Skip to Content

10 Most Famous Horse Races in the World

10 Most Famous Horse Races in the World

This post may contain affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases. Learn More

For hundreds of years, horse racing has been an exhilarating sport that has only grown in popularity. If you are a fan of horse racing, you will want to know the most famous horse races in the world.

These high-profile horse races all have rich histories, attracting thousands of spectators each year. Not only do they showcase some of the best racehorses in the world, but they are also esteemed social events full of glamour. These legendary races attract betting from all around the globe and have some seriously impressive prize money.

1. Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby occurs on the first Saturday of every May. This prestigious race takes place at the gorgeous Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky.

The race first began in 1875 and has been held every year since. It is full of rich traditions including refreshing Mint Juleps and the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home”. Ladies wear their most elegant attire paired with elaborate hats that are custom to the race’s history.

The Kentucky Derby is 1 ¼ miles long and takes place on a dirt track. The race is often referred to as “The Run for the Roses” as a stunning rose blanket is draped across the winner. It is the first leg of the coveted Triple Crown.

The prize purse for the Kentucky Derby is a whopping $3 million. It is the most-watched horse race in America and thousands of people flock to Churchill Downs every year to see it in person.

2. Preakness Stakes

The Preakness Stakes occurs on the third Saturday of every May. The race takes place at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland.

The first running of the Preakness Stakes took place in 1873. The race has been nicknamed “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” as a blanket made from Maryland’s state flower is placed across the winner’s back. Traditionally, the United States Naval Academy Glee Club performs at the race.

The Preakness Stakes is 1 3/16 miles long and takes place on a dirt course. It is the second race of the Triple Crown.

The prize purse for the Preakness Stakes is $1 million. It is the second most attended race in the United States behind the Kentucky Derby. As soon as a Preakness winner is declared, the famous weathervane at the race track is painted the winner’s colors.

3. Belmont Stakes

Two horses racing in the Belmont Stakes horse race
Photo by Mike Lizzi

The historic Belmont Stakes occurs on the first or second Saturday of June. The race takes place at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

The first Belmont Stakes took place in 1867. The race is known as the “The Test of the Champion” as it is the last and longest race in the Triple Crown. In addition, the race is also affectionately known as the “The Run for the Carnations” since beautiful white carnations are draped over the winner’s back.

The Belmont Stakes is 1 ½ miles long and takes place on a dirt track. It is a true test of stamina and speed. It has become one of the most exciting races in America, especially when there is a Triple Crown contender.

The Belmont Stakes has a prize purse of $1.5 million. Thirteen horses have gone on to become Triple Crown champions after winning this exhilarating race.

4. Breeders’ Cup

The Breeders’ Cup World Championship is a series of Grade I Thoroughbred horse races. The races span across two days in fall, often taking place in November.

The first Breeders’ Cup took place in 1984 at Hollywood Park in California. Organizers deem it as the “world championships” of Thoroughbred racing. Every year it takes place at a different location in the United States.

All horses must receive a nomination in order to compete at the Breeders’ Cup. All horses must be selected to start or win a designated “Win and You’re In” race. During the span of two days, fourteen races take place.

The Breeders’ Cup awards a total of $25.5 million in prize money every year. It is a fashion-forward event that often attracts large crowds.

5. Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup takes place on the first Tuesday in November and is Australia’s most famous horse race. The race takes place at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne and is a part of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

The first Melbourne Cup took place in 1861. The carnival brings in thousands of spectators, including a large international crowd. It is custom to attend the event in celebratory hats. There is also a competition, the Fashions on the Field, for the best-dressed man and woman.

The Melbourne Cup is two miles long, proving to be a challenging race as horses must exhibit speed and stamina. The race takes place on a turf track and is run counter-clockwise. The winner receives a stunning trophy made from 1.65 kg of 18-carat gold.

The prize purse for the Melbourne Cup is an incredible $8 million. The race is such a big deal that it is a public holiday within metropolitan Melbourne, along with some parts of regional Victoria as well.

6. Dubai World Cup

The Dubai World Cup traditionally occurs on the last Saturday in March. The race takes place at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Compared to other famous horse races, the Dubai World Cup is relatively new as it first began in 1996. Not only can you watch the race from the new Meydan Racecourse, but you can also view it from the extravagant Meydan Hotel.

The Dubai World Cup is 2,000 meters long and takes place on a dirt track. It is the last race of the Dubai World Cup Carnival.

The Dubai World Cup is the richest horse race in the world with an extravagant prize purse of $12 million. The incredible races attract spectators and competitors from all around the world.

7. Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe

Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe horse racing track

The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe traditionally takes place on the first Sunday of October. The glamorous race happens at the beautiful Longchamp Racecourse in Paris, France.

The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, affectionately called the Arc, first took place in 1920. It is one of Europe’s largest races and attracts spectators from all over the world. The race is a glamorous event, with elegant fashion, jazz music, champagne, and other luxuries.

The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe is 1 ½ miles long and takes place on a turf track. Throughout the weekend, a total of 17 races take place at the event.

The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe has a prize purse of $5.6 million. It has the largest prize fund in Europe and is Europe’s most prestigious all-aged horse race, as it is open to horses three and over.

8. Grand National

The Grand National horse race at Aintree race track in Liverpool, England

The Grand National happens every year in early April. The historic race takes place at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England.

The first Grand National occurred in 1839. The prestigious race is part of a three-day festival that includes other races as well. People from all over flock to watch the race, which features top-notch hospitality and elegant fashion.

The Grand National is a steeplechase that takes place on a turf track that is just over four miles. Throughout the race, there are 16 jumps, 14 of which are jumped twice. This challenging race is demanding for both horse and rider.

The Grand National features over $1 million in prize money. It is one of the richest steeplechases in the world and a prominent event in the United Kingdom.

9. Royal Ascot

Queen Elizabeth arriving at the Royal Ascot horse race
The Queen arriving. Photo by Steve Fareham

The prestigious Royal Ascot occurs every June over a span of five days. The festival takes place at Ascot Racecourse in Ascot, England.

The Royal Ascot has a long, rich history, as it first began as a tradition in 1711, with the first meeting in 1768. Every year, members of the Royal family attend, including the Queen. There are four enclosures at the racetrack, the Royal Enclosure, Queen Anne Enclosure, Village Enclosure, and Windsor Enclosure. All of them but the Royal Enclosure, which has strict access, are open to the public. The festival is a posh event, featuring high-end fashion, fine dining, scones, tea, champagne, and also other luxuries.

Over the course of the five days, there are multiple races that take place, including eight G1 races. The races take place on a turf track, which the Queen rides in on a carriage.

The Royal Ascot has over $10 million in prize money. It is Britain’s richest and also most popular horse racing event.

10. Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival takes place across the span of four days every March. The festival happens at Cheltenham Racecourse in England.

The Cheltenham Festival first began in 1860. It has long attracted many of Britain and Ireland’s top steeplechase racehorses. The festival is famous for its hospitality and the “Cheltenham roar” as the crowd gets loud as the starter raises the tape for the first race.

Many consider the Cheltenham Festival to be the most prestigious event in the National Hunt racing calendar. During the four days, there are 28 races that take place, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The Cheltenham Festival offers more than $6 million in prize money. Full of excitement and entertainment, it attracts spectators from all over.