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Famous Horse Races to Bet on in the UK & Beyond

Despite being widely known as a quintessentially British pastime, horse racing is a hugely popular betting market that attracts a great number of punters from all around the globe. Millions of £’s are wagered every year as the top jockeys compete for big-money purses at some of the world’s most prestigious races.

This page will act as a guide to the biggest horse races in the UK and the rest of the world and give you a good idea of where the best place is to lay your stake. Scroll down to the sections below to gain an insight into the best horse races to bet on: the British Grand National, the Ascot Gold Cup, the Melbourne Cup and several more.

The Top 4 Betting Sites for Horse Racing
Betting Site Bonus Offers Highlights Rating Secure Link T&C’s
Up to £30In Free Bets Grand National, Ascot Yes 5.0/5 Visit Site! Full T&Cs Apply! New online customers only, min £10/€10 stake, win only, min odds 1/2, free bets paid as 3 X £10/€10, 30 day expiry, free bet/payment method/player/country restrictions apply.
Up to £20In Free Bets Cheltenham, Ascot Yes 4.5/5 Visit Site! Full T&Cs Apply! Risk Free 20: New customers only, limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your FIRST bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £20. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply. Paddy’s Rewards Club: Get a £10 free bet when you place 5x bets of £10+.
Up to £20In Free Bets Grand National, St Leger Yes 4.0/5 Visit Site! Full T&Cs Apply! 18+ New UK+IRE customers. Paypal and certain deposit types and bet types excluded. Min €5 bet within 14 days of account reg at min odds 1/2 = 4 x €5 free bets. Free bets valid for 4 days on sports, stake not returned, restrictions apply. T&Cs apply.
Up to £20In Free Bets Epsom, Kentucky Derby Yes 4.0/5 Visit Site! Full T&Cs Apply! 18+. UK+IRE only. Min first bet £5 at odds 1/2 or more. Tote and Pool excluded. Must be placed within 14 days of account reg. £20 credited as 4 x £5 free bets. Not valid with CashOut. Free bet valid for 4 days. Free bet stake not returned.

As can be seen in the table above, all the top betting sites for horse racing cater for the biggest horse races in the UK and provide good coverage of popular events from the other corners of the globe. There are many different types of horse races, however, the two main types on which people mostly bet are known as jump races and flat races.

They are run at different times of the year and require special breeds of horses with very specific physical attributes. For a complete guide to the world’s most popular races, as well as some useful guidelines on the different types of race, keep scrolling down to the sections below – odds price comparisons for the different types of races can be found over on the main page.

Jump Races – Horse Racing Events

Jump Races (sometimes referred to as National Hunt races in the UK or simply jumps) are races where the horses must jump over varying obstacles. Jump races can be further categorised into steeplechases, where horses must jump over varying fence and ditch obstacles, and hurdle races, where the competitors must clear a series of hurdles at least three-and-a-half-feet high.

Horse racing events of this type normally take place in the Autumn, Winter and Spring in the UK – as the ground is softer, therefore making the jumps less dangerous – and the competing horses tend to be older geldings (horses that have been castrated). Jump races are classified as follows: Grade 1 races, Grade 2 races, Grade 3 races and then listed races. More detailed definitions of the racing grades can be found over on our horse racing glossary page.

Grand National Betting

The Grand National first took place in 1839 and is now widely regarded as one of the biggest horse races in the world. It is a Grade 3 steeplechase run over 4 miles and 514 yards for horses aged over seven years with a rating of more than 120 or more from the British Horse Racing Authority. The tournament is one of the preferred ones, many people enjoy betting on the Grand National, check the detailed guide we have prepared.

It is a handicapped race (the maximum weight of the competing horse must not exceed 11th 10lb) with a huge purse of £1 million, making it the richest European jump race. The Grand National is run at Aintree, a highly-ranked Jockey Club racecourse near Liverpool, and is one of the highest viewed and best-attended races – figures show that Grand National betting generates around £200million for UK bookmakers every year.

Cheltenham Betting – the Gold Cup

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is another British Favourite. It is a Grade 1 National Hunt Race that features many of the best-trained horses from across the British Isles. It is run over 3 miles and 2 ½ furlongs with horses aged over five years and takes place every year in March as part of the famous horse races festival Cheltenham.

Whilst the purse for the winner is not as sizeable as the Grand National, (the total purse was £575,000 in 2016) it remains the most valuable non-handicap jump race in the UK and is one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the four-day-long festival at Cheltenham. Like the Grand National and other prominent racing festivals, Cheltenham betting generates considerable revenue for bookmakers every year. Learn more about the Cheltenham tournament and betting by hitting the link.

A record of the age of the horses that have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup between the years 1996 - 2016

Champion Hurdle

The Champion Hurdle is another popular feature of the world-renowned Cheltenham Festival. It is a Grade 1 hurdle race run over a distance of 2 miles and 110 yards for horses aged four years and older. It is probably the UK’s most celebrated hurdle race, with a shared purse of £400,000 between the winners.

Constitutes the third and final segment of the coveted Triple Crown of Hurdling – the Triple Crown is a prestigious trophy that is awarded to the winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, the Christmas Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle.

Hennessy Gold Cup

The Hennessy Gold Cup is one of the younger jump races in the UK. It is a Grade 3, handicapped race for horses aged four years or older that takes place every year at the Newbury Racecourse in November or December. Despite offering a smaller purse than some of the other major horse racing events in the UK like the National Hunt, the Hennessy Gold Cup is a hugely popular betting market that generates an estimated £80million in wagers every year.

Flat Racing – Classic Horse Races

Simply put, flat races are races that do not include any hurdles. Distances range from 5 furlongs to 2 miles, with the shorter distances referred to as sprints, and the longer races referred to as “staying races”. Flat racing is the most common type of horse racing and is normally run on grass in the UK, although some races are run on artificial all-weather turf, and sometimes dirt in North America and Asia.

Flat races are a stern test of either speed or stamina for the horse – or both for the middle-distance races – and require a significant amount of skill from the jockey who must be tactically aware as positioning and timing are key. Flat races are considered classic horse races, take a look at the horse racing history, to find out more about their origin. These races are among the best horse races you can bet on.

The main four bands of flat racing are as follows: The Classics, reserved for three-year-olds and the most prestigious of all the flat races; Conditions races, or Class 1 races where the weight of the competing horse is determined beforehand (Class 1 races are then further divided into three groups ranging from 1-3); Class 1 listed races, which include handicaps; Classes 2-7, rated between 0 and 110, and maiden races for horses that have not previously won.

St Leger Stakes

The St Leger Stakes is run at the Doncaster Racecourse every year during the month of September. It is a Group 1 race open to the three-year-old thoroughbred male and female horses, meaning that it features only the best-trained racehorses in the finest physical condition.

It is run over 1-mile, 6 furlongs and 132 yards and is the third and final race in what constitutes the English Triple Crown. The St Leger Stakes is most famous for being the oldest of the five races that make up the five British Classics.

Ascot Gold Cup

The Ascot Gold Cup is the UK’s most prestigious event for staying races. This is one of the reasons why people around the whole world want to bet on the Royal Ascot. It was first run in 1807 and takes place every year at the world-famous Royal Ascot racecourse in June.

It is one of the longer flat races, ran over 2 miles and 4 furlongs, and is restricted to horses aged four years and above. The total purse for the winners is around £400,000, however, the amount of money wagered on the race each year is an estimated £180million. This is among the best horse races to bet on!

The Royal Ascot racing festival takes place over 5 days and features a wide range of races. The premier races are: the King’s Stand Stakes, the Prince of Wales Stakes, the Ascot Gold Cup, the Commonwealth Cup and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes

Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby, sometimes shortened to The Derby, is regarded by many to be the greatest flat race in the world. As the world’s original horse racing derby, it’s the most prestigious of the five British Classic races and offers the biggest purse (£1.325million). You understand now why the interest in this race is so high, check the full list of Epsom Derby betting sites.

It is run over 1mile and 4 furlongs at the Epsom Downs racecourse in Surrey, UK, and like all the Classics, is reserved for horses aged three years old – geldings are excluded in this case. Alongside the Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ascot Gold Cup, the Epsom Derby is one of the cornerstones of British horse racing culture and also one of the biggest horse racing events in the UK. It attracts many millions of television viewers worldwide.

2,000 Guineas Stakes

Another British classic horse races, the 2,000 Guineas Stakes is run at The Rowley Mile Racecourse at Newmarket over a distance of exactly 1mile. Unlike most of the other classics, it is run on a straight track without any curves or bends, meaning that it features many of the fastest sprinters known to the sport. The race has a total prize purse of £450,000 and is the first leg of the Triple Crown accolade.

1,000 Guineas Stakes

Due to the fact that the 1,000 Guineas Stakes is reserved for 3-year-old fillies, it is sometimes referred to as the sister race of the 2,000 Guineas Stakes. It was first established five years after the 2,000 Guineas Stakes in 1814 and is run at the same straight racecourse over 1mile. The combined purse for the race is £410,000.

The Biggest Horse Races in the World

Some of the world’s most major horse racing events include: The Kentucky Derby, The Breeders’ Cup, The Melbourne Cup and the Dubai World CupThere are several high-profile, lucrative horse racing events outside the UK that garner a significant amount of worldwide interest. They may not have the same long heritage as say, the British Classics, however, when it comes to betting revenue, there are some that are just as popular, if not more than many of the traditional British meetings.

As a result, the best horse making betting sites ensure they offer full coverage of these meetings, as well as competitive odds prices. Keep reading below to discover some of the biggest horse races in the world.

The Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is the most prestigious, most widely-known thoroughbred flat race in Australia. It takes place every year at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne and is ran over a distance of 2 miles for horses aged three and above. It is a Group 1 handicapped race, meaning that the weights of the competing horses are determined according to their ability.

Attracting huge crowds of over 100,000 people, the Melbourne Cup is one of the most eagerly anticipated spectators sporting events on the Australasian continent. This is one of the major horse racing events in Australia. Many come dressed in their finest, formal race day attire, while others opt for colourful fancy dress and fun costumes. You can imagine how much money people bet on the Melbourne Cup. The prize money for the winners is a whopping $6,200,000 AUS Dollars.

Breeder’s Cup Betting

Tote Payouts from the Breeder’s Cup 2016 Classic Race
Wager Type Winning Numbers Payout
Exacta 10-4 $5.00
Trifecta 10-4-3 $37.30
Superfecta 10-4-3-9 $296.30
Daily Double 5-10 $69.80
Pick 3 12-5-10 $369.40
Pick 4 12-12-5-10 $1,003.25
Pick 6,5 Correct 2/7/15-5-12-12-5-10 $779.60
Pick 6, 6 Correct 2/7/15-5-12-12-5-10 $292,423.20
Super High 5 10-4-3-9-6 $942.30

The Breeders Cup is among the North American horse racing favourite, which much like the Melbourne Cup, can attract mammoth crowds of over 100,000 spectators. It is an annual two-day event held in a different location every year where thirteen different races, varying between flat races and National Jumps, are staged.  Only the best participate in this one.

One of the biggest horse racing events UK offers is known as the Breeder’s Cup Classic. It is a Grade 1, dirt run race run over the distance of 1 mile and reserved for horses aged 3 years and older. Breeder’s Cup generates millions of dollars every year; the purse for the race is $6million US Dollars. Horse racing is an expensive sport with many fans.

Because the event in at a different place each year it is accepted as a race for only skilful jockeys because the experience is what makes you good when you don’t know the racetrack. Thanks to the digitalisation and the rise of online sports betting, such horse racing events are now available from each point of the world.

This is the feature that expanded the horizon of all horse racing betting fans all around the globe and made remote gambling possible.

The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is the grand finale race in the annual two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. It is a Grade 1 dirt race for three-year-old colts and fillies that offers a sizeable $2million purse and boasts the highest attendance of all the races in the famous North American horse racing festivals.

It’s run over a distance of 1¼ miles, with the record still set at 1.59 seconds by a famous horse named Secretariat back in 1979, who also became the first Triple Crown winner after a 25-year hiatus. Because of its popularity and the importance of the grand finale race, betting on Kentucky Derby is a fashion for decades.

The Dubai World Cup

Held every year on the last Saturday in March, the Dubai World Cup is the Premier Race in the United Arab Emirates. It is the final, and most eagerly anticipated race in the famous Dubai World Cup Night of Races and is run, on dirt, over a distance of 2,000 metres.

It is restricted to horses ages three and four with weight limits of 54.4 kg and 57kg respectively. The race receives significant airtime around the globe and offers a staggering purse amount of $10million US Dollars, making it the world’s most lucrative horse race.

Conclusion – Why To Bet On Horse Racing?

Most of the classic horse races are with a long history and huge prizes. These are the best horse races to bet on because they have the biggest audience. You will find many races across the world but not all are major horse racing events. It is an international sport but if you start watching and following all races you will see that the majority of the famous horse races are either based in the UK, USA and Australia.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although horse racing events are interesting for many people and ahve been around for decades, there still might be questions which need to be properly addressed. We’ve gatehred the most popular ones below, so check them out as they might be quite helpful!

🏆 What are the biggest horse racing events in the UK?

This is one of the most ancient sports, which is popular all around the globe. When it comes to our modern age, the most prestige horse racing event in the UK is called Ascot Gold Cup.

🏇 What are the best horse races to bet on?

Every race could be a good race is you know the sport, the jockeys and the horses. From an overall perspective, the best horse races are the international ones because they have the biggest audience which respectively means more online betting options.

🤵 How to dress for a horse racing event?

This is a subjective question because it really depends on the size of the horse racing event. For example, the Melbourne Cup is a multi-million race where you will encounter people dressed strictly official with costumes and dresses.

↕️ What is a horse jumps race?

There are several types of jump races. From an overall perspective, this is a horse race with obstacles and jumps. It is a perfect fit for older and castrated horses. Usually, such races take place from Autumn to Spring because of the soft soil.

💨 What is a horse flat race?

This is the more popular and preferred by the large audience horse races. Generally, Flat races could be divided into several types depending on the form and the distance of the event, but in all of its forms, it is a competition of speed and endurance. Usually only young and super expensive horses race here.