Horse racing fans can look forward to a wealth of exciting action taking place across the globe throughout 2020. These are the 10 biggest races to mark in your diary.
February 29 at King Abdulaziz Racetrack
The inaugural Saudi Cup will be the richest race in history when it takes place in Riyadh on February 29. The Pegasus World Cup in Florida previously held the record as it stumped up $16 million in prize money in 2018, but that has dropped all the way down to $3 million for 2020, causing the top trainers to look to Saudi Arabia instead.
The Saudis are on a mission to turn their country into a global sporting hub, and they recently secured the heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr.
Now they have provided a world-record $20 million in prize money for the Saudi Cup and that should put Riyadh on the global horse racing map. It takes place over 1800m (9f) and it is open to four-year-olds and upwards from the northern hemisphere and three-year-olds and upwards from the southern hemisphere.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
March 13 at Cheltenham
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious event in the jumps racing calendar and it generally provides exhilarating action.
This grueling Grade 1 race takes place over miles 2 furlongs and 70 yards (5,294m) and it requires phenomenal staying power.
Ante-post betting lines are published well in advance of the race at all the top racebooks and it turns into a massive wagering event. The Gold Cup is the centerpiece of a four-day festival that also features the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Champion Hurdle, and the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Dubai World Cup
March 28 at Meydan
Prize money for the Dubai World Cup shot up to $12 million in 2019 as Thunder Snow romped to an emphatic victory. That prize money has been maintained in 2020 for the Group 1 race, which takes place over 2,000m (10f) on the dirt track in late March.
It is billed as the richest evening in the global racing calendar, as there is an eye-watering $35 million up for grabs on the card. That ensures the attendance of most of the world’s leading trainers as they prepare to battle it out for fame and fortune on the big stage.
April 4 at Aintree
The legendary Tiger Roll will bid to win an unprecedented third consecutive Grand National in April.
Gordon Elliott’s superstar stayer has proven his phenomenal stamina and determination over a number of big races and he will head into the Grand National as the clear favorite for glory, particularly if he wins the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham for the third year in a row.
The Grand National is an intense stamina test, taking place over 4 miles 514 yards (6,907m) and often on soft ground at Aintree. There are 30 fences to be cleared during its running, and many horses do not finish.
May 2 at Churchill Downs
The Kentucky Derby is one of the most eagerly anticipated races in the world. Last year it sparked great controversy after Maximum Security surged to a comfortable victory, only to be disqualified after stewards determined that he impeded War of Will and Long Range Teddy.
The win was handed to long shot Country House, who finished a distant second, causing a great deal of debate. Even President Trump lambasted the decision. The Kentucky Derby is only open to three-year-olds and it takes place over a distance of 1 1⁄4 miles (2,000m).
May 17 at Pimlico
The Preakness Stakes is the second leg of the Triple Crown and it takes place on May 17 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Last year War of Will seized glory to put the disappointment of the Kentucky Derby behind him.
In 2018, Justify became just the second horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown. Affirmed pulled it off in 1978, then American Pharaoh ended a 37-year drought in 2015 and Justify landed it in 2018.
Both American Pharaoh and Justify were saddled by Bob Baffert and his runners typically earn a great deal of column inches in May. The Preakness is run over a slightly shorter distance than the Kentucky Derby. This year’s running will be the 145th.
June 7 at Belmont
The final leg of the Triple Crown takes place in New York on June 7 and it is another huge event for bettors. The track is renowned for its large, sweeping terms and long home straight, resulting in a fair contest for the top three-year-olds in the country.
It is one of the top attended events in the US racing calendar and it often provides upsets Since 1997, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Big Brown, I’ll Have Another and California Chrome have all won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but not the Belmont.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
October 4 at Longchamp
The biggest race in the French calendar takes place in October and it is bound to attract some of the world’s finest runners. It is the second most prestigious race in the European flat racing calendar, after the Derby at Epsom, but by far the richest.
Its roll of honor features a number of highly acclaimed horses, including Enable, Treve, Found and Alleged. It takes place over a distance of 2,400m (a mile and a half) and it carries the slogan “Ce n’est pas une course, c’est un monument”, which translates as: “It’s not a race, it’s a monument”.
November 3 at Flemington
The Everest has recently usurped the Melbourne Cup as the richest race in Australia, and it has even overtaken the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as the world’s richest turf race.
However, the Melbourne Cup is the one that all the top trainers want to win. It is known Down Under as the race that stops a nation, but it is also popular all over the world.
British and Irish raiders have done really well, but local hero Vow And Declare seized glory in 2019. The Melbourne Cup takes place over 3,200m (2 miles) at Flemington and it is the main event of the famous Spring Racing Calendar.
Breeders’ Cup Classic
November 7 at Keeneland
The Kentucky Derby is the most famous race in America, but industry insiders pay more heed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This Grade 1 race for three-year-olds and older is run over a distance of 1 1⁄4 miles (2,000 m) on dirt at a different racecourse each year and carries a $6 million prize purse.
This year the action returns to Keeneland in Kentucky, the home of the Blue Grass Stakes. Legendary runners including American Pharoah, Arrogate, Gun Runner and Accelerate have won it in recent years, while Vino Rosso seized glory for Todd Pletcher last year.