With so many top-class events in the UK each year, it can be easy to think of Britain as the centre of the racing world. However, to focus solely on British, and also Irish, racing would be to do a disservice to the exceptional international racing programme.
Just as is the case in the UK, other racing jurisdictions have their spectacular seasonal highlights, many of which – at least in terms of the prize money on offer – put the biggest British events firmly in the shade. Without further ado, we now present the top 10 international racing contests in the order they appear throughout the year.
USA: Pegasus World Cup
- Where – Gulfstream Park
- When – January
- Prize Money – US$3,000,000
The first of two “World Cups” on the racing calendar comes at Gulfstream Park in January and first appeared on the scene in 2017. This Florida track is instantly recognisable due to the giant statue of Pegasus at the course, and its biggest race is duly named in honour of the winged horse of Greek legend. Initially offering a purse of €12m – rising to $16m in 2019 – for a time, this 1m1f Dirt contest was the richest race in the world.
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Cup
- Where – Riyadh
- When – February
- Prize Money – US$20,000,000
The newest race on our list only debuted in 2020 but didn’t take long to establish a prominent position on the international racing scene – with that ascent no doubt aided by the fact that this Riyadh contest is now out on its own as the richest race in the world. Sandwiched between the Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup – and also held over 1m2f on the dirt – this monster of a race tends to attract many of the same stars as its counterparts in the US and UAE.
United Arab Emirates: Dubai World Cup
- Where – Meydan
- When – Last Saturday in March
- Prize Money – US$12,000,000
Before the Saudi Cup made its debut, this event at Meydan regularly claimed the title of the richest race in the world. With such astronomical sums on offer, the contest is one of the first races pencilled into the calendars of the top dirt performers, resulting in a superstar-studded field. The whole of Dubai World Cup Night is a stellar affair, with the undercard to the main event regularly drawing a squadron of the best British and Irish performers.
Japan: Nakayama Grand Jump
- Where – Nakayama Racecourse
- When – Mid April
- Prize Money – ¥142,660,000
The month of April is a good time of year for fans of prestigious jumps racing action. Hot on the heels of the Aintree Grand National comes this huge 2m5f chase from Japan. The fences may not be as big as those in evidence on Merseyside, but the prize money isn’t too far off it. That total of ¥142,660,000 equates to around £750,000 – an amount which is higher than the sum on offer in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and three times that available in the King George VI Chase.
USA: Kentucky Derby
- Where – Churchill Downs
- When – First Saturday in May
- Prize Money – US$3,000,000
Variously referred to as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” and “The Run for the Roses”, due to the spectacular blanket of roses draped across the winning horse, this 1m2f event for the three-year-olds serves as the first leg of the US Triple Crown, preceding the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Inspired by the original Derby at Epsom, this is the most famous race in the US, bar none!
France: Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
- Where – Longchamp
- When – First Sunday in October
- Prize Money – €5,000,000
Named in honour of one of France’s most famous landmarks, the nation’s greatest race has taken on monumental proportions in the racing world since first bursting onto the scene in 1920. It may not be the richest race in the world – generally sitting around fourth on that particular list – but it is viewed by many as the most prestigious 1m4f contest on the planet. A Group 1 affair open to runners aged three and over, this event represents the ultimate clash between the Classic generation and their elders, and always attracts a mouthwatering field of international stars.
Australia: The Everest
- Where – Randwick
- When – October
- Prize Money – A$15,000,000
The Melbourne Cup may be Australia’s most famous race, but it is not its most valuable event. That honour belongs to this 6f contest which is not only Australia’s richest race but the richest turf race anywhere in the world. Debuting in the same year as the Pegasus World Cup, the race has a controversial entry system – costing the small matter of $600,000 for a place in the field – but has nevertheless consistently attracted the top Australian sprinters, who tend to be amongst the best speedballs on the planet.
USA: Breeders’ Cup Classic
- Where – Alternating Tracks in the USA
- When – Late October/Early November
- Prize Money – US$6,000,000
The late autumn months see one of the biggest international festivals take place in the US, with the annual edition of the Breeders’ Cup World Championship. Headlining the fabulous feast of racing action is this Grade 1 dirt contest held over 1m2f. It may not be quite as famous as the Kentucky Derby, but in terms of the quality of performers on show, this is the classiest US contest of all.
Australia: Melbourne Cup
- Where – Flemington
- When – First Tuesday in November
- Prize Money – A$8,000,000
Featuring as part of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, the Melbourne Cup is the most valuable 2m handicap held anywhere in the world. Nicknamed “The race that stops a nation” the event doesn’t quite manage that, but it comes pretty close. Melbourne Cup Day is an official public holiday throughout Melbourne and in some parts of Victoria, whilst the rest of the country invariably sees a spike in sick days on the first Tuesday in November.
Japan: Japan Cup
- Where – Tokyo Racecourse
- When – Last Sunday of November
- Prize Money – ¥864,000,000
Few nations have been making such a splash on the global stage as Japan, with the emerging racing power registering famous successes at the Breeders’ Cup and Dubai World Cup meetings. The Japanese may have needed to travel for those triumphs, but they also boast several sizzling domestic contests of their own – headlined by this 1m4f Grade 1 affair. Designed to allow Japanese horses to lock horns with high-class raiders from overseas, the race is no stranger to British success, with Sir Michael Stoute landing back-to-back editions in 1996 and 1997.