Comparing Middle Eastern and British Horse Racing

Comparing Middle Eastern and British Horse Racing Image of horses racing

Horse racing is one of the world’s most popular sports, with fanatics tuning in to watch meetings from across the planet throughout the year. However, the Middle East is a region that is looking to play catch up with the Western world, and by offering lucrative purses at certain points in the year, it is managing to achieve high-quality fields for some of the races on the calendar.

Some of the Middle Eastern races on the calendar have been extremely popular with sportsbooks such as, and the fact that they are able to attract a wealth of talent only makes them more interesting to fans that follow the sport throughout the year. But, what are some of the key differences and similarities between racing in the Middle East and Great Britain?

Prize Money

Prize money is something that has been a divisive subject in British racing for the last couple of years, with connections often looking to avoid big showdowns between the brightest stars because the prize money available just does not merit taking the risk. However, the prize money on offer in the Middle East is something that has attracted runners from across the globe to travel to compete in races.

Races such as the Dubai World Cup and Saudi Cup both offer multi-million dollars in prize money to winning connections, meaning that we often see the biggest stars in the world looking to take on one another. That has enabled racing in the region to thrive, as a wide selection of top stars from Europe and North America travel to the Middle East in recent years.


Prestigious Races

While the Middle East outweighs British racing when it comes to prize money, it would be hard to say that the races staged in the region are able to claim to be as prestigious. One of the key reasons why British racing has thrived throughout history is down to the fact that huge races always attract deep fields, and they have been a dream to win for trainers, jockeys, and owners throughout their lives.

The same cannot be said of the premiere events in the Middle East just yet, as some of the key lucrative races just have not been around long enough. The British Classics are the key contests on the flat in the United Kingdom, with the most prestigious of those being the Epsom Derby. This Group 1 was first contested back in 1780 and is the richest flat race on the calendar in the United Kingdom. However, it’s unlikely in this modern era that we see stars attempt to win the Triple Crown.

Difference In Racing Popularity

Flat racing is the only type of horse racing available to fans in the Middle East, but that is different in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In the UK and Ireland, the popularity of flat racing is high, but it is still exceeded by the popularity of the National Hunt calendar, which is staged between October and early May. Unlike flat racing, there is no breeding value, which means it is a much more accessible sport for those that want to get involved, as jump horses can be bought for much cheaper and enjoy longer careers on track.

There are huge events throughout the year, and these often dwarf the attendances achieved by other major horse racing events in both the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The most prestigious on the calendar is the Cheltenham Festival, which is held over four days and features eleven Grade 1s. The pinnacle of the jumps season is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which has been won by legends such as Best Mate, Kauto Star, Denman, and Arkle.

The second most popular race on the calendar is the Grand National, which is the richest steeplechase on the calendar. It is staged at Aintree and sees a field of 40 runners tackle just over four miles and 30 fences. Its ability to engross a mainstream audience makes it unlike any other race on the planet, with horses such as Tiger Roll, Red Rum, and Many Clouds ranking among the most popular winners of the race.

Could The Middle East Ever Catch UK Popularity?

The popularity of horse racing in the United Kingdom remains high, with record-breaking attendance always being achieved at major events. While Middle Eastern racing is able to offer sizable prize money to attract star-studded fields, British racing already has a greater level of prestigious races, both on the flat and over the jumps too.

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