Above: Le beau monde a Longchamp, Prix de l’Arc. Photo by Jack Torcello.
When the Cheltenham Festival is over, horse racing fans across the world start to look towards the Grand National. Held on the historic Aintree course in Liverpool, this is a huge test of jumping ability and stamina, where only the best and most courageous horse comes through.
Many would say that the Grand National is the biggest and toughest race of them all but here are some alternatives from around the world that would argue against that theory.
One key element that all of these races have in common is their ability to draw out both the regular bettors and the casual punters. In April, Aintree betting intensifies around the Grand National and the same applies down in Australia when the Melbourne Cup rolls into town.
In terms of endurance, the English race has the edge at four miles and 514 yards as opposed to the two mile Aussie equivalent and, while Aintree is over the jumps, the Flemington Course is purely for flat racing. However, horses often compete in searing heat which is rarely seen in an English April.
The Melbourne Cup is justifiably referred to as The Race that Stops a Nation and in this racing-mad country, that’s not a title to be bestowed lightly. This event also deserves its place on the list due to the finances involved, and with a purse of 6,200,000 AUD up for grabs in 2017, it is the richest two mile race in the world and one of the most lucrative turf races of all.
It may not be able to match the Grand National in regards to its gruelling nature, but the prestige involved with the Melbourne Cup makes it worthy of comparison.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
Sheer longevity can also give a horse race legendary status but while the Grand National and the Melbourne Cup both have their roots in the 19th century, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is slightly newer than its rivals, having been first run in 1920.
The ‘Arc’ as it is commonly known, is held at the Longchamp track in Paris each October and is a group one race for thoroughbreds aged three years and over. Once again, as a flat race over one and a half miles, it isn’t as challenging as the Grand National but it’s right at the top in terms of prestige. With a prize fund of five million Euros, the Arc is simply the richest turf race in the world and the one that all owners, trainers and jockeys want to win.
The Kentucky Derby
There is a thriving horse racing scene in the United States but the events don’t come any bigger than the Kentucky Derby. It has the longevity, having first been held in 1875 and there is a huge prize pot involved here too.
Racegoers in England, Australia and France would argue that their prime meeting is the best in the world but in America, the Kentucky Derby is simply described as The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports, so clearly the citizens of the US believe that they host the greatest global horse race of them all.