Is Horse Racing More Popular Than Formula 1?

When we talk about racing, the first thing that comes to mind is Horse Racing and the most advanced moto-sport in the world Formula 1. Even though both sports might look very different, they share a lot of similarities.

First of all, both are considered prestigious sports, especially in big races like Monaco in Formula 1 or The Belmont Stakes in horse racing. Secondly, the idea in both sports is the same. The person that crosses the finish line first is the winner.

So, which sport is more popular? Well, determining the popularity of both sports might be tricky. With that said, let’s dig deeper into the fan base of both sports and see where they stand in terms of popularity.

Formula 1

Horse Racing

Even though horse racing is considered a global sport, its popularity is not the same in every region. In fact, there are a lot of places in the world where the fan base of horse racing is minimal.

With that said, there are several countries where horse racing is most popular, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia. 

The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities shared that the total amount of prize money reached $3.5 billion and the industry generates $116 billion in revenue each year. But this doesn’t give us an idea of how popular is the sport.

The best way to measure sports popularity is to check out some of the metrics of how many people watch such events. Let’s look at some of the biggest horse racing events and see how many people watch them live.

Kentucky Derby

The peak audience at this year’s Kentucky Derby was when Rich Strike was about to win the race, which recorded 19 million viewers on NBC alone. This made the Kentucky Derby the most-watched event since the Super Bowl.

The Grand National

The UK’s most popular race has reached a TV audience peak of 8.8 million people watching the last year’s exciting race.

Belmont Stakes

The third leg of the Triple Crown races is always very exciting to watch, especially because if one of the Belmont Stakes winners has also won the Kentucky and Preakness it means they won the Triple Crown. However, this will not happen this year, since the winner of the Kentucky Derby has renounced to the Preakness Stakes

Data shows that when a horse has a chance of winning the Triple Crown audiences increase. In 2015 when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes reached its peak in viewers clocking 22 million people. The last won to win it was Justify in 2018.

Last year, the TV ratings of the Belmont Stakes recorded 15.3 million viewers.

Formula 1

On the other hand, we have the most advanced moto-sport on the planet – Formula 1. In the past couple of years, Formula 1 grew in popularity after a constant decrease in fans a previous couple of years. 

The competitiveness of the championship and introduction to new rules and revolutionary technology make F1 even more exciting to watch. This is why the cumulative TV audience for 2021 was 1.55 billion, which is up by 4% since the 2020 season.  

The audience in F1 grew significantly in some countries, for example, The Netherlands had an increase in viewers of 81% thanks to Max Verstappen, the USA also clocked in a 58% increase, as well as France with 48% and Italy with 40%.

The average audience per Gran Prix in 2021 was 70.3 million, making it much more popular than some of the biggest horse racing events in the world. 

The season finale last year in Abu Dhabi drew 108.7 million viewers or around a 29% increase from the year before. This made the finale in F1 last year, one of the most-watched sporting events on the planet, right after the Champions League final. 

We also saw a strong opening for the last season featuring races like Bahrain with 84.5 million viewers, Silverstone with 79.5 million viewers, and Sao Paulo with 82.1 million viewers.

Final Words

This means that Formula 1 is more popular than horse racing when we talk about the highest level of the championship. 

On the other hand, many non-official or smaller horse races are organized all around the world. If we calculate the viewers and fans from such races, we might see a change in terms of popularity.

Formula 1 is one and only, and there are no semi-professional events that are organized around the world.

Either way, both sports are very competitive which makes them exciting to watch. Still, F1 is less of an elitist sport and has a more worldwide fanbase than horse racing, which has the majority of it’s audience spread across US, Great Britain, and Japan.

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