The sport of horse racing has been referred to as the “Sport of Kings” and it is a very literal description in some cases, with Royal families from the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia having a direct interest in racing. Part of the reason for this is that racing has become a highly lucrative pastime over the years; the biggest bookmakers on the planet pretty much owe their existence to years of horse race betting. Breeders who produce successful racehorses can be confident of continued income even after a horse has retired, with stud fees augmenting anything the animal has won during its career.
The countries that have the greatest success in horse racing are often an anomaly in the world of sport. They often aren’t the same countries that dominate in soccer, tennis and other worldwide sports. It’s worth taking a closer look at which countries have the greatest pedigree in the sport of horse racing, and understanding where their reputation has been built, especially if you have an interest either in racehorse ownership or simply in betting on the sport of kings.
Small though it may be, Ireland has always been a heavy hitter in the world of racing, with horses, jockeys, trainers and breeders from the Emerald Isle being among the most noted in the sport. Twenty-five Irish horses have won the Grand National. Despite only ever running in 35 races, Arkle won the coveted Cheltenham Gold Cup three times in a row, an exceptional record in such a prestigious race. With a significant portion of its landmass being rural farmland, the horse racing industry is a significant contributor to the Irish economy, and will continue to be.
The fact that so many British and Irish horses and trainers head to Australia on a yearly basis is a testament to its prestige as a centre for racing. As you’ll see from a glance at the go-to guide to the Melbourne Cup, the Land Down Under has gained a level of renown in the sport that is unmatched in the Southern Hemisphere. Along with the aforementioned race, the Sydney Spring Carnival is an international event, with big names from the world of equine sport marking off entire months in the final quarter of the year to make the trip. This festival includes the Everest, the richest turf race in the sport.
The identity of the largest horse racing economy in the world may surprise you – Japan is known around the world as a high-tech paradise filled with flashing lights and innovation. However, that’s really only true of the cities, specifically Tokyo. Outside of the cities, agriculture and farmland are key contributors to the national economy, and this is borne out in the CA$25 billion that is generated annually by horse racing in Japan. That’s about $7-8 billion more than the next richest horse racing sector, which is the USA. Japan also holds more horse races than any other country in the world, with more than 20,000 every year.
The tiny city-state of Hong Kong is a lucrative place in any case, with its strong links to banking and investment. It’s also right up there with the wealthiest horse racing sectors on the planet. With only 7 million residents, the fact that Hong Kong is home to a racing industry worth close to CA$10 billion is astonishing. It is due almost entirely to the Hong Kong Jockey Club, a racecourse and business centre located in the Happy Valley district. As well as hosting 700 races a year, the Club is also home to the Asian Racing Federation, which meets and votes on the rules of horse racing for all of Asia.