horse racing

US vs UK: How Horse Racing Differs in Different Parts of the World?

Horse racing is a popular form of entertainment across the world, particularly in Ireland, France, USA, Dubai, and of course, the UK. For the majority of people involved in the sport directly, it is a passion and lifestyle that they will never truly give up on and for fans and bettors, the act of finding the right bet is often seen as something of a fine art.

We all go to the races in high spirits, whether it’s at Aintree for The Grand National or Cheltenham for the Gold Cup and while we think that we know all when it comes to giving our advice to fellow spectators as to which horse they should place all their money on, how much about horse racing do we really know? Have we ever explored what horse racing is like overseas and see how it differs from here in the UK?

Well, let’s take a look!

horse racing

Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. In order to win the Triple Crown, the horse must win all three of these races.

Horse racing in the US doesn’t just stop there either! Harness racing is another popular sport and involves horses racing at a specific pace, usually trot, pulling a two-wheeled cart known as a sulky.  

How Do The Races Differ in Horse Racing In The UK and US?


The majority of racecourses in the UK these days are crafted from or set on turf, however, there are some exceptions; Chelmsford City, Wolverhampton and Kempton are all-weather tracks. The courses in the US, however, are mainly dirt, although a lot of racecourses in the US today tend to use artificial surfaces.


Here in the UK, we have both right and left-handed courses, which open up the sport to more competitors than ever. Some horses find it easier to race one way than the other, due to their preferred leading leg and if their muscles are built up slightly more on one side. Therefore, trainers can choose which courses to race the horses dependant on their style.

There are only left-handed tracks in the US, so all the horses will be trained to go round on that rein regardless, leaving some horses at a natural disadvantage.


Races in the US are not as long as those in the UK although, up until recently, the Virginia Gold Cup was 4 miles long. Nowadays, the flat races in the US aren’t very far at all, with the Belmont Stakes being the longest at 1m4f. The UK however, has National Hunt races which are over 3 miles as standard and are a real test of stamina, especially over the large fences and in muddy conditions.


The US also have Quarter Horse Races, which are over a distance of about a quarter of a mile or less and as a result, quarter horses are bred to remain calm under the pressure and chaos of a short sprint distance. Not all horses would be appropriate for horse racing and there are many factors that must be considered when breeding for this reason.

Only thoroughbreds are used for horse racing in the UK, as they are fast and agile and have been bred well for the purpose of racing. When they have completed their careers as racehorses, many are re-schooled and become eventers due to their excellent jumping ability and stamina.

How Are Winnings Different In Horse Racing In The UK and US?

Compared to the US, winnings in the UK are rather small. The largest amount of prize money in any British horse race is £561,300, which you’ll get if you win the Grand National. Winnings in the US, however, consist of $2 million plus, with the winner of the Breeder’s Cup Classic being able to take home a massive $5 million!

Horse Racing isn’t that different between the US and here in the UK, with the main similarity being a pure passion and love the people in the industry have for the sport. Whether you’re looking to follow the UK’s fire for all things horse racing, or the range of interesting and unusual races in the US, you’re guaranteed a unique and enjoyable experience regardless.