For the elite, horse racing can be a highly lucrative sport. There are races around the world that offer up millions in prize money, with everyone from the owners to the stable staff all getting a cut of the winnings.
The prize money is distributed throughout the sport and is based on the calibre of the race in question. The biggest races, such as Group 1 races will command the biggest prize money and then the money will get smaller as the class of race will start to decrease.
Where Does the Prize Money Come From?
Money for each race can come from a number of different sources. It’s all brought together to form one pot and the prize money in the UK is now set around the £170 million mark alone. Let’s take a look at how the money is formed.
One the biggest contributions to the prize money is that of the bookmaker levy. The levy in its current form has been in since 2017, but it’s been about in some form since the introduction of the Horserace Betting Levy Acts of 1969.
Bookmakers are required to make a contribution to the sport based on the amount that they make direct from bets placed on horse racing. The current deal that is in place is 10% of any earnings that are made on sums of £500,000 or more over a calendar year. So, if a bookmaker was able to make £1,000,000 from horse racing that year, they would be required to pay £100,000 of that money into the levy.
This money is very much dependant on the amount of money the bookmakers make and as a result, can fluctuate. However, as it stands the money that is made from the betting levy has never been higher and is a huge factor to the £170 million of prize money within the sport in the UK.
Owners Entry Fee
Each race is going to command an owner’s entry fee. This is the price that has to be paid in order to run in that race. The money is much lower than the levy contributions, but it still adds up when you consider just how many races are run each year.
The fee is based on a number of factors but is usually based on the calibre of race on offer. For example, a Group 1 race will command a higher fee than that of a Group 3 race. The percentage is taken from the amount of prize money that is already applied to that race. This might come from things like the betting levy or even private investment, which the owner will then need to pay a percentage on. Here is the breakdown in entry fee percentages based on prize money:
|Flat Group 1||0.5% – 1.5%|
|Flat Group 2||0.5% – 1.25%|
|Flat Group 3||0.5% – 1%|
|Other||0.25% – 0.75%|
|National Hunt||0.25% – 0.75%|
Private Funding (Money Added Stakes)
Even though some races are advertised as being in the same group, they can also have different prize money on offer. This usually comes in the form of private funding that is sometimes secured by the racecourse or can be by the sponsors of the race.
To give you an idea, below are 8 Group 1 races that were run at Royal Ascot in 2019 and the prize money that each had on offer:
- Prince of Wales Stakes – £750,000
- Diamond Jubilee Stakes – £600,000
- Queen Anne Stakes – £600,000
- Coronation Stakes – £500,000
- King’s Stand Stakes – £500,000
- Gold Cup – £500,000
- St James’s Palace Stakes – £500,000
- Commonwealth Cup – £500,000
As you can see, the money offer can range quite dramatically, and this often comes in the form of private funded money for each race. There are different reasons why sponsors want to put more money, but what you find is that the biggest prize funds attract the biggest horses. When the best horses run it creates more buzz about the race and in turn, more exposure for the sponsor.
It’s worth noting that this is different from the bonus funds that we have covered below. This is money that is put up as part of the industry-wide investment, and not an outside source like bonus funds are.
Bonus funds are totally separate to the prize money that is on offer. This is additional money that is rewarded, usually for winning multiple races outlined in the same calendar year. The money is usually put up by sponsors, but there are some industry-related groups that set up bonus money as well.
They are able to do this by insuring the prize money, so if it is won, they can just claim the money from the insurance company. Here’s a look at some of the biggest bonus funds in the industry, both past and present:
The Stayers Million is one of the biggest in the UK and comes with a £1 million bonus fund. The prize is up for horses that run over flats and will require the horse to win 4 races throughout the year. Before they can win, the horse needs to qualify by winning one of 8 races around the world. These include:
- Dubai Gold Cup (Dubai)
- Vintage Crop Stakes (Navan)
- Longines Sagaro Stakes (Ascot)
- Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes (Chester)
- Comer Group International Oleander-Rennen (Berlin-Hoppegarten)
- Yorkshire Cup (York)
- Matchbook Henry II Stakes (Sandown Park)
- Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (ParisLongchamp)
After they have won one of these, they then need to go on and win the Ascot Gold Cup, Qatar Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup to win the £1 million bonus. Stradivarius is the only horse to have won the bonus, winning in its inaugural year of 2018 and then again the following year in 2019.
Stayers Triple Crown
The Jockey Club put up the £1 million bonus for the Stayers Triple Crown. Including prize money, it means that horses that are able to win the bonus will take home over £1.6 million. There are no qualifying races for the Stayers Triple Crown, but the three races that have to be won are that of the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, King George VI Chase at Kempton Park and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The only winner so far is that of the incredible Kauto Star. He did it during the 2006/07 season in what was regarded as the horses most dominant period. He almost repeated the feat the following year, eventually losing out to Denman in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing
Even though prize money for the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing is no more, there was a time where there was a $1 million purse up for grabs which celebrated some of the biggest races in the US. Due to TV rights, no sponsorship deal has been stuck, so there is no money. Having said that, it’s still widely held as one of the most elite awards in world horse racing let alone US-based. It’s been running since 1950, with the latest winner coming in 2018, Justify.
The Triple Crown includes three races; Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Even though no addition prize money is added, the winning horse will pick up over $4 million in race money from each of the purses, making it a highly lucrative route for any thoroughbred.
Irish Triple Crown
The Irish Triple Crown has been running since 1921, making it the oldest of these bonus funds. Again, there is no bonus money up for grabs, but does include the 3 biggest flat races in Ireland, which means that the winning horse will be picking up a cumulative cheque for €1.2 million.
The races that are included in this are the Irish Derby, Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Irish St Leger. There have only ever been 2 winners of the Irish Triple Crown, who were Museum in 1935 and Windsor Slipper in 1942.
Best Mate Bonus
The Best Mate Bonus is the newest of the bonus funds and was first set up in 2019. It was to celebrate what is widely regarded as one of the best jump horses of all time in Best Mate.
There are three races involved, which are the Peterborough Chase, King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Elite bookmaker, Fitzdares, has put up a prize fund over £500,000 for any horse that is going to recreate the route that Best Mate took on his impressive winning season in 2002.