6 Legendary Memories From The World’s Best Horse Races

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Deciding on which is the greatest horse racing event is a close to impossible task, so we’re going to rate our 6 favourite races in the world in no particular order. After reading the list, we’ll leave you to decide!

Each of these races brings their respective country to an absolute standstill and commands the attention of an entire sporting nation. And, each is worthy of being the” World’s Best Horserace” in any given year.

We’ll be looking at the things that make each of these best horse races unforgettable, together with the aspects that make horse racing so intriguing. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable horse races and memories that have been entrenched into sporting lore forever:

Melbourne Cup

Known locally as “the race that stops the nation”, the Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most popular annual thoroughbred horse race. It’s a two-mile handicap race for three-year-olds and over. The date of the race is an annual public holiday in the state of Victoria and the race is staged by the Victoria Racing Club as part of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.

  • Location: Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Date: First Tuesday of November
  • Surface: Turf
  • Distance: 3,200 metres
  • Prize Money: $8,000,000

The Most Memorable Moment

Prince of Penzance was the first-ever Melbourne Cup winner to be ridden by a female jockey. In 2015, 30-year-old Michelle Payne shocked and delighted racing fans worldwide as she booted home the 100/1 outsider. Despite these astronomical odds, the New Zealand bred 6-year-old gelding actually had a fair chance on form, having won the Grade 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup in 2014. A slight dampen on this glorious memory is that Prince of Penzance was trained by Darren Weir who was subsequently charged with animal cruelty offences and has since been banned from horseracing.

Dubai World Cup

Held annually since 1996, the Dubai World Cup is also one of Dubai’s biggest social spectacles with top calibre horses from around the globe competing. A magnet for the rich and famous, Dubai World Cup Night is a showcase for the best horse’s on the planet. The night’s signature race, the Dubai World Cup, is the world’s second-richest horse race (after the $20 million Saudi Cup) with a stake of $12 million. There are nine group races throughout the day making this a spectacle for any true racing enthusiast.

  • Location: Meydan Racecourse, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Date: Last Saturday in March
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Distance: 2,000 metres
  • Prize Money: $12,000,000

The Most Memorable moment

At the 2016 Dubai World Cup, American thoroughbred racehorse California Chrome drew away from the field by 3 ¾ lengths despite breaking from stall 11. He covered the 1 ¼ mile course In a new track record time of 2:01.83. California Chrome’s victory was the first in the race for his jockey (Victor Espinoza), trainers (Art Sherman and Alan Sherman) and owners (California Chrome LLC). It was the cherry on top of the glittering career of what must go down in history as one of the best horse races to ever hail from the shores of America.

Grand National

The Grand National (also called the Grand National Handicap Steeplechase), is run annually at Aintree Racecourse. The grueling and often brutal event is a handicap steeplechase over 4 miles 3 ½ furlongs, with horses jumping 30 fences during two circuits. It’s Europe’s most valuable jump race with prize money of £1,000,000 and attracts more attention globally than any other steeplechase. The number of horses competing each year is huge with the horse race betting odds notoriously reflecting the open nature of the event.

  • Location: Aintree Racecourse, Aintree, Merseyside, England.
  • Date: Aintree Festival spread over 3 days in April (Thursday-Saturday) with the Grand National staged on Saturday.
  • Surface: Turf
  • Distance: 6,907 kilometres
  • Prize Money: £ 1,000,000

The Most Memorable Moment

With an insurmountable lead in the 1956 Grand National, Devon Loch fell in the final straight. This was to become one of the most famous tragic moments in sports history. A mere forty yards from certain victory, with tens of thousands of spectators shouting him home, the 9-year-old gelding reared his front legs and splayed his hindquarters.

To this day exactly what happened is a mystery and a point of contentious debate. Owned by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, trained by Fred Rimell and ridden by Dick Francis, Devon Loch’s iconic moment in sporting lore is forever embellished.

Fortunately, Devon Loch suffered no permanent damage from the fall but the memory would always haunt Francis, who retired the following year and became a bestselling crime novelist.

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious horse race in North America. First held in 1875 at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, this iconic event is the longest-running sporting event in the United States. It’s a Grade 1 stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbreds and is famously known as “The Fastest Two Minutes In Sports “ or “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports”.

Heightening the excitement is the fact that the Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown – the other two being the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. So, each year, a field of young up and coming racehorses launch their bids for this legendary hat-trick of wins.

  • Location: Churchill Downs Racetrack, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
  • Date: First Saturday in May
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Distance: 2,000 metres
  • Prize Money: $3,000,000

The Most Memorable Moment

In 1973 American thoroughbred racehorse Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, and that year’s Kentucky derby set the wheels in motion. His victory in the first of the three legs at the Kentucky Derby was where horse racing fans began to recognise his greatness.

The inspirational story has been turned into a major motion picture – and rightly so. Following a disappointing third in the Wood Memorial (due to a painful abscess), victory in the Kentucky Derby was particularly sweet. Breaking from a barrier position of 10, Secretariat settled at the back of the field before unleashing an incredible flying finish in the straight to win by over 2 lengths.

Indisputably one of the greatest racehorses ever, Secretariat would go on to seal the Triple crown with a Preakness win and then an astounding 31 length victory in the Belmont Stakes. Trained by Lucien Laurin, ridden by Ron Turcotte and owned by Meadow Stable – Secretariat will forever be known as “Big Red”.

Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe

Widely known as the “ Arc”, The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe is one of the most thrilling sporting events in Europe. Held at the eye-catching Longchamp Racecourse, it’s a Grade 1 flat horse race for thoroughbreds aged three years or older. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe has a prestigious roll of honour which features all it’s champions and is currently the world’s second-richest turf race.

  • Location: Longchamp Racecourse, Paris, France
  • Date: First Sunday in October
  • Surface: Turf
  • Distance: 2400 metres
  • Prize Money: €5,000,000

The Most Memorable Moment

In 2011, Danedream became one of only two horses from Germany to win the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. Her victory was exceptional, winning the race easily by 5 lengths and smashing the long-held course record time. She captured the Arc at 20-to-1 odds in what today remains a stunning upset for the history books. The three-year-old filly was trained in Germany by Peter Schiergen, ridden by Andrasch Starke and owned by Gestüt Berg Eberstein together with Teruya Yoshida.

The Durban July Handicap

Since 1897 The Durban July Handicap has been the glittering highlight of South Africa’s racing and social calendar. Each year tens of thousands of visitors flock to Greyville racecourse for what has become a spectacle of the latest fashions and a testament to the country’s love for “The Sport of Kings”. Originally held over a mile, the distance was adjusted to 2200 metres in 1970 and, due to the tight nature of Greyville racecourse, has produced some incredibly exciting finishes.

  • Location: Greyville Racecourse, Durban, South Africa
  • Date: First Saturday in July (2020 delayed to last Saturday in July)
  • Surface: Turf
  • Distance: 2200 metres
  • Prize Money: R4.25 Million (reduced in 2020 to R1.5 Million)

The Most Memorable Moment

The story of Sea Cottage is one which truly defines the courage of a champion. In 1966 Sea Cottage was firmly entrenched in the ante-post betting market as the favourite for that year’s Durban July Handicap. But, sinister forces were at work…
A bookmaker who faced a large liability on a Sea Cottage victory enlisted the help of a patron who owed him money to hatch a vile plan. Their henchman, Johnny Nel, was hired to shoot Sea Cottage. And, horrifically, on June 10th that is exactly what Nel did – firing a bullet from a sniper’s rifle into Sea Cottage’s hindquarters as the thoroughbred was cantering on the beach.

Incredibly, Sea Cottage returned to light gallops and participated in The Durban July a mere 22 days later where he finished a creditable fourth – with the bullet still in him! This unbelievable champion came back the following year to win the 1967 Durban July and cement his place in South African folklore.

P.S – The bullet was only removed after Sea Cottage died at the ripe old age of 25.

Horse racing is steeped in history and rich in tales of champion thoroughbreds that have been forever immortalised. Whether you’re a long time fan of The Sport of Kings or if you’re a newcomer – it’s tough to watch any of these annual races listed above and not be awestruck by the beauty, majesty and determination of it all.

What’s your favourite horse race from around the world? And, which great memories of these races do you think are worth mentioning?

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