Every horse race, no matter how big or small it may be, has a purse. This refers to the amount of money that the owners will be paid at the end of the race, based on how their horses finish. This division is made to encourage horse owners to get their horses to perform at the highest level and create intense competition.
The first place horse in a race will typically get 60% of the total purse. The second place horse normally gets 20% while third place gets 10% and fourth gets 5%. The remaining horses divide the remainder of the purse among each other.
The total amount of money in the purse varies with each race. A typical matinee race at a North American racetrack may have a purse of around $10,000, for instance. Meanwhile, some of the top races of the day will have purses of closer to $30,000.
However, when it comes to the most prestigious races in the world, purses can fall in the millions of dollars. These purses are generally highest for Grade I races that pit only the best horses in the world together. Grade II and III races are not as prominent as Grade I but they will still grant some handsome paydays to the people who get their horses out to these events.
This listing will break down the biggest horse racing events in the world based on the size of their respective purses. All purse totals are listed in American dollars. Some of these races have the potential to let winning horses earn millions of dollars for their owners. This is partly because horse racing represent some of the most historic races in the world. Certain races have been run since the nineteenth century and have developed larger purses over the years as they continue to grow and become more famous in the modern era.
10. The Grand National – $1.6 Million Purse
The Grand National steeplechase race at Liverpool’s Aintree Racecourse has been held every almost every year since 1839 and has a total purse of £975,000 or $1.6 million US. The race is around four miles and three furlongs in length and can take around ten minutes for some horses to finish. It’s a long and challenging course involving hurdles, but the large purse makes it all worth it for whoever comes out on top.
9. Kentucky Derby – $2 Million Purse
The Run for the Roses, known as the Kentucky Derby has been held in Louisville, Kentucky’s Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May every year since 1875. Known as the Fastest Two Minutes in Sports, this 1 1/4-mile race is the first leg of the Triple Crown in America and it’s also the most presitgious race of the three. It has a purse of $2 million while the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes both have purses of just $1 million each.
8. Breeders Cup Sprint – $2 Million Purse
In horse racing, a spring race is a shorter race that is less than a mile long. The six-furlong Breeders Cup Sprint, an event that happens during the Breeders Cup World Championships in North America every year, is one such race. This short race takes a little over a minute for horses to complete and is worth $2 million, making it one of the biggest events of the year for sprint horse racing enthusiasts.
7. Breeders Cup Distaff – $2 Million Purse
Formerly known as the Breeders Cup Ladies’ Classic, the Breeders Cup Distaff is a $2 million purse race that is for fillies and mares who are at least three years of age. It is the last race to take place on the first of the two days that the Breeders Cup events are held and is the most prominent race among female horses. The purse was originally $1 million in value until 2005 when was doubled in size.
6. Breeders Cup Turf – $3 Million Purse
Held annually at the Breeders Cup series, the $3 million Breeders Cup Turf race is held on a turf surface instead of a traditional dirt track. This means that the horses run on a grass surface similar to what is typically found on the inside part of a track. This race is 1 1/2 miles long and is a popular event that serves as an appetizer to the main event, the Breeders Cup Classic.
5. Dubai Duty Free Stakes – $5 Million Purse
A race held during the Dubai World Cup Night every March at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, the Duty Free Stakes has a purse valued at $5 million. Despite the name, this race doesn’t necessarily give the winnings to its horses duty free or without tax. Rather, the event is sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, a prominent retail company that has duty free shops throughout a number of airports in the Middle East.
4. Breeders Cup Classic – $5 Million Purse
The Breeders Cup Classic is the top race in the Breeders Cup series. Held at various places around North America, this race has a $5 million purse. The Classic is extremely limited in terms of space, since five of the fourteen slots in this race are guaranteed to the winners of specific races like the Pacific Classic, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Awesome Again Stakes.
3. Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – $5.4 Million Purse
The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is held at the Longchamp Racecourse in Paris. This 1 1/2-mile race has been held almost every year since 1920 and has a prize fund of €4 million or $5.4 million US. In 2007, the purse was just €2 million or $2.7 million US but has doubled in size thanks to the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club’s recent sponsorship of the race.
2. Melbourne Cup – $5.65 Million Purse
The Melbourne Cup, also known as the Race That Stops a Nation, is a two-mile race held on the first Tuesday of every November at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia. The race has been worth at least $1 million AUD since 1985 and has held a purse of over $5 million AUD or $4.59 USD since 2005. Today’s cup is worth $6.2 million AUD or $5.65 million USD, making it not only Australia’s top race, but one of the largest horse races in the world.
1. Dubai World Cup – $10 Million Purse
The Dubai World Cup is held at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai and is by far the world’s richest race in terms of its purse size. It was first held in 1996 and holds a first place prize of $10 million. This is just one of the many races that are held during the Dubai World Cup Night event. The races in this event have a combined purse that totals $27.25 million for the largest night of racing in the world.