The 10 Richest Races in the World

April 14th, 2024

When the Breeders’ Cup began in 1984, the Classic (G1) immediately became the richest race in the world. As of 2022, it’s the richest race in the United States, a status it’s held for all but a few years since its inception. But these days, it’s an international game, with huge prize money involved. So what are the most valuable races in the world?

The top 10 list changes frequently, so much so that the race that topped this list (and the North American list) between 2017 and 2019, the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park, isn’t even in the top 10 anymore.

The list also changes depending on currency fluctuations; with the strength of the U.S. dollar in late 2022, races in the United States or those that set their value in U.S. dollars (such as those in the Middle East on this list) have moved up.

Here, then, is our countdown of the 10 richest races in the world.

T-9. Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe: $5 million (€5 million)

The richest race in Europe by some distance. This 2,400-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) test at Longchamp, in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, on the first Sunday in October has been the most competitive race in Europe since World War II, and frequently comes out on top as the highest quality race around the globe, according to the World Thoroughbred rankings.

T-9. Melbourne Cup: $5 million (A$7,775,000)

For most of its history, this has been the richest race in Australia, until being eclipsed in the past six years. The 3,200-meter (about two-mile) event at Flemington Racecourse is the longest event on this list, and also the only one raced under handicap conditions. It’s such a big cultural event that the city of Melbourne has a public holiday just for this race alone. A huge target for Australian and New Zealand horses for years, it has become much more international in recent years, with winners coming from Ireland, Japan, France, Germany, and Britain since 1993.

T-9. Dubai Turf: $5 million

With the amount of money available for other features at Meydan racecourse in Dubai, it’s easy to forget that this race is one of the most valuable races in the world in its own right. The fact its purse is set in U.S. dollars allows it to squeak into this list this year. The 1,800-meter (about 1 1/8-mile) Dubai Turf (G1) has also been one of the most genuinely international events: winners in its history have come from the U.S., Dubai, France, South Africa, Germany, Australia, Britain, and Japan.

T-7. Japan Cup: $5.9 million (864,000,000 yen)

This and the next entry are a little lower than usual because of the high U.S. dollar. Established in 1981, this 2,400-meter event in late November at Tokyo Racecourse was a great international target in its early years; in its first 25 years, there were winners trained in the United States, Ireland, Britain, France, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and Italy as well as Japan. But the rise of the Japanese Thoroughbred saw the locals dominate and go on an unbroken 16-year winning streak beginning with the triumph of the great Deep Impact in 2006.

T-7. Arima Kinen: $5.9 million (864,000,000 yen)

Japan’s Arima Kinen, run over 2,500 meters (about 1 9/16 miles) at Nakayama Racecourse in Tokyo’s eastern suburbs, is a world leader in many ways. Firstly, 10 of its 16 runners are Japan Racing Association horses chosen by a public vote — a method recently borrowed for the new All-Star Mile in Melbourne. Secondly, it’s the world’s largest betting race, attracting bets in 2021 of around $430 million — dwarfing Western features like the Grand National and the Kentucky Derby (G1). It’s also the end-of-season championship for Japanese horses, playing a big part in deciding Horse of the Year.

T-5. Dubai Sheema Classic: $6 million

The biggest turf feature at Dubai’s Meydan racecourse is the 2,410-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). First raced in 1998, it became a Group 1 race in 2002 and has gradually become one of the world’s great races. It has been successfully targeted by horses from around the world, including South Africa, Hong Kong, Britain, France, Ireland, and Japan. With the largest prize money for a 1 1/2-mile turf race in the world as of late 2022, it should remain a major international target.

T-5. Breeders’ Cup Classic: $6 million

The richest race in the world upon its creation as the centerpiece of the Breeders’ Cup concept in 1984, this 1 1/4-mile test quickly became the ultimate dirt championship race in North America. It has slipped in the rankings of the world’s richest races to overseas upstarts, but it remains North America’s richest and has succeeded in bringing together the best of the three-year-old Classic generation and the older horses. Often the decider for Horse of the Year honors, it has witnessed many stirring contests and remains the end-of-year prize everyone in North America wants.

4. The Golden Eagle: $6.4 million (A$10 million)

Australia has witnessed a huge influx of money available for purses in the past six years, especially in Sydney. Not only have existing races been boosted in value as a result, a number of rich new races have been created, including this 1,500-meter (about 7 1/2-furlong) spring contest for four-year-olds. First raced in 2019 for A$7.5 million, it was increased in value to A$10 million in 2022 — 10% of which is donated to charity. Still ungraded, the fact it clashes with the Melbourne spring carnival means it doesn’t always get the best four-year-olds in Australia, but it still attracts high-class fields.

3. The Everest: $9.6 million (A$15 million)

The biggest of the new races in Australia became the richest race in the world on turf at its inaugural running in 2017. Utilizing the “slot-holder” concept that was originally used for the Pegasus World Cup, this is also the shortest race on the richest top 10 list at just 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) — a distance that Australian Thoroughbreds excel at. It has quickly become the focus of spring racing in Sydney in its mid-October slot and draws huge crowds to Royal Randwick racecourse.

2. Dubai World Cup: $12 million

Created by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai, this became the richest race in the world upon its creation in 1996. As a rich dirt feature over 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), it has from the start been a race that has attracted American participants as well as horses from Dubai, Britain, Japan, and others. Increased in value to $12 million in 2019, this is still a major international target and has been won by great horses such as Cigar, Dubai Millennium, Pleasantly Perfect, California Chrome, and Arrogate.

1. Saudi Cup: $20 million

The richest race in the world is an upstart that’s only been in existence since 2020. The Saudi Cup (G1), raced over 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) on dirt at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, immediately became the richest in the world when set at $20 million on its inaugural running — a purse it has maintained through 2022. As intended, it has attracted horses from around the world, and had winners from the United States and Britain in its first two runnings before the Saudis caused a huge upset by winning with Emblem Road in 2022. With the prize money set again for $20 million in 2023 — $10 million of which goes to the winner — the Saudi Cup is set to remain the richest race in the world for at least another year.