Horse racing in the UK is a long-standing tradition. Many of the racecourses hold a level of history and prestige, with thousands flocking to venues up and down the country to be a part of the action. Whether it’s a flat race or over jumps, betting on horse racing is also incredibly popular and even if you aren’t a fan, you’ll be familiar with some of the more famous races. But where can you find them?
Home to the world-famous Grand National, a three-day meeting where the highlight is the race of the same name, Aintree opened its doors in 1
The Grand National meeting takes place in April, but Aintree racecourse hosts steeplechase races throughout the year and other notable races include the Topham Chase (part of the Grand National meeting) and the Becher Chase (December meeting).
Ascot is held in high esteem, as it’s long had close associations with the British Royal Family. It’s a dual-purpose track, hosting both flat and jump racing – but is most famously known for hosting Royal Ascot in June.
Ascot Racecourse was founded by Queen Anne in 1711 and the first race took place that same year – however, Royal Ascot first took place 200 years later. Ascot is also home to British Champions Day, a series of five races which acts as the climax to the British Champions Series.
Widely recognised as Scotland’s Best Racecourse, the current track opened in 1907 but horse racing in Ayr dates back as far as 1576. There’s a dual-track for both flat and jump racing and Ayr is most famous for hosting the Scottish Grand National. It may not be as prestigious as its Aintree namesake but has seen famous winners in years gone by, including Red Rum and Little Polveir.
In addition to the Scottish Grand National festival in April, Ayr also holds a September meeting during the flat season, with the pinnacle race being the Ayr Gold Cup.
Set in the heart of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham Racecourse is home to some of the best National Hunt racing in the calendar. The Cheltenham Festival every March is the stand-out meeting of the jump racing season and the famous Cheltenham Roar can be heard for miles when the Festival begins.
From the Arkle Trophy on day one to the Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two, the Festival Trophy on day three, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day of the festival – Prestbury Park is where legends are made and there’s nowhere quite like it.
Chepstow is one of three racecourses in Wales and while it may be home to Wales’ richest race, the Welsh Grand National, it wasn’t always staged there. Chepstow has hosted the race since 1949, but it was previously raced at both Ely Racecourse in Cardiff and Caerleon. The Welsh Grand National takes place every year on December 27th. Since opening its doors in the 1920s, Chepstow is home to over 30 other races, both over jumps and on flat, including the Summer Afternoon Meeting.
Doncaster hosts the famous four-day St Leger Festival every September, which is deemed one of the most prestigious autumn meetings. Not only is Doncaster considered one of the oldest established racecourses in the UK, with meetings recording back to the 16th century, it is also home to two of the world’s oldest horse races.
The Doncaster Cup (formerly The Doncaster Gold Cup) dates back to 1766, when it was raced at Cantley Common, and is part of the Stayers’ Triple Crown (along with the Goodwood Cup and Ascot Gold Cup). The St Leger Stakes has been in existence since 1776 and is one of the five races in Britain’s Classic series – it’s also the oldest.
Goodwood comes alive in the summer when the Glorious Goodwood meeting during July and August rolls around. Held over five days, the three Group 1 races are the highlight of the week: the Sussex Stakes, the Goodwood Cup and the Nassau Stakes. Goodwood is also home to three other notable meetings which take place in May, August and September.