It’s a year-round pursuit with millions of dollars at stake across the globe.
The horse racing calendar, in particular the Flat season, offers ample opportunities for both horse and jockey to claim rich prizes and sporting immortality.
Here are the races you need to know about it 2018.
Pegasus World Cup
When: January 27
Where: Gulfstream Park, Florida
What: The world’s richest horse race. A prize of $16 million is up for grabs. Each of 12 owners will put in $1 million with the fund topped up by organizer the Stronach Group. The 1 ⅛-mile (9 furlongs) race is run over dirt and is open to horses four years old and up. Last year’s inaugural event was won by Arrogate.
Dubai World Cup
When: March 31
Where: Meydan, Dubai
What: It was the world’s richest horse race until being usurped by the Pegasus World Cup. The winner scoops $10 million out of a total prize pot of $30 million. It is the biggest sporting and social occasion on the Dubai calendar and ends the UAE racing season. The race is run on dirt over 2,000 meters (about 10 furlongs). Arrogate won in 2017.
When: May 4
Where: Churchill Downs
What: The highly prized US classic is known variously as “The Most exciting Two Minutes In Sports”, “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” or “The Run for the Roses” on account of the winner receiving a blanket of flowers. The race has been run every year since 1875 and is the first leg of the US “Triple Crown” along with the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
When: May 5
Where: Newmarket, UK
What: The first of the five English Classics during the Flat season. The Group 1 race is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies and is run over one mile on turf. In theory it is the first leg of the Triple Crown, along with the Derby and the St Leger, but the feat of winning all three has rarely been attempted in recent years. First run in 1809, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Churchill triumphed last year.
When: May 6
What: The mile Classic for three-year-old fillies over turf, also held on Newmarket’s straight Rowley Mile. It was first staged in 1814.O’Brien’s Winter won in 2017.
When: June 1
Where: Epsom, UK
What: The third Classic of the UK season and the second open to three-year-old fillies only. It is run over a distance of 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 6 yards on the grass of Epsom Downs, south of London. The race began in 1779. Frankie Dettori rode Enable to victory last year.
When: June 2
Where: Epsom, UK
What: Britain’s richest horse race and the most prestigious of the Classics. The Derby, first run in 1780, is one of the highlights of the British sporting calendar and has given its name to innumerable races around the world. It is staged over one mile, four furlongs, six yards on the Downs at Epsom. The great jockey Lester Piggott holds the record of nine Derby wins, set between 1954 and 1983. Outsider Wings of Eagles was the surprise winner in 2017.
When: June 19-23
Where: Ascot, UK
What: The quintessentially English sporting and social occasion marked by the presence of The Queen and other members of the British Royal Family, dating back to 1711. Each day begins with the pageantry of the horse-drawn royal procession in front of grandstands packed with the top hats, tails and high fashion of the upmarket racegoers before a feast of top-class racing, including eight Group 1 races, the highlight of which is the prestigious Gold Cup.
When: June 30
Where: The Curragh, County Kildare, Ireland
What: Ireland’s equivalent of The Derby, held three weeks later. Open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies, it is run over a distance of 1 mile and 4 furlongs on turf. O’Brien’s Capri won in 2017.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes
When: July 28
What: Britain’s most prestigious open-age Flat race, the “King George,” as it is often known, has been won by some of racing’s biggest stars over the years. Held over a distance of 1 mile and 4 furlongs, many of its alumni go on to race in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Frankie Dettori rode John Gosden’s subsequent Arc winner Enable to victory last year.
When: September 15
Where: Doncaster, UK
What: The oldest of Britain’s five classic, dating back to 1776. The race for three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies is run over a distance of 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 115 yards. Jockey Ryan Moore rode Capri to victory in 2017.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
When: October 7
Where: Longchamp, Paris, France
What: Europe’s most prestigious and richest horse race, and the third most lucrative in the world behind the Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup. The first prize is $3.3 million (2,857,000 euros) from a purse of $6 million. The race (2,400 meters or about 1½ miles) returns to Longchamp after two years at Chantilly while its spiritual home was redeveloped. Frankie Dettori won a record fifth “Arc” aboard Enable last year.
British Champions Day
When: October 20
Where: Ascot, UK
What: The conclusion of the British Flat racing season and the richest purse on the calendar with more than $5.4 million (£4 million) in prize money across six races, including four Group 1 events. Unbeaten colt Frankel ended his career with his 14th straight win in the Champion Stakes in 2012.
When: November 2-3
Where: Churchill Downs, Kentucky, USA
What: The Breeders’ Cup World Championships bring an end to the international thoroughbred season on the Flat with a number of prestigious races, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The blue riband event has a purse of $6 million and is open to three-year-olds and older over a distance of 1 ¹⁄₄ miles on dirt. It is the fourth leg of the US Grand Slam following the Triple Crown of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Trainer Steve Asmussen saddled Gun Runner to victory in 2017.
When: November 6
Where: Flemington, Australia
What: Known as the “Race that stops a nation,” the Melbourne Cup is one of the highlights of the Australian sporting and social calendar.
The lucrative “two-mile” race for three-year-olds and over on turf was reduced to 3,200 meters (1.988 miles) when Australia went metric in 1972. The historic race, first hgetteld in 1861, was won last year by Rekindling.