Five races that stop a nation

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Every country where thoroughbred racing takes place has at least one race in its calendar that attracts interest from the general public. However, only a few countries have a horse race that is not only considered one of the biggest events in the social and sporting calendar, but also draws entries and public interest from abroad.
Here’s our pick of the five races that are major annual events in their host nations and beyond.

The Grand National

The Grand National is the biggest annual event in National Hunt racing. While the race is a relatively humble Grade 3 handicap, it can attract top class racehorses who have won major Grade 1 chases. It also offers the biggest purse in National Hunt racing, with £1million on offer in the race. Broadcast around the globe, the Grand National is estimated to attract an international audience of around 600 million people. An estimated one in ten people in the UK tune into the race every year.

The Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is literally known as ‘the race that stops a nation’. In fact it stops two nations, with this epic age for weight stayer’s handicap also attracting a significant audience in New Zealand. Due to the time zone involved, the Melbourne Cup’s international audience is not quite as large as the Grand National’s. However, an estimated 5.6 million Australians watch the race every year – which is 29% of that country’s population over the age of 14!

Kentucky Derby

This 1 mile 2 furlong Kentucky Derby launches the American Triple Crown and attracts the largest attendance of any race in the United States. In addition an average of 15 million Americans watch the race on TV every year. However, when a horse competes for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes several weeks later, the Kentucky Derby passes the baton to that race. An estimated 22 million people watched American Pharoah win the Triple Crown at the 2015 Belmont Stakes.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

France’s biggest race is easily the most prestigious race run on continental Europe, and the richest turf race run in Europe. Race marketing states ‘it’s not a race, it’s a monument’, and every year this race attracts visitors from around the world, as well as a selection of the finest thoroughbreds in the UK, Ireland and continental Europe. The race not only attracts interest from the French public, but also widespread interest in the UK, especially when a champion British horse is in the mix.

The Japan Cup

The Japan Cup may not be the richest race in Asia and the Middle East, but it’s heritage and appeal to the general public eclipse races like the Dubai World Cup. It is common for crowds of over 100,00 spectators to attend this 1 mile 4 furlong race, making it one of the best attend sports events on the planet. With its purse of almost $6 million, the Japan Cup attracts entries from around the globe, as well as a large television audience throughout the Asia-Pacific region.