Only football is a bigger spectator sport in the United Kingdom than horse racing and this popularity goes back hundreds of years. Horse racing has thousands of events a year, and while some are less popular, some of the events in this article are as popular as Wimbledon or the British Grand Prix. It is not just in the UK that there are huge racing events as we will see.
The Grand National
This could not be an adequate list without the Grand National on it. It is commonly regarded as the highlight of the British racing calendar and with prize money of one million pounds, it is certainly the most well rewarded.
Taking place in Aintree once a year since all the way back in 1839, the Grand National is a handicap steeplechase. It stands out thanks to how difficult it is on account of the obstacles. The fences are bigger than any other race of its type which only adds to the excitement. Millions and millions of pounds are bet on the event every year and it is easy to see why it is so popular.
Canceled this year because of the global pandemic, the Cheltenham Festival was instead simulated, and it still generated an impressive number of bets with many bookmakers giving free bet offers. This is a testament to its reputation as the Cheltenham Festival hosts some of the biggest races in horse racing.
Almost all of the races are Grade 1 like the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It is one of the more family-friendly festivals and there are over four million pounds up for grabs in prizes, concretizing its place in this article.
Something else that makes the Cheltenham Festival stand out is the crowd. The noise from the crowd is so loud for the beginning of the first race, it has even been given its own name: the Cheltenham Roar.
Royal Ascot is not just a display of some of the UK’s best races and horses, it is also a display of high English culture. Fine dining is of course provided and the festival is attended by some of the biggest celebrities in the world because of how much an experience this festival is.
The festival also lives up to its name, as since she was coronated, the Queen has gone to every Royal Ascot. She arrives in a horse-drawn carriage and her outfits, as well as the celebrities, are often scrutinized in the tabloids.
The three hundred thousand spectators that go to Ascot get to also see some of the very best British racing. The Gold Cup, the Commonwealth Cup, and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes are just some of the races organized over the five-day period, and it is clear to see why it is every horse racing fan’s dream to be subjected to the full Royal Ascot experience.
The Irish Derby
Leaving the UK, one of the world’s biggest racing events is just over the sea, the Irish Derby. Ongoing since 1946, it is over a distance of one mile and four furlongs and is also a group 1 race. It attracts horses from all over Europe and sometimes even overseas. The Irish Derby is perhaps the biggest flat race in all of the racing calendar and strongly deserves its position on this list.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
With prize money of five million euros, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe could not be omitted from this list. It is the most valuable of all European races and started one hundred years ago in 1920. Held in Paris at Longchamp, it is possibly the most anticipated of all races in Europe, showcasing the very best of horse racing. Frankie Dettori, an absolute horse racing legend has won three editions since 2015, winning almost three million euros of the prize money.
Nicknamed the “Most exciting two minutes in sports”, the Kentucky Derby has quite a reputation that it manages to live up to. Taking place in the United States, it has a three million dollar prize pool, with almost two million going to the winner. It is a race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds and few races are as exciting as this one.
It is the most attended race in all of North America, with Queen Elizabeth II going to watch it in 2007. Over 200 million dollars are wagered on it every time and it even has a traditional drink: the mint julep. It consists of bourbon, mint, sugar syrup and ice and almost all spectators have it.