jump race. 

 

  • Ireland

 

Each country plays a significant role in the horse racing sector, and Ireland takes pride as one of the strongest producers and trainers of Thoroughbred horses in the world. With this fact alone, it should come as no surprise that it also bears some of the most competitive horse racing events.

 

Ireland’s types of horse racing are flat racing, National Hunt racing, and a few events for harness racing and endurance racing. Below are some of its notable events.

 

  • Irish Triple Crown

 

Ireland’s Triple Crown series is heavily modelled after the English Triple Crown. The only major difference is that the third leg — Irish St. Leger — is open to older horses. All of them are held yearly at the Curragh Racecourse.

 

  1. Irish 2,000 Guineas: Thoroughbred colts and fillies run over 1,609 metres every year in May.
  2. Irish Derby: Contenders compete over a distance of 2,414 metres each year, either in late June or early July.
  3. Irish St. Leger: As mentioned above, this race is open to three-year-old and above Thoroughbreds that run over a distance of 2,816 metres every year in September.

 

  • Irish Grand National

 

Like the Triple Crown, the Irish Grand National is the equivalent of Britain’s Grand National. It is a Grade-A handicap race for Thoroughbreds aged five years old and above over a distance of 5,834 metres. It takes place on Easter Monday at Fairyhouse Racecourse in County Meath.

 

  • Italy

 

Horse racing is a proud heritage sport in Italy. Most of its flat horse races fall under G2 and G3, even including the three legs for the Italian Triple Crown series.

 

  • Italian Triple Crown

 

Two of the three races are held at Capannelle Racecourse in Rome, whereas the third is at San Siro Racecourse in Milano.

 

  1. Premio Parioli: It is a G3 flat horse race only for three-year-old Thoroughbred colts. They compete over a distance of 1,600 metres at Capannelle in April.
  2. Derby Italiano: It is a G2 flat horse race open to both three-year-old Thoroughbred colts and fillies, where they run over 2,200 metres also at Capannelle in May.
  3. St. Leger Italiano: It is another G3 flat horse race, but it is now open for three-year-old and above Thoroughbreds. They run over a distance of 2,800 metres at San Siro in October.

 

  • Palio di Siena

 

Like in Great Britain, the sport is a thriving cultural activity where horse racing events are celebrated as grand festivals. Experience the audible roar of the crowd and witness the talented racehorses that traverse the steep corners of the racetrack in Palio di Siena. It is the biggest, most spectacular and much-awaited event in the country’s horse racing calendar.

 

Also locally called Il Palio, the affair is held twice a year, one on July 2 and the other on August 16. Another special fact to note, the track itself is very distinct. Racehorses don’t run either on turf or dirt track. Instead, they circle the Piazza del Campo over a thick layer of earth for three laps. 

 

  • France

 

France is the home to some of the richest racing events and the most numerous races and racecourses in Europe. There are about 7,000 gallop races held every year, covering flat racing and jump racing. The latter includes disciplines such as hurdles, steeplechase, and cross-country. Its venues, on the other hand, reach more than 155 racecourses and another 100 just reserved for harness racing.

 

  • French Triple Crown 

 

The French Triple Crown is the closest series of races whose qualifications are slightly similar to the English Triple Crown. The three G1 legs are as follows:

 

  1. Poule d'Essai des Poulains: This G1 flat horse race is the only leg in the series where it is only open to three-year-old Thoroughbred colts. They run over a distance of 1,600 metres at Longchamp in May.
  2. Prix du Jockey Club: It is the French equivalent of Epsom Derby. Three-year-old Thoroughbred colts and fillies run over a distance of 2,100 metres at Chantilly Racecourse in early June.
  3. Grand Prix de Paris: The third leg, which takes place in July, is also held at Longchamp Racecourse. Three-year-old Thoroughbred colts and fillies compete over a distance of 2,400 metres.

 

  • Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

 

Founded in 1920, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has quickly established itself as Europe’s richest and most prestigious all-aged horse race. Contenders (except for geldings) race over a distance of 2,400 metres at the right-handed turf track of Longchamp Racecourse. It commonly takes place on the first Sunday of October.

 

The event’s enduring status attracts many of the world’s highly trained Thoroughbreds, talented jockeys, rich sponsors and wealthy bettors.

 

North America

  • United States

 

Great Britain may have started the horse racing that we know today, but it’s a different sporting industry in the U.S. It’s a beast like none other, for it encompasses several types of points of pride. It is the home to one of the world’s richest horse races, best jockeys, number of racecourses and attendees, and leading Thoroughbred exporters.

 

  • United States Triple Crown

 

Along with Great Britain, the honourable winning term also began in the U.S. In fact, its three prestigious races had existed long before the media popularised the name. Below are the races included in the series.

  1. Kentucky Derby: Not only is it the first race of the series, but it has also become the distinct image to represent the horse racing culture of the U.S. It’s a classic and prestigious affair that continues to attract world champion racehorses, trainers, and jockeys. Contenders run over a distance of 1 1/4 miles (about 2,011 metres) at the very popular Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Sunday of May.
  2. Preakness Stakes: The second leg, which is also termed ‘the Middle Jewel’, is held on the first Saturday of May at the left-handed dirt track of Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Its distance is 1 3/16 miles (about 1,911 metres).
  3. Belmont Stakes: The third race is nicknamed ‘the Third Jewel’ and ‘the Test of the Champion’ for having the longest distance in the series, which is 1 1/2 miles (about 2,414). It is held at Belmont Park in New York either on the first or second Saturday of June — just three weeks after the Preakness Stakes.

 

  • Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes

 

Along with The Everest and Dubai World Cup, the Pegasus World Cup is one of the world’s richest stakes races. It had a purse of US$12 million for its inaugural running in 2017. The event is open to four-year-old and above Thoroughbreds. They compete at a distance of 1 1/8 miles (about 1,810 metres) at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, which explains the event’s name.

 

  • Breeders’ Cup Classic

 

The series of races don’t just stop with the Triple Crown. Under the management of Breeders’ Cup Limited, the U.S. has the Breeders' Cup World Championships. It is a two-day series of G1 Thoroughbred horse races — another ideal event for horse racing beginners to learn all about the sport. 

 

The last event, which is also often cited as the unofficial fourth leg of the Triple Crown, is the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It’s a G1 WFA (Weight for Age) race for three-year-old and above Thoroughbreds that run over a distance of 1 1/4 miles (about 2,011 metres) on dirt. It doesn’t have a permanent racecourse because it is held in different venues as per the rule of the company. However, it is often scheduled either in late October or early November.