Horse racing has always been associated with big money.  Whether it’s the wagers placed by racegoers, the purses won by the horses and jockeys, or the sums spent at bloodstock auctions, horse racing is a sizeable business.

What are the most popular races in the world and which are the richest?

This year, the Epsom Derby had a purse of £1.625 million ($2.2 million in U. S. dollars), making it the richest race in British history.  While it’s logical to think that the most popular race in the ancestral home of horse racing would have the largest purse anywhere, it doesn’t.  The Derby is so anticipated that BetStars has already posted odds of 5/1 for next year’s favorite Saxon Warrior, and the race is over six months away.

The Kentucky Derby is nearly a century younger than the Epsom Derby but is certainly one of the most followed races on the planet.  Known as “the fastest two minutes in sports” and “the most exciting two minutes in sport,” the Derby has a purse of $2 million, which puts it slightly less than the Epsom Derby in terms of prize money.  And the money wagered on this race is huge; all-sources wagers totaled $139.2 million in 2017.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic was, for a time, the richest horse race in North America.  First held in 1984, the Breeders’ Cup event (with 13 races in 2017) moves around to a handful of racetracks in the United States, and the 1996 edition took place across the border in Toronto, Canada.  The purse for the Breeders’ Cup Classic is currently $6 million, and it’s one of the most coveted races on the racing calendar, with the winner often being crowned U. S. Horse of the Year.  Even with such a large purse, the race does not have the tradition and cachet of the Kentucky Derby.

The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France offers a purse equivalent to $5.5 million.  Contested on the Longchamp Racecourse, the Arc is one of Europe’s oldest and most distinguished races.  Previously at $2 million, the purse was in the same ballpark as the Epsom and Kentucky Derbies until the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club elevated the purse via sponsorship and made the Arc the richest race in the world run on grass.

The Dubai World Cup, held in March at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, has a purse almost double that of the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe and, until 2017, was the richest race in all of horse racing.  The guaranteed purse is $10 million.  Even though it’s not the most historic of races (the first running was in 1996), like most things in Dubai, it’s all about the money: “A dirt race for a king’s ransom” is how one commentator described it.

The accolade of “world’s richest race” goes to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, which in its inaugural year of 2017 offered a purse of $12 million.  It’s another dirt race but held on American soil at Gulfstream Park in south Florida.  This nine-furlong race was such a success that the organizers have already announced that the 2018 installment will have a guaranteed purse of $16 million.

The advent of super-rich races has greatly expanded the opportunity for a horse to have a short-lived career on the racetrack and still retire with astronomical earnings.  Arrogate did not start in his maiden race until April of his 3-year-old year and only ran in 11 races in total until he was retired as a 4-year-old.  Yet he amassed record-setting earnings of $17.42 million.  Of this amount, an incredible $16.8 million was earned by winning the three most lucrative races: the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, the Dubai World Cup, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business