Placing a bet on a horse race transforms it from a moderately entertaining spectacle to a thoroughly thrilling event. Millions of people wager on the world’s biggest horse races in a bid to ramp up the entertainment and walk away with a profit in one fell swoop. These are the biggest betting events in the world of horse racing:
The Grand National is a lung-busting National Hunt race that sees a field of 40 horses attempt to finish a gruelling distance of 4 miles and 514 yards. They must clear 30 fences during its running, including perilous obstacles known as The Chair, Becher’s Brook and Canal Turn. It is renowned as the ultimate test for horse and rider alike, and more than half of the horses generally fall before they can complete the race. Victory earns a horse a place in folklore, and it arguably represents the pinnacle of a jockey’s career.
The National is a monumental betting event in the UK. It transcends the sport of horse racing and stands alongside the Wimbledon final, the FA Cup final and the Grand Prix at Silverstone as one of the major events of the year. Betting shops are packed to the rafters with people that never bet on anything else throughout the year, and the wagering handle is immense. The Grand National is also enjoyed by a TV audience of more than 600 million people around the world each year, and they love to bet on the action. It attracts around £250 million ($326 million) in wagers in the UK alone, according to bookmakers, and a lot more across the globe.
The Kentucky Derby is the most famous event in the US racing calendar. It is known as the fastest two minutes in sport, a reference to the approximate time it takes the winner to finish the race. The Kentucky Derby takes its name from a famous UK race, the Derby, which is held at Epsom each year. It was inaugurated in 1875, and it is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby is limited to three year olds and run over a distance of 1 ¼ miles. The race forms the first leg of the Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont.
The total betting handle reached a record $165.5 million in 2019, but it dipped by 52% to $79.4 million in 2020. It had a smaller field this year, and the race was overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protest movement. However, the Kentucky Derby is also reasonably popular in other countries around the world, so the total handle will be significantly higher, and it should rebound in 2021.
The Melbourne Cup is known as the race that stops a nation. It brings Australia to a virtual standstill, and it is celebrated with a public holiday in the state of Victoria. Many of the world’s finest stayers held to Melbourne to compete, as it is the richest handicap in the world, and arguably the most prestigious. The runners battle it out over a distance of 3200m in a bid for fame and fortune. It has been held every year since 1861, and only five horses have ever won the Melbourne Cup more than once.
Australians bet around AU$125 million ($91 million) on the Melbourne Cup in 2019. One savvy punter placed a $50,000 bet on the winner, Almandin, who went off at odds of $7.50. The Melbourne Cup is also popular around the world. It is watched by an estimated 650 million people worldwide, and many of them bet on the action, so it is definitely one of the biggest races of the year from a betting perspective. A formidable field lines up each year – visit https://www.punters.com.au/melbourne-cup/ to see the contenders this time around – and securing victory is a monumental achievement.
Dubai World Cup
The Dubai World Cup carries a $12 million prize pool, making it one of the world’s richest races. The total prize money up for grabs on Dubai World Cup Night stands at a cool $35 million, so it is comfortably the most lucrative event in the global racing calendar. The Dubai World Cup itself is the main event, and the fabulous prize purse attracts the world’s most famous trainers, jockeys and horses to the UAE to compete for glory.
The sport of horse racing generally needs the gambling industry to prop it up, but that is not the case in Dubai. The UAE has very strict anti-gambling laws, so attendees are unable to wager on the action. Yet those laws do not apply to punters across the globe, and they enjoy betting on the Dubai World Cup due to the sheer depth of quality on display. The wagering handle differs in each country, but the race receives a great deal of attention and it is an important betting event for bookmakers in several markets.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the second largest wagering event of the year in the UK, eclipsed only by the Grand National. Bookmakers say they take around £500 million ($652 million) on the Cheltenham Festival, while Irish bookies take another €452 million ($533 million), making it a huge deal for the betting sites. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most important race of the meeting, taking place on the final day of proceedings.
It takes place over 3 miles 2 furlongs and 70 yards at Cheltenham Racecourse in the west of England. There are 22 fences to be jumped in its running, and only the hardiest stayers are in contention down the home