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Biggest Horse Racing Events in Australia

Horse racing in Australia

From Group 1 Races to major state carnivals, there are typically several different horse racing events in Australia for fans to enjoy every year. There are certainly some excellent options, but you might not know what’s on and when. 

Whether you’ve been following these events for years and simply need a quick refresher or you’re just looking to get started in watching, we’ve got all the info you need on the 3 biggest Group 1 races in Australia (as well as much more). 

First of all, what defines a Group 1 Race?

Essentially, these are the premier races. As the most high-end events around, you can expect quite a few things; from the highest cash prices, the best jockeys, thoroughbred horses and (of course) an excellent race. Typically, these are held in the country’s major states in each capital city – with most being at the racing carnivals that are held during Autumn and Spring in Melbourne and Sydney.  

Want to get involved?

While plenty of people will most likely prefer to stay home and watch the races on TV, you may be looking to get a little more out of the experience. If so, why don’t you consider making a day of it and go along in person?

There’s no doubt that these races can be fun to watch, but a screen is nothing compared to being there yourself as part of the action. Of course, it may not always be easy to get a seat on the more popular events; but if you can, you’re certain to have a great time.

You can also get more involved by placing bets on these races. While not for everyone, a wager on the safe betting sites Australia has can certainly up the stakes and even reward you with a nice sum of cash. Who doesn’t like the idea of backing their favourite horse and making that win even sweeter?  

With that quick explanation out of the way, let’s see what the most popular horse racing events are.

1. The Melbourne Cup

Not to be confused with greyhound racing events of the same name, this is easily one of the most famous thoroughbred horse races in the country. 

Countless people from across Australia (and even other parts of the world!) tune in to watch the event. There are several reasons for its popularity; from the fact that its first race was held in 1861, to the excitement that can be enjoyed just by going along.

This annual event is also rather well known for being the richest two-mile handicap in the world and the high cash prize of A$5,000,000 (as of 2020) certainly adds a little extra excitement and incentive for jockeys to win. Overall, it’s simply one of the best races Australia has to offer, which is why it has gained so much attention and is loved by a range of horse racing enthusiasts.

The race is held once a year: on the first Tuesday of November at 3:00 PM. While it’s not a race that you’ll get to see regularly, it’s certainly one that you won’t want to miss out on.  

2. The Caulfield Cup

Another excellent event under the Melbourne Racing Club for Group 1 races and thoroughbred horses is the Caulfield Cup – and much like the first race we mentioned, there tends to be a lot to like about this event. Of course, any fans of premium horse races are likely to enjoy Group 1 Races anyway, but there are also some interesting factors to consider.

First of all, the Melbourne Racing Club is in the process of switching from a handicap condition to a weight-for-age one, where horses will carry a set weight in accordance to the WFA scale. This can depend on a variety of things, like their race distance the previous year and age. 

While this is technically a handicap condition, it is different from the standard handicapping rules (and is why it’s typically not considered to be a handicap race). The conditions for the event set it apart from The Melbourne Club and make it an enticing watch indeed.

The Caulfield Cup was inaugurated in 1879 and is held annually in mid-October, with a prize of A$5,000,000.

3. The W.S. Cox Plate

If the idea of the WFA conditions appeals to you, it might be worth looking into an event like the W.S. Cox Plate. Held at the Moonee Valley Racecourse, this is another great Group 1 Race that’s held in Melbourne with a prize pool to match its counterparts (currently standing at A$5,000,000).

Introduced a little later than the others in October 1922, this race still boasts an interesting history. For example, during the early 2000s the W.S. Cox Plate was a part of the Emirates World Series Racing Championship. Featuring other great events from around the globe like the Dubai World Cup, the Hong Kong Cup and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot to name but a few, it was essentially the Grand Prix of the horse racing world.

As another prestigious event in Melbourne, there’s no doubt that it’s worth a watch when it comes around – which is typically once a year, towards the end of October. 

Many great races to check out

As you can see from just the three examples above, horseracing in Australia is popular for good reason. We’d also recommend that you take a look at races like the Golden Slipper in Sydney, since this is another excellent choice.

Additionally, while the Group 1 Racing carnivals may be excellent, there are many more options for you to enjoy in other parts of Australia too, like those in Brisbane and Perth. There are even events like the Tasmania Summer Racing Carnival that you won’t want to pass up.


Whether you’re keen on the prestige of the Melbourne Cup or find yourself leaning more toward the idea of watching a variety of different racing carnivals outside the Group 1 category, you’re going to have a great time watching these fantastic racing events.

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