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Horse racing, known as the “Sport of Kings,” holds a prominent place in the world of sports.

The excitement and unpredictability create thrilling spectacles.

This article highlights the most prestigious and noteworthy horse races across the globe.

Most Important Horse Racing Tournaments:

  1. Kentucky Derby
  2. Preakness Stakes
  3. Belmont Stakes
  4. Breeders’ Cup
  5. Dubai World Cup
  6. Epsom Derby
  7. The Grand National
  8. Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
  9. Melbourne Cup
  10. Royal Ascot
  11. Cheltenham Festival
  12. Santa Anita Derby
  13. Japan Cup
  14. Hong Kong Cup
  15. Cox Plate
  16. Irish Derby
  17. Arlington Million
  18. Whitney Handicap
  19. Travers Stakes
  20. Haskell Invitational

#1 Kentucky Derby

  • πŸ“ Location: Louisville, Kentucky, USA
  • πŸ“… Established: 1875
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Kentucky Derby, also known as “The Run for the Roses,” is the premier event in American horse racing.

Held at the historic Churchill Downs racetrack, it is the first jewel of the prestigious Triple Crown. The race features three-year-old thoroughbreds competing over a distance of 1.25 miles. Secretariat’s record-breaking run in 1973 remains an iconic moment in the Derby’s storied history.

#2 Preakness Stakes

  • πŸ“ Location: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • πŸ“… Established: 1873
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Preakness Stakes, known as “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans,” is the second leg of the Triple Crown series. Held at Pimlico Race Course, the race features a 1.1875-mile distance for three-year-old thoroughbreds.

The Preakness is governed by the Maryland Jockey Club and boasts a rich history, with iconic moments like American Pharoah’s triumph in 2015 en route to his Triple Crown victory.

#3 Belmont Stakes

  • πŸ“ Location: Elmont, New York, USA
  • πŸ“… Established: 1867
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Belmont Stakes, dubbed “The Test of the Champion,” is the final and longest leg of the Triple Crown.

The prestigious race held at Belmont Park covers a distance of 1.5 miles. With its roots dating back to 1867, Belmont Stakes has borne witness to unforgettable moments, such as Justify’s 2018 Triple Crown-winning performance.

#4 Breeders’ Cup

  • πŸ“ Location: Varies across the USA
  • πŸ“… Established: 1984
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Breeders’ Cup is a two-day event featuring multiple Grade I thoroughbred horse races. It was created to provide a season-ending championship for North American racing and has since grown to include international competition.

Known for its lucrative purses and elite fields, the Breeders’ Cup has become a key event in defining year-end champions and legacies.

#5 Dubai World Cup

  • πŸ“ Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • πŸ“… Established: 1996
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Dubai World Cup, organized by the Emirates Racing Authority, is one of the world’s richest horse races.

Held at the Meydan Racecourse, the 1.25-mile race showcases top thoroughbred talent from around the globe. Since its inception, the event has attracted international attention and has become a symbol of Dubai’s opulence and ambition.

#6 Epsom Derby

  • πŸ“ Location: Epsom, Surrey, England
  • πŸ“… Established: 1780
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Epsom Derby, or simply “The Derby,” is a prestigious flat horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies held on the Epsom Downs. As one of the five British Classic Races, it is considered the pinnacle of English racing.

The Epsom Derby has a longstanding history, featuring legendary moments such as the astonishing victory of Shergar in 1981.

#7 The Grand National

  • πŸ“ Location: Aintree, Liverpool, England
  • πŸ“… Established: 1839
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Grand National, held at Aintree Racecourse, is a famous National Hunt horse race over a distance of 4.5 miles with 30 challenging fences.

Arguably the world’s most famous steeplechase, the race attracts a large global audience, drawing attention to both its thrilling nature and the unpredictable outcomes. Remarkable moments include Red Rum’s record three victories in the 1970s.

#8 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

  • πŸ“ Location: Paris, France
  • πŸ“… Established: 1920
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, commonly known as the “Arc,” is one of Europe’s most prestigious horse races. Held at Longchamp Racecourse, it features thoroughbreds aged three and up, covering a distance of 1.5 miles.

The Arc has witnessed exceptional performances like those of Treve, with her back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014.

#9 Melbourne Cup

  • πŸ“ Location: Melbourne, Australia
  • πŸ“… Established: 1861
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Melbourne Cup, often referred to as “the race that stops a nation,” is Australia’s most famous horse race. Held at the Flemington Racecourse, the 2-mile handicap race attracts world-class talent from both local and international stables.

The Melbourne Cup is a major event on the Australian sporting calendar, with iconic moments like Makybe Diva’s historic three consecutive wins between 2003 and 2005.

#10 Royal Ascot

  • πŸ“ Location: Ascot, Berkshire, England
  • πŸ“… Established: 1711
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

Royal Ascot is an annual week-long event held at the iconic Ascot Racecourse. Established by Queen Anne in 1711, it has since evolved into a premier race meeting featuring top-class flat racing.

Known for its pageantry and high fashion, Royal Ascot showcases elite racehorses and attracts a worldwide audience. Historic moments include Frankel’s electrifying victory in the 2012 Queen Anne Stakes.

#11 Cheltenham Festival

  • πŸ“ Location: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
  • πŸ“… Established: 1860
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Cheltenham Festival is a prestigious four-day event in the National Hunt racing calendar. Held at the Cheltenham Racecourse, it features a diverse lineup of races, including the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The festival is renowned for its electric atmosphere, thrilling contests, and surprises, with memorable moments such as Kauto Star’s two-time Gold Cup victories in 2007 and 2009.

#12 Santa Anita Derby

  • πŸ“ Location: Arcadia, California, USA
  • πŸ“… Established: 1935
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Santa Anita Derby, held at the Santa Anita Park, is a vital prep race for the Kentucky Derby.

Showcasing three-year-old thoroughbreds, the race covers a distance of 1β…› miles. The Santa Anita Derby has produced numerous champions and iconic moments, including the legendary Seabiscuit’s win in 1938, which catapulted him to national fame.

#13 Japan Cup

  • πŸ“ Location: Tokyo, Japan
  • πŸ“… Established: 1981
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Japan Cup is a prestigious invitational turf race held at the Tokyo Racecourse, covering a distance of 1.5 miles for horses aged three and up.

The race, organized by the Japan Racing Association, has become a significant event on the international racing calendar. With its high-quality field and substantial purse, the Japan Cup showcases the strength of Japanese racing, attracting global attention.

#14 Hong Kong Cup

  • πŸ“ Location: Hong Kong
  • πŸ“… Established: 1988
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Hong Kong Cup, held at Sha Tin Racecourse, is the premier race of the Hong Kong International Races.

The event, organized by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, covers a distance of 1.25 miles and brings together top international thoroughbreds. Over the years, the Hong Kong Cup has played a pivotal role in promoting the Hong Kong racing industry and showcasing its growth on the global stage.

#15 Cox Plate

  • πŸ“ Location: Melbourne, Australia
  • πŸ“… Established: 1922
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Cox Plate, held at the Moonee Valley Racecourse, is a prestigious Australian weight-for-age horse race.

Covering a distance of 1.25 miles, it is renowned for its elite field and has become a key feature of the Spring Racing Carnival. The legendary Phar Lap’s 1930 and 1931 victories are standout moments in its rich history.

#16 Irish Derby

  • πŸ“ Location: County Kildare, Ireland
  • πŸ“… Established: 1866
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Irish Derby, hosted at the Curragh Racecourse, is Ireland’s premier classic horse race. The race, covering a distance of 1.5 miles, attracts some of the finest three-year-old colts and fillies from around the world.

The Irish Derby has a storied past, witnessing spectacular performances from horses like Galileo and Sea the Stars.

#17 Arlington Million

  • πŸ“ Location: Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA
  • πŸ“… Established: 1981
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Arlington Million, held at Arlington Park, was the world’s first million-dollar horse race. The race, featuring thoroughbreds aged three and up, covers a distance of 1.25 miles on the turf.

The Arlington Million’s historical significance and competitive nature have made it a key event on the American racing calendar, with notable moments including John Henry’s two victories in 1981 and 1984.

#18 Whitney Handicap

  • πŸ“ Location: Saratoga Springs, New York, USA
  • πŸ“… Established: 1928
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Whitney Handicap, taking place at the renowned Saratoga Race Course, is a prestigious race featuring thoroughbreds aged three and up.

The race covers a distance of 1.125 miles and has become a significant event in the summer racing calendar. Historically, the Whitney Handicap has witnessed memorable performances from champions like Kelso and Tom Fool.

#19 Travers Stakes

  • πŸ“ Location: Saratoga Springs, New York, USA
  • πŸ“… Established: 1864
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Travers Stakes, also known as the “Midsummer Derby,” is a renowned Grade I race held at Saratoga Race Course.

The race showcases three-year-old thoroughbreds competing over a distance of 1.25 miles. The Travers Stakes’ rich history includes iconic performances from legends like Man o’ War, Whirlaway, and American Pharoah.

#20 Haskell Invitational

  • πŸ“ Location: Oceanport, New Jersey, USA
  • πŸ“… Established: 1968
  • πŸ”„ Held: Annually

The Haskell Invitational, hosted at Monmouth Park, is a prestigious Grade I race featuring three-year-old thoroughbreds.

The race, covering a distance of 1.125 miles, has become a significant event on the American racing calendar. The Haskell Invitational has been graced by champions like American Pharoah, who won the race in 2015 following his historic Triple Crown achievement.


What is the most important horse racing tournament?

The Kentucky Derby is considered the most prestigious horse racing event, being the first jewel of the prestigious Triple Crown.

What is the oldest horse racing tournament?

The Epsom Derby, established in 1780, is the oldest horse racing tournament.

What is the hardest horse racing tournament to win?

The Triple Crown, comprised of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, is the hardest to win due to its rigorous competitive nature.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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