The UK’s Most Prestigious Horse Racing Events
Recognised the world over as a quintessentially British pastime, a major horse race can cause people to flock to the tracks by the thousands. And the spectacle isn’t all about the sport; British horse racing has become synonymous with high fashion, haute-cuisine, A-list celebrities and even members of the Royal family, to say nothing of the incredibly impressive horses and the feats they accomplish. From the Royal Ascot to the Cheltenham festival, Britain leads the way when it comes to world-famous racing events. And with that in mind, we thought you’d a appreciate a summary of the UK’s main horse racing events, focussing on the best of them all!
Held in June each year
A pillar of British sporting life, with Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal family attending regularly among the spectators, the Royal Ascot is as much about high fashion and celebrity culture as it is about high stakes on the tracks. The event first took place in 1839, and has run almost continually ever since – though it’s not the only significant racing occasion at the spectacular Ascot Racecourse. King George VI is also a prestigious weekend meeting, second only to the Royal Meeting, and involves its own unique spectacle in the form of a royal procession to kick off the action on the tracks. Royal Ascot is the most valuable race meeting in Britain with a total prize fund of £7.3million in 2019.
The Grand National
Held in April each year
One of the most famous horse races in the world, the Grand National is viewed annually by over 600-million people. Part of a three-day Nationa Hunt race meeting held just outside of Liverpool, with an attendance of over 150,000, the occasion tends to be as exciting as it is unpredictable. So unpredictable that the race is a contentious subject, even within the equine industry, as many consider the risk of injury to horse and rider is too high! In the biggest race of the event, the Grand National, horses compete for two laps on a four-and-a-half-mile course, and jump 30 fences along the way. The Grand National also happens to be one of the world’s richest horse races, and with £1 million in total prize money, it’s no wonder it tends to be so hotly contested.
Held in March each year
The first of the major British races on the calendar each year, this four-day event takes place in early March at Cheltenham Racecourse. As it coincides with St. Patrick’s Day it naturally attracts large crowds of Irish spectators – but also, unlike some other national races, attracts mainly English and Irish horses as well. Described by international horse-racing bookmakers as the most prestigious chase on the British or Irish calendar, it is second only to the Grand National in prize money (at £625,000). With 28 races stretched over four days, it tends to live up to its label as a “festival” rather than just a competition. And among the National Hunt’s racing elite, winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup (the main race on the fourth day) is analogous to winning an Olympic Gold Medal.
Held in June each year
Famed the world over as one of racing’s greatest spectacles, the Derby at Epsom had its first run back in 1780, and still provides an unforgettable experience every year. The Downs racecourse offers the ultimate test of speed, balance, and endurance, as the three-year-old Thoroughbreds navigate with the unique undulations of the horseshoe-shaped race-course. Today, the event attracts a diverse crowd of over 100,000, including royalty and celebrities in their best morning suits, stunning dresses, and of course, race day hats. And with £5,000 available for the best-dressed lady, it’s not just the racers that can cash in on race day – though the action on the tracks is still the real highlight at this particular event. Amongst the seven races is the Supreme Test of the Racehorse, the Investec Derby, the one everyone wants to win, with an incredible prize pot of £1.5 million!
Would you like a career in the horse racing industry? You could become a Yard Groom at a racing yard, or you might like to become a professional Work Rider, or you could gain formal qualifications via an Apprenticeship in a racing yard!