Major Horse Racing Events
Races, Meets and Carnivals
Several horse racing events draw the attention of more and more people every year. These spectacular events are usually group 1 Thoroughbred races open to racing horses that are 3 years of age or older.
Top American horse racing events are visited each year by tens of thousands of spectators and watched by millions. The hype for these events starts months in advance with advanced ticket sales, booking accommodations and getting all of the pre horse racing information available including all of the past horse racing results for the competitors in the races.
Kentucky Derby – The first leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing is America’s most attended horse racing event. Said to be “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”. The Kentucky derby is the pinnacle of horse racing and is run the first Saturday in May.
Kentucky Oaks – The $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks is a premiere race for Thoroughbred three-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs, the female counterpart to the Kentucky Derby. The 1 1/8-mile event is offered the Friday before the Kentucky Derby, which takes place on the first Saturday in May every year.
Preakness Stakes – Run the third Saturday in May the Preakness Stakes is the second leg of the Triple Crown. Held at Pimlico Race Course, the second oldest US horse racing track only behind Saratoga Race Track.
Belmont Stakes – The third and final leg of the Triple Crown held 3 weeks after the Preakness Stakes. The Belmont Stakes is run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. It is a 1.5 mile race course open to 3 year old Thoroughbreds. Traditionally called “The Test of Champions” as it is a longer track and often tests the durability of the top race horses.
Breeders’ Cup – A series of predominately Grade 1 races and designed to be a year-end championship of the top race horses. The Breeders’ Cup is fourth largest attendance draw of all major horse racing events only behind The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes and The Belmont Stakes. Held at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles, California and run in November.
Pegasus World Cup Invitaional – The Pegasus World Cup has become the world’s most lucrative Thoroughbred horse races. The grade I race features a field of 12 contenders for a buy-in of $1 million per starter.
Live Racing Events and Big Race Days
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Top 27 Richest Horse Races in the United States
The 2017 addition of the $12 Million Pegasus World Cup Invitational made it the richest horse race in the world for a few years. 2018 witnessed an even bigger purse of $16 Million. In 2023, the race is worth $3 for the World Cup.
However, the Breeders’ Cup races are among the richest in America over two days in November, and we’ve added to the list to provide the 27 richest horse races in the United States.
- Breeders’ Cup Classic – $6 Million. The Breeders’ Cup World Championship is the year-end event to crown North American champions. The 1 1/4-mile Classic is also domestic racing’s richest race and the defining event of the international dirt racing season.
- Breeders’ Cup Turf – $4 Million. Some of the top turf talent from around the world race at 1 1/2 miles on the grass.
- Kentucky Derby – $3 Million. The most recognizable race in North America, the 1 1/4-mile Derby is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May for the first leg of the U.S. Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing. RELATED: Kentucky Derby 2022 Purse: How much prize money the winning jockey will earn
- Pegasus World Cup Invitational – $3 Million. Founded by race track operator Frank Stronach of the Stronach Group, Run annually at the end of January over 1 1/8 miles, the Pegasus became the world’s richest race at $12 million when it was first staged at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida on Jan. 28, 2017, and went up to $16 million in 2018. The shareholder concept under which the race was originally run was withdrawn in 2020 in favor of spots being handed out by invitation, with prizemoney reduced to $3 million.
- Breeders’ Cup Distaff – $2 Million. The best female dirt horses in the world race 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
- Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – $2 Million. The equal-richest race for 2-year-olds in North America is run at 1 1/16 miles and is often a preview for some of the stars of the Triple Crown races for the following year.
- Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – $2 Million. The best 2-year-old fillies race for a potential championship in the 1 1/16 mile race.
- Breeders’ Cup Mile – $2 Million. The world’s best grass milers compete inthis race around two turns on the turf.
- Breeders’ Cup Sprint – $2 Million. The world’s fastest Thoroughbreds compete in the Sprint, reaching a speed of nearly 40 miles per hour in the stretch of the 3/4-mile race.
- Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf – $2 Million. The world’s best female grass horses compete in this race, usually at a distance of around 1 1/8 miles.
- Preakness Stakes – $1.65 Million. The second leg of the Triple Crown for 3-year-olds, run at 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. RELATED: How much does the winning Preakness Stakes jockey earn?
- Belmont Stakes – $1.5 Million. The ‘Test of the Champion’ is the oldest of the Triple Crown races. First staged in 1867, it is contested at 1 1/2 miles for 3-year-olds over the Belmont Park main track in Elmont, NY.
- Travers Stakes – $1.25 Million. The summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course includes more than 65 stakes races. The 1 1/4-mile Travers, for 3-year-olds at the end of August, is the most prized race at Saratoga and the oldest Thoroughbred horse race in the U.S.
- Kentucky Oaks – $1.25 million. North America’s richest race exclusively for 3-year-old fillies is staged over 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs the day before the Kentucky Derby.
- Arkansas Derby – $1.25 Million. The most valuable Kentucky Derby prep race, run at 1 1/8 miles in April at Oaklawn Park, Arkansas. Four other races that form part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series are worth $1 million: the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March over 1 1/16 miles, and three 1 1/8-mile races: the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Louisiana in March; the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida in April; and the Blue Grass Stakes in April at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky.
- The remaining Breeders’ Cup races not listed above are all for a $1 Million purse – Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (5 1/2 furlongs), Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (7 furlongs), Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (1 mile), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (1 mile), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (1 mile), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (5 1/2 furlongs).
- Metropolitan Handicap – $1 million. Known commonly as the Met Mile, this historic race over one mile at Belmont Park is one of the highlights of theBelmont Stakes weekend in early June. The winner earnsa spot in the
- Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile through the BC Challenge Series.
- The Whitney Stakes – $1 Million. The Grade I Whitney is contested at 1 1/8 miles during the Saratoga Summer Meet in in August. The winner qualifies for a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic through the BC Challenge Series.
- Pacific Classic – $1 Million. The Grade I race at 1 1/4 miles is the highlight of the Del Mar summer meet in California. It is a Breeder’s Cup Challenge Series qualifying race in which the winner gains entry to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
- Jockey Club Gold Cup – $1 million. Historically the most important season-ending race for 3-year-olds and up until it was overtaken by the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Held over two miles from 1921, it was reduced to 1 1/2 miles in 1976 and to 1 1/4 miles in 1990. Moved from Belmont in October to early September in Saratoga in 2021. The winner earns a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic as part of the BC Challenge Series.
- Apple Blossom Handicap – $1 million. The richest race exclusively for fillies and mares aged four and over on dirt. Raced over 1 1/16 miles, it is held at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas in late April.
- Cotillion Stakes – $1 million. The richest race for 3-year-old fillies outside the Kentucky Oaks, this contest at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania in Septemberis also the only Grade I race on dirt over the Classic distance of 1 1/4 miles for fillies.
- The Haskell Invitational – $1 Million. The Grade I race at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, New Jersey attracts come of the best 3-year-olds in training the end of July. The 1 1/8 mile event is also a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race with the winner earning a fees-paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
- Pennsylvania Derby – $1 million. The final major dirt race for 3-year-old classic horses is staged at Parx Racing in September. Run over 1 1/8 miles, it has become an important lead-up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
- New York Turf Trinity: The New York Racing Association in 2019 launched this series for 3-year-old turf horses. Each race is worth $1 million and the distances replicate those for the Triple Crown: they are the Belmont Derby, at Belmont Park in July over 1 1/4 miles; the Saratoga Derby, over 1 3/16 miles at Saratoga in August; and the Jockey Club Derby, over 1 1/2 miles in September at Belmont.
- Churchill Downs Turf Classic – $1 million. The Kentucky Derby is not the only big prize at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. Also on the card is this 1 1/8-mile contest for 4-year-olds and over on the turf course.
- Arlington Million – $1 Million. Previously run at Arlington Park in Illinois, this prestigious summer turf contest moved to Churchill Downs in 2022 and is contested over 1 1/8 miles in August.
The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are held in early November at a selected racetrack in the United States. Some of the most important stakes races in the country became Breeders’ Cup prep races and part of the ‘Win and You’re In’ Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. The Breeders’ Cup event draws the biggest crowds, purses and interest over two days of racing with International race horses also a big part of the competition. A total of 13 races with purses totaling more than $26 Million make it the richest 2 days of racing.
Major Horse Racing Events Around the World
American racing is fascinated with the Triple Crown Races – The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. The lead up to the Derby itself with all the qualifying races and then the 20 horses that often enter the Run for the Roses is one of the biggest and most anticipated racing events of the year. The Breeders’ Cup in November is the greatest 2 days of racing with the best horses in the world. But there are many other major events around the world. Let’s take a look.
- Prix de l’Arc de Trimphe – Paris, France. One of the world’s richest races at 4 Million Euro’s ($4.7 million U.S.) thanks to its affiliation with the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club, the ‘Arc’ is one of Europe’s biggest horse racing events.
- Dubai World Cup – Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The new Meydan Racecourse opened in 2010 and hosts the 2nd richest horse race in the world with a purse of $10 Million U.S.
- The Royal Ascot – Ascot, England. The week-long racing series with 16 group races has been a British tradition since 1711.
- Melbourne Cup – Melbourne, Australia. A tradition dating back to 1861 that is considered by many to be the greatest 3200 meter (2 miles) horse race in the world. It’s also one of the richest at $6.1 Million U.S.
- The Everest – Sydney, Australia. The Everest is the newest horse race in Australia and also the richest turf race in the world with a total of $10 million in prize money. The 1200 meter race (5 furlongs) makes its debut Oct. 14, 2017 at Royal Randwich Racecourse. The richest race horse owners have sold out the event by ponying up $600,000 to secure one of the 12 starting slots. The jewel of the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival is open to both Australian-trained and international horses, and the Everest is expected to become one of the most recognized and revered racing events held anywhere in the world.
- The Grand National – Aintree, England. The National Hunt is a steeplechase horse race that features a pack of horses competing along a 4-mile course studded with 30 fences. The event is spread out over three days.
- Nakayama Grand Jump – Funabashi, Japan. Originated in 1999, Japanese horse-racing enthusiasts eagerly await the annual steeplechase race at the Nakayama Grand Jump. Fans watch the horses deftly navigate the curved dirt and turf track, jumping over obstacles along the way.
Back in the United States, the Triple Crown races for the best 3-year-olds draw major media attraction, fan interest and wagering.
The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are held in early November at selected racetracks across the United States. Some of the most important stakes races in the country became Breeders’ Cup prep races and part of the ‘Win and You’re In’ Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. The Breeders’ Cup event draws the biggest crowds, purses and interest over two days of racing with International race horses also a big part of the competition. A total of 13 races with purses from $1-6 Million totaling more than $26 million in prize money make it the richest 2 days of racing.