Racing in the US vs Racing in the UK

The horseracing industry across the globe is steeped in history and tradition—it’s not called the sport of kings for nothing! While it’s very much a worldwide sport, horse racing is mostly known in the UK and the US. Both countries have cultivated distinct, vibrant racing scenes  over the centuries. But how do they differ and, dare we ask, is one country’s industry more successful than the other?

Innovation in the US Industry
In contrast to the historical, almost reverential culture around racing in the UK, in the US, the racing scene is typified by its focus on innovation and scale. The Triple Crown series, comprising the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, is widely considered to be the pinnacle of American horse racing. Especially because winning the Triple Crown is incredibly rare—only 13 horses have accomplished this feat since its inception in 1919 (the most recent being 2018’s Justify).

US racecourses like Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, and Saratoga Race Course in New York are central to the country’s racing heritage. In fact, as far as scale goes, nothing can quite top the Kentucky Derby. Often called ‘The Run for the Roses’ this event is known for its grand spectacle, attracting over 150,000 spectators annually, with millions more tuning in via streaming services and live broadcasts.

Innovation plays a crucial role in US racing. Advances in track surfaces, such as synthetic tracks designed to improve safety, as well as cutting-edge veterinary care are now hallmarks of the modern industry. This innovation is seen in punter participation too. Betting on horse racing in the US, while widespread, differs from the UK in its structure and emphasis. The pari-mutuel betting system, where all bets are pooled and payouts are determined by the shared pool, is the standard.

Moreover, betting is highly popular as a digital activity now that 38 states states have legalized remote betting. While online betting on horse racing is certainly popular in the UK, the sheer scale of the market in the United States dwarfs any gross gambling yield that the British Isles is able to generate. This is, in part, driven by the value for money that punters can achieve betting in the digital space. For instance, Draftkings has a racing promo code that provides new punters with a 100% deposit match bonus. This gives new customers up to $250 in added value to use on bets.

Heritage and Prestige in the United Kingdom

Racing in the UK is characterized by its long-standing traditions and prestigious racecourses.  Venues such as Ascot, Epsom and Cheltenham are internationally recognized, hosting some of the most significant events in the racing calendar and drawing in the best runners and riders from across Europe and the world. Racing is also deeply embedded in British culture.

The Royal Ascot meeting, for instance, is a highlight of the British social season. Drawing attendees from high society and the working class alike, this event continues to reflect its storied three hundred plus year history with its strict dress code and royal patronage.

The racing landscape in the UK is divided into two main categories: Flat racing and National Hunt racing. Flat racing takes place on level ground over distances ranging from five furlongs to two and a half miles. National Hunt racing, aka jump racing, sees horses navigate obstacles such as fences and ditches. Events like the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National are cornerstones of this form and attract significant viewership and participation.

The UK also boasts a robust breeding and training industry, centered around Newmarket, aka the headquarters of British racing. This sleepy market town in West Suffolk has long been home to leading training facilities and stud farms, sustaining the country’s reputation for producing top-class thoroughbreds in the process. According to the British Horseracing Authority, horses bred on British soil continue to perform exceptionally well on the global stage.

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