Horse racing season is in full flow, and there’s nothing like watching the nags bob their heads and thrust their shoulders out as the finishing line draws ever nearer. For most people, it’s a sport that’s synonymous with the UK and Ireland and the US due to Sir Michael Stoute and the O’Brien clan and the Kentucky Derby. Even the Queen has a huge stake in the stables.
However, its entertainment factor reaches far and wide, beyond the bounds of the west. Here are the biggest countries for horse racing around the world that may surprise you.
The French have a history with horse racing that outdates the US and UK. Chantilly Racecourse in Chantilly, Oise, has the oldest stand in the world and has been operating since 1834. Only one other French track, Laloubere, can claim to be older and still functioning according to racingpost.com as its inaugural meeting was 1809. Of course, Longchamp, home to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, thought to be the most prestigious race in the world, isn’t a spring chicken as it opened its gates in 1857. As you can see, the French have an appetite for quality year-round horse racing!
“The Land of the Rising Sun” isn’t the first place you imagine when you think about top-quality horse racing, yet the Japanese are crazy about their meetings. The biggest by far is the “Japan Cup,” which is one of the world’s richest races, netting the invited horses, jockeys and owners a share of the eye-watering $5.8 million prize pot. The Cup is part of the reason Japan is the biggest horse racing market on the planet, with £16 billion a year in revenues pretty much annually.
The Middle East
Just when you thought $5.8 million was massive! The Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have an interest in the gee-gees that makes the rest of the world appear insignificant in comparison. You can get a glimpse of the enthusiasm with the live stream function on sites like comeonbetting.com. For example, you’ll see the Saudis organize and run the “Saudi Cup,” a race with a $20 million prize fund, while the Emiratis showcase their love for horses via the grade 1 “Dubai World Cup” run in Meydan. At $7.2 million for the winner, it’s not as lucrative as its Middle Eastern neighbor, yet it goes to show how much the region loves to watch its majestically bred animals compete on dirt.
The ‘Land Down Under’ actually hosts the richest meeting on turf, The Everest. As the name suggests, it’s a mountain for the horses and jockeys to climb, but the reward is well worth it with a cool $10 million-plus for the winning team. Theroar.com already classes it as “Australia’s premier race,” which is some going considering the reputation and popularity of the Melbourne Cup. Regardless of which event is the biggest, there’s no doubting the Aussie’s passion for the sport.
Of course, it would be rude not to mention the US and the UK and Ireland. Although the prize pots may be smaller in some instances, the turn out for the Kentucky Derby and Cheltenham Gold Cup, to name two races, highlights why the countries have the most supported global horse racing schedules.