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    Major Horse Races with the Highest Prize Funds
Major Horse Races with the Highest Prize Funds
Royal Ascot 2023. Source: Ascot.com

Major Horse Races with the Highest Prize Funds

Three powerhouse regions - the USA, Australia, and Arab countries - vie for the title of hosting the world's most expensive horse race, each with varying degrees of success. Classic races like the Arc de Triomphe and Royal Ascot, where participation is considered the pinnacle of a racing career, exist in a realm of prestige, refinement, and pride.

While classic races offer immense joy from victories and honours, the most alluring aspect of modern horse racing is undeniably the substantial prize funds. Until 2017, the Dubai World Cup held the record for the largest purse at $12 million. This prestigious Grade 1 race, held at the Meydan Racecourse since 1996, spans a distance of 10 furlongs (2 km). The race is the crowning event of the Dubai World Cup Night series and is open to 4-year-old Northern Hemisphere horses and 3-year-old Southern Hemisphere horses. The inaugural winner, American stallion Sigar, achieved a remarkable feat by winning 16 races in a row and becoming the two-time American Horse of the Year in 1995 and 1996. 

Race 2024 at the Pegasus World Cup. Source: pegasusworldcup.com
Race 2024 at the Pegasus World Cup. Source: pegasusworldcup.com

The Pegasus World Cup, a 9-furlong (1.8 km) dirt race inaugurated in Florida in 2017 with a purse of $12 million, rivalled the Dubai World Cup. By 2018, it had become the world's most expensive race, with a prize fund increased to $16 million. The entry fee for horses was $1 million, and the winner, Gun Runner, received $7 million. In 2019, the prize fund grew to $17 million, with $10 million allocated to the main race and $7 million to the sister turf event. Subsequently, the race evolved into two separate events and relinquished its status as the world's top purse race in horse racing. 

The Everest 2023 member Taino horse, Godolphin breeder. Source: theeverest.com
The Everest 2023 member Taino horse, Godolphin breeder. Source: theeverest.com

The Everest - an Australian turf race, opened in 2017 in Sydney at Randwick Racecourse, takes over the championship. In 2018, the prize fund of the race was $15 million, in 2023 - $20 million. Entry fee: $700,000. It should be clarified that The Everest is a race on turf, unlike the previous ones mentioned on dirt, and among such races it remains the most expensive. Just below the prize money is the Melbourne Cup (AU$8,410,000 million), Australia's oldest turf race, dating back to 1861. 

2024 Saudi Cup winner Buscador. Source: jcsa.sa
2024 Saudi Cup winner Buscador. Source: jcsa.sa

Saudi Cup –a relatively new Grade 1 race, has been held since 2020 at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The race budget is 20 million dollars, the winner receives 10 million. The organisers did everything to bring the race to an unprecedented level of popularity and make it the number-one race in the world in terms of prize money and prestige. Fashion experts have developed a dress code for the Saudi Cup. During the race, a grand festival is held, those present wear clothes in the style of traditional national costumes, live music is played, national cuisine is offered, and all kinds of shows are held. 

The UAE's Grade 1 turf races, the Dubai Sheema Classic and Dubai Turf, both with $6 million in prize money, continue Arabian horse racing's trend of professionalism, status and luxury. They are held at the Meydan Hippodrome for horses aged over 4 years for the Northern Hemisphere and over 3 years for the Southern Hemisphere; the best horses in the world are brought to Dubai. Race days are widely covered in the press; guests include the most elegant women in the region, famous politicians, businessmen and public figures.

The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is an eternal racing classic and remains the most prestigious race. This is a 1st class race, held since 1920 on the lawn of the Longchamp racecourse in Paris. The race distance is 2400 m, and horses over 3 years old are allowed. The prize fund of the race is 5 million euros, 60,000 people visit it annually, and it is broadcast live in 50 countries.

The prize fund for the Japan Cup is 1,085 million yen, or approximately $8.3 million. This is Japan's richest Grade 1 race, held on the turf of the Tokyo Racecourse over a distance of 2400m.

The Breeders Cup Classic has been held since 1984 in the USA, with a prize fund of $6 million. The peculiarity of the race is that it is held at a different racetrack in the United States each year, except once in 1996, when the Canadian racetrack Woodbine hosted it.

Royal Ascot is the most famous and expensive race in Great Britain. The total prize fund for the 5-day event in 2023 was £9,520,000. But Ascot is not entirely about money. First of all, this is a social event where the entire elite of England, the aristocracy, celebrities and members of the royal family gather. There is a strict dress code for all categories of spectators, which emphasises moderation and adherence to tradition. Horse racing has a spirit of aristocracy and nobility; this can be called the hallmark of Royal Ascot.

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