United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States
The UK, Australia, and the United States offer some of the most historic, celebrated, and lucrative horse races on the planet. So it’s no surprise we start our tour with the so-called Big Three.
The festive hats. The delicious mint juleps. Celebrities everywhere you look. That’s right, it’s time for My Old Kentucky Home. In the United States, the Kentucky Derby is synonymous with horse racing. And that’s not a surprise, considering it’s one of the most famous races anywhere. In fact, many would argue that it’s the number 1 racing event on the planet. Its popularity ensures that fans can stream the yearly edition online quite easily.
But no matter which celebrity the Kentucky Derby attracts, you can’t beat the Queen. And at Ascot in the UK, the Royal Family is a mainstay of the race that just oozes tradition. The dress code is thoroughly royal, with everyone in attendance expected to don the proper attire (think your best suit, rather than shorts and a t-shirt!).
And let’s not forget Down Under. In Australia, racing is so popular that Melbourne Cup day is a national holiday. It offers over $6 million in prize money, and is without a doubt the most popular race in the country. It’s so big that its tagline is “the race that stops the nation”.
We’ve covered the “Big Three”: the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. But claiming horse racing is limited to these three countries alone would be doing a huge disservice to Asia, home to some of the most popular races on the planet.
Japan, for example, boasts an incredible 21,000 horse races per year. While the first race in European format wasn’t held until 1862, racing has been popular for centuries. The Japan Cup is a worldwide event, with people tuning in from all over.
And how about Hong Kong? The Hong Kong Jockey Club was founded way back in 1884, which means horse racing is deeply embedded in the local culture. Originally confined to the elite, it’s now a mainstream sport that generates millions in revenue. Happy Valley and Sha Tin are both world-class tracks in their own right, with the atmosphere in each akin to a football World Cup match (locals take the sport very seriously!).
Perhaps surprising to the casual fan, but not to the true connoisseur: horse racing is incredibly popular in Africa, and hosts some of the most popular racing events around.
Mauritius, for example, is home to the Mauritius Turf Club, the oldest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere (and only the second-oldest overall!). Champ de Mars Racecourse, host to a thoroughbred race in Port Louis, harks back to 1812. Crowd numbers easily reach 20,000 for your average event day. For Mauritians, it’s not football, but racing that takes the crown as the most popular sport.
Coverage of horse racing in Africa wouldn’t be complete with a mention of South Africa. The country has enjoyed official races since 1797, and hasn’t looked back since. The Durban July Handicap is the country’s most celebrated event, with the first race harking back to 1897. While the purse, sitting at almost $300,000 USD, can’t match some of the others mentioned so far, it’s nevertheless one of the world’s most historic thoroughbred horse races.
We’ve given you just a small taste of what’s out there for horse racing fans. There’s so much more than what we’ve mentioned here. The Dubai World Cup. The Cheltenham Festival. The Palio Di Siena. We know, we know. We’ve missed out some good ones. But it just goes to show just how big horse racing is, and just how much people enjoy it. So either go out there and visit one in person (our preferred method), or do the next best thing: grab a cold beverage, your favorite snack, relax, and enjoy one in front of your screens!