Horse racing is a very competitive sport. It involves breeders working hard to raise horses that can run fast, trainers developing their horses' skills at racing and jockeys who are able to push them to their limits to get the very most out of them during a race. It's essential for horses to be trained and ridden well, as the best horses are capable of earning millions if they are able to compete at a high level for a number of years.
These horses can make a very large amount of money in two key forms. Some of these horses are able to make millions for their owners by winning in a variety of different races. These range from events like the Kentucky Derby, to the Breeder's Cup, to the Dubai Cup. They are races that can have millions of dollars at stake, with some of the best horses getting more money than others. These races also having extremely specific standards when accepting horses to compete.
The money that certain horses bring in by winning races can be huge. For instance, the winner of the Kentucky Derby will get $1.24 million while the second place horse will get $400,000. Meanwhile, the winner of the Dubai Cup will win $6 million while the second place horse brings in only $2 million. Needless to say only the few horse capable of winning races are the ones that trot away with prize money in the millions.
Another way in which these horses are valuable is by becoming stud horses. Many trainers are willing to pay big bucks to horse breeders to have their champion horses mate with other horses. This is to help improve the potential for a horse to be successful as a racer years into the future. It's a particularly interesting thing to see in that some of the most successful horses on the stud market are ones that haven't necessarily won some of the biggest races.
The key to having a successful horse is to have one that is not only capable of doing well in races but also one that can produce good offspring. This list of the most profitable horses in racing history highlights a number of horses that have proven that a good trainer and jockey, as well as a strong breeding plan can be critical to earning big money at the races. This list takes exclusively into account the amounts of money that these horses earned in races. Breeders of these horses are extremely tight-lipped about what it costs to pair one of these horses with another for breeding purposes. All values are in American dollars.
10 Invasor - Career Earnings: $7.8 Million
Although he only ran in twelve races during his career, Invasor won eleven times, including the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2006 and the Dubai World Cup the year after that. He was earning close to $1 million for each victory as he got into some of the most high-end horse races in many parts of the world. This Argentina-based horse was highly sought after during his career as he was sold for $1.4 million to Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum not long after winning Uruguay's Triple Crown of horse racing in 2005. The majority of races that he won were at least ten furlongs in length (about 2 kilometers), thus making him a popular horse for breeding purposes, specifically for distance races.
9 Black Caviar - $7.95 Million
Black Caviar, a filly from Australia, competed in twenty-five races during her career from 2009 to 2013. All of these races were at least one kilometer in length. She ended up winning every single one of them, including seventeen Grade I races. As of October 2013, Black Caviar was in foal, meaning that she is expected to give birth to a horse in the near future. It is unclear as to how much her foaling fees are but it's expected to be massive considering the stunning success she had in her career in every single race she was in.
8 Fantastic Light - $8.4 Million
Fantastic Light was born in the United States but was raised by Saeed bin Suroor in Dubai. He won $8.4 million during his career around the turn of the twenty-first century, as he won twelve races including the Breeders' Cup Turf race in 2001, a race that had a prize of around half a million dollars at the time. He also won the 2000 Dubai Sheema Classic, a race that held a purse of around $3 million. Much of Fantastic Light's winnings come from races located in Dubai and other places around the Middle East which tend to hold races with larger purses than other events around the world.
7 Skip Away - $9.6 Million
Skip Away is the only horse on this list that is no longer alive. Skip Away won eighteen of his 38 races and placed in the top three in all but four races. He placed second in the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1996. He also defeated Cigar in one horse race, ending Cigar's sixteen-race winning streak and also won seven straight Grade I races in 1997, including the Breeders' Cup Classic. He won a little more than $1 million after winning this prominent race. Although he did sire a number of horses after he retired with a total earnings amount of $9.6 million, he died of a heart attack in 2010.
6 Cigar - $10 Million
Cigar was very successful in his run in the middle part of the 1990s. Cigar won sixteen straight races in his career and was in the top three in all but five of his 33 races. In fact, Cigar was the highest-earning American horse of all time for a brief period. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that his value will continue to grow over time. While Cigar had a net worth of around $25 million, he was deemed infertile as he was unable to get any of the more than thirty females that he was mated with pregnant after his racing career.
5 Zenno Rob Roy - $10.4 Million
Zenno Rob Roy was a thoroughbred in Japan who raced in the early part of the 2000s. He won the 2004 Japan Cup and the autumn edition of the Tenno Sho race. However, it has been difficult for his current owners to profit from him as he suffered from horse flu in 2007 and almost died. While he is alive and well today, it is tough for his breeders to take advantage of his $10.4 million earnings on the stud market. One noteworthy fact about Zenno Rob Roy is that his sire was the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, Sunday Silence.
4 Curlin - $10.5 Million
Curlin was the winner of the 2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic, as well as the 2008 Dubai Cup. Trained for part of his career by Steve Asmussen, he won eleven of his sixteen races and finish out of the top three only once. His $10.5 million earnings were taken mostly with Robby Albarado as his jockey. In fact, Curlin has helped to father more than a hundred horses, including 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice. Curlin's second-to-last win in his career was what prompted him to surpass Cigar on the American earnings chart. It's estimated that it costs $70,000 to breed a horse through him.
3 Deep Impact - $12.8 Million
Deep Impact competed for a part of the 2000s in Japan. During his time, he won the 2005 Japanese Triple Crown, the most prominent series in all of Japanese horse racing. He became the first horse to do this in more than a decade and one of only seven all time. He earned approximately 1.45 billion Japanese yen, a total that equates to around $12.8 million USD. In addition, he has a syndication deal for breeding that is worth around 5 billion yen, but it is unclear as to what money his current owners actually get off of his breeding services. Deep Impact, like Zenno Rob Roy, was also sired by Sunday Silence.
2 Makybe Diva - $14.6 Million
Makybe Diva was born in the United Kingdom but she moved to Australia for training around 2000. She raced for four years and won the Melbourne Cup three times, becoming the only horse to do so in the race's 150-plus-year history. She won a staggering $5 million during her final victory in 2005. Her $14.6 million earnings make her the most profitable horse in Australian history. One of the horses that she has foaled, Rockstardom, was sold for around $1.5 million. A statue of her can be found in the wealthy coastal town of Port Lincoln, South Australia.
1 T M Opera O - $16.2 Million
T M Opera O has produced a couple of horses in his stud days but it's his track record that has made him so successful. This chestnut thoroughbred from Japan won $14.1 million during his prolific career in Japanese racing. From 1999 to 2001, he competed in 26 races and finished in the top three in all but three of those races. He won seven high-paying Grade I races during his career including the Japan Cup, the spring and autumn editions of the Tenno Sho race and two Kyoto Daishoten races. While he has produced horses, it's his career winnings that have landed him top spot on this list.