The Biggest Horse Races in the World

A close-up of Earth from space with clear views of the continents, set against a dark, starry background. Next to it, a group of horses with jockeys in colorful outfits are racing on a track, showing a burst of action on our calm planet.

This article will discuss horse racing worldwide and peek at other countries that place it at the top of their sporting calendar.

Knowledge of the first horse race is lost somewhere back in time. However, it is well documented that horse racing was held in the Olympic Games of Greece in 700-40 BC. Horse racing, both of chariots and of mounted riders, was a significant form of entertainment in the Roman and Greek dynasties.

Horse racing has opened the doors for racegoers to make money and wager while providing great entertainment. Races were held in great royal stadiums or other large venues, attracting great crowds. 

American Horse Racing

Organised racing in North America resurrected itself with the British occupation of New Amsterdam (now New York City) in 1664. Whilst stationed, Colonel Richard Nicolls designed a 2-mile course on the plains of Long Island. By 1890, 314 tracks were operating in the United States, and in 1894, the American Jockey Club was formed. 

The excitement and the entertainment brought to the American racegoers are nothing short of high-octane fun and joy. The Kentucky Derby is the biggest horse racing event in the United States. More than 150,000 attended the 2023 event in person, and it is estimated over $280 million was bet on the event. Passed winners of the Kentucky Derby:

  • Mage, the 2023 Kentucky Derby winner
  • Rich Strike, the 2022 Kentucky Derby winner
  • Mandaloun, the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner
  • Authentic,  2020 Kentucky Derby winner
  • Country House, 2019 Kentucky Derby winner

Notable Horse Races in the United States   

  • Preakness stakes
  • Belmont Stakes
  • Breeder’s Cup
  • Travers Stakes
  • Arlington Millions

Australian Horse Racing

The first horses to Australia arrived on the Lady Penrhyn with the first fleet in 1788 and thus began horse racing. Horse racing was well established in 1810 in Sydney. Governor Macquarie’s 73rd regiment officers organised the first original race and held it in Hyde Park.  

Thoroughbred racing is the third most popular sport in Australia, and boats of the world’s most famous jockeys and horses. With the attraction of hundreds and thousands of Australians flocking to the races, it also brings people together and promises an exhilarating experience. Furthermore, Australian racing has created thousands of jobs and enhanced the economy.   

Australia’s most famous horserace is the Melbourne Cup, an annual horse race first held in 1861 and considered the most important and prestigious in the world. The previous winners of the Melbourne Cup are:

  • 2023 Melbourne Cup winner: Without a fight
  • 2022 Melbourne Cup winner: Gold Trip
  • 2021 Melbourne Cup winner: Very Elegant
  • 2020 Melbourne Cup winner: Twilight Payment
  • 2019 Melbourne Cup winner: Vow and Declare

Notable Horse Races in Australia

Horse racing is one of the most popular sports in Australia; as already mentioned, the Melbourne Cup takes precedence every year, and it has become one of the most popular and well-known horse races worldwide. We have listed other notable horse racing events that Australians love to flock to:

  • W.S Cox Plate
  • Caulfield Cup
  • The Golden Slipper Stakes
  • Queen Elizabeth Stakes
  • Victoria Derby

French Horse Racing

In France, the first recorded horse race was held in 1651, the result of a wager between two noblemen. During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), racing was very prevalent, as was gambling associated with horse racing.

French horse racing is steeped in history and brimming with magnificent equestrian excellence; like with all countries associated with horse racing, the industry intrigues and compels a global audience with its fascination with the gladiatorial efforts of those magnificent horses. French horse racing is not merely a sport but an integral part of French culture and heritage. It is a fantastic spectacle that takes centre stage, especially in prestigious events. If you combine a touch of world-renowned horse breeds and the allure of horse breeding to add the tapestry of French culture, horse racing becomes much more vibrant and attractive.  

In France, there are several prestigious horse races. The Prix de I’ Arc de Triomphe is their most famous horse race. Previous winners of this iconic race are:

  • Ace Impact 2023
  • Alpinista 20222
  • Torquator Tasso 2021
  • Sottsass 2020
  • Enable 2017/2018

Notable Horse Races in France

When it comes to the most prestigious horse racing in France, there are a few that come to the fore; we have listed a number of those iconic horse racing events;

  • Prix de Diane
  • Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris
  • St LedgerStakes
  • Grand Prix de Paris
  • Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud 

Hong Kong Horse Racing

The British initially brought horse racing to Hong Kong in 1845. The first race course, Happy Valley, was opened in 1845. From that moment on, horse Racing in Hong Kong became and grew into a glorious sport, making it a fun and social event for families and friends.

As you can imagine, Hong Kong’s horse racing events have a carnival-like atmosphere; spectators from all backgrounds and all walks of life mingle to cheer for their local heroes. 

Presently, horse racing is by far the most popular sport in Hong Kong; it is said in the 2018/19 season, the city’s leading two racecourses, (Happy Valley and Sha Tin, had an attendance of 2.21 million and saw an incredible HKD$124.8 billion worth of bets made.

As in most countries, they have their most famous horse races; in Hong Kong, they are no different. Their most famous horse race is The Hong Kong Cup, the world’s richest turf race over 2000 meters, with a total purse of HKD$34 million in 2022. Past winners of the Hong Kong Cup are as follows: 

  • Golden Sixty (2021/2023)
  • Exultant (2019)
  • Time Warp (2018/2020)
  • Werther (2017)
  • Designs On Rome (2015/2016)   

Notable Horse Races in Hong Kong

We have listed several other special horse racing events in Hong Kong:

  • Hong Kong Mile
  • Hong Kong Vase
  • Hong Kong Sprint

Dubai Horse Racing

Horse racing in Dubai was established in 1992, and the first race held under rules was featured in March 1992 at the Nad AI Sheba Racecourse. The Dubai World Cup is the year’s highlight in the sporting and social calendar, attracting all the best horses and riders from all over the globe.

It was back in 1981 that the city held its first thoroughbred meeting on a track initially used for camel racing. Three races were held in various lengths under the watchful eye of Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid AI Maktoum. This phenomenon laid the foundations for future events. However, it wasn’t for another decade before horse racing took a more serious and structured form.

The power, elegance, speed and grace of horses can not be denied; over the globe, millions upon millions of spectators watch these incredible animals perform and do extraordinary things. This was the attraction of Sheikh Mohammed; he was captivated by the sheer power of the horses, and he used to compete in bareback races with his associates and friends. The love of all things equestrian in Dubai was the catalyst that made horses and horse racing so popular today.

The annual Dubai World Cup takes place at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. The race is considered one of the most prestigious horse races in the world, with a prize pool of over $35 million, making it the world’s richest horse race. Past winners of the Dubai World Cup are:

  • Ushba Tesoro 2023
  • Country Ggramme 2022
  • Mystic Guide 2021
  • Thunder Snow 2019
  • Thunder Snow 2018

Notable Horse Races in Dubai

Other notable horse racing events in Dubai include:

  • Dubai Sheema Classic
  • Dubai Turf
  • Jebel Hatta


Horseracing worldwide is undoubtedly one of the most excellent sports to unite millions. It is rich in history, dating back to ancient times. The sport has evolved over centuries and is now enjoyed by millions of people around the globe. One thing is for sure, however: horse racing is more popular in some countries than others. While horse racing is enjoyed in many countries, it is apparent that it brings a lot of stability and social standing and is a massive creator of many jobs within the industry. 
For more information on the history of horse racing, including how it has evolved, check out our dedicated article. Protection Status
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