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Top Ten Racecourses

There are 60 Flat and National Hunt racecourses in Britain, including 17 multi-purpose tracks offering both disciplines. But which exactly are the top ten racecourses in Britain and what makes them so special?

Cheltenham

Set among 350 acres at the heart of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham racecourse showcases some of the very best National Hunt racing in the country. Cheltenham began racing in 1815 and has since grown into one of the largest racecourses, attracting crowds of up to 68,000. The highlight of Cheltenham’s racing fixtures is the Cheltenham Festival. Which runs for 4 days in March and boasts 14 Grade 1 races.  It is the most popular National Hunt meeting in the world and the pinnacle of Jumps racing, every owner, jockey and trainer dreams of running or riding a winner at the Cheltenham Festival.

Find out more about Cheltenham races HERE.

Ascot

Ascot racecourse is considered the epicentre of British horseracing, hosting 26 days of top class racing including 9 Group 1 Flat races. The track is mixed purposed, with Flat and National Hunt fixtures throughout the year. However, it is at Royal Ascot where the track really sparkles. A 5-day festival in the heart of summer, gives racing fans and newcomers the chance to indulge in the finest entertainment, cuisine and sporting action around. Founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, Ascot has maintained it’s association with the Royal Family by catering for Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family each year at Royal Ascot. A true testament to British racing and tradition.

Find out more about Ascot races HERE.

Aintree

Aintree is located on the west of England in the heart of Liverpool and is the home of the Grand National. Originating in 1839, the Grand National is the longest jumps race in Britain and considered a National Hunt tradition. The Grand National sees record TV viewings and crowds in excess of 70,000 every year, which make it such a high profile event that is on everybody’s bucket list.

Find out more about Aintree races HERE.

Newmarket

Newmarket is widely regarded as the ‘home of racing’ due to their rich history in breeding and racing, stretching back over 3 centuries. There are two tracks that are ran on at different times of the season, the Rowley Mile and the July Course. The Rowley Mile operates at the beginning of the season before intermittently switching to the July course. This track covers the summer fixtures from June to August, before returning back to the Rowley Mile for the remainder of the season. There are many training yard surrounding Newmarket, which make it a popular venue for owners and trainers.

Find out more about Newmarket races HERE.

York

Awarded the ‘Best Racecourse in Britain’ 4 times, York is a fantastic tourist attraction in the heart of Yorkshire. It’s rich heritage dates back to Roman times, with archaeology evidence that racing on the Knavesmire first began as early as 1530. York hosts Flat racing through the summer months, with it’s feature highlight the Ebor Festival at August’s end. As one of the most premier tracks in Britain, York attracts high quality racing as well as the glitz and glamour of a high profile event. With stunning views and  friendly crowds, it’s the perfect venue for a day out in the sun.

Find out more about York races HERE.

Goodwood

Goodwood is one of the most southern racetracks in Britain, host to the Glorious Goodwood festival and home to 13 Group races throughout the year. Overlooking the Sussex Downs, it’s picturesque backdrop and unique track undulations make it one of the more remarkable courses in the country. Racing only occurs here from May to October and is highlighted by the Glorious festival in late July/early August. This is sandwiched by the Spring Meeeting before and the August and Autumn meeting later on in the year.

Find out more about Goodwood races HERE.

Doncaster

Another fantastic Yorkshire course, with a mixed purpose track catering for both Flat and National Hunt racing for a total of 36 meetings throughout the year. The official Flat season begins and ends at Doncaster. The Lincoln meeting kicking things off in April and the St Leger meeting closes the season in September. National Hunt racing fills the remainder of the calendar which is equally entertaining.  Racing on the Town Moor has a rich history in racing, and home to the oldest classic horse race; the St Leger.

Find out more about Doncaster races HERE.

Haydock

One of two courses in Merseyside. Haydock Park is a dual purpose track that plays host to numerous quality jumps and flat races throughout the year. The highlights from each code come in November for the jumps; the Betfair Chase. This is the first leg of the prestigious £1 million Chase Triple Crown that also includes the King George at Kempton and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Whilst on the flat, the Sprint Cup in September holds Group 1 status over 6 furlongs.

Find out more about Haydock races HERE.

Newbury

One of three courses situated in Berkshire, Newbury has hosted both flat and National Hunt fixtures since its first meeting in 1905. The area surrounding the course is known as the Greenham. Which is also the name of the Classic informative 3-year-old flat race held there in April. There are 31 total Group 1 races in the UK and Newbury’s is the Lockhinge stakes over a mile. It also holds big National Hunt meeting in November when the feature is the Hennessy Gold Cup. In late December when the Challow Novices’ hurdle takes centre stage.

Find out more about Newbury races HERE.

Windsor

Unlike any of the courses previously mentioned, Windsor is laid out in a distinct and recognisable figure-of-eight shape. This allows the full compliment of flat races to be run in a smaller area. Royal Windsor, as it is sometimes known, is located in Berkshire and has held race meetings dating back to 1866. There are a couple of Listed races and a Group 3; the Winter Hill Stakes which is the highlight of the year at the track, falling on a Saturday in August.

Find out more about Windsor races HERE.

Newbury Racecourse

One of three courses situated in Berkshire, Newbury racecourse has hosted both flat and National Hunt fixtures since its first meeting in 1905. The area surrounding the course is known as the Greenham. This is also the name of the Classic informative 3-year-old flat race held there in April. Of the 31 total Group 1 races in the UK. the Lockhinge stakes over a mile at Newbury is one of the highlights. It also holds big National Hunt meeting in November when the feature is the Hennessy Gold Cup, and in late December when the Challow Novices’ hurdle takes centre stage.

History

The first racing in the area occurred 100 years before a meeting occurred at the course itself. It took a long time for trainer John Porter to get his plans approved for the track. He was eventually helped by support from King Edward VII who swayed the Jockey Club to agree to the proposal. The duel flat and jumps course has played host to countless famous victories over the years. From Many Clouds winning  the Hennessey in 2014. Frankel taking the Lockhinge in 2012. To the unearthing of future stars in Kingman and Muhaarar in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

It wouldn’t be a Berkshire course (like Ascot and Windsor) without a Royal presence. The Queen spent her 86th birthday at Newbury. She most likely decided to as two of her runners were entered under Ryan Moore and Hayley Turner.

 

 

 

 

Windsor Racecourse

Unlike any of the courses previously mentioned, Windsor racecourse is laid out in a distinct and recognisable figure-of-eight shape. This allows the full complement of race distances to be run. Royal Windsor, as it is sometimes known, is located in Berkshire and has held race meetings dating back to 1866. There are a couple of Listed races and the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes is the highlight of the years racing at the track, coming on a Saturday in August. The Queen has been known to take in a meeting when she is residing in nearby Windsor Castle, especially when one of her horses makes an appearance.

History

Flat racing at the site dates back to 1866, where the area known as Rays Meadow hosted fixtures. The course aimed to complement nearby Ascot by offering its services to less powerful owners. Soon after, jump racing became a regular sight at the course. The course has been in the spotlight on numerous occasions. One of these occurred in 1926 when Winston Churchill had implemented a new Betting Tax. This caused the on-course bookmakers went on strike, and the tax was ditched a year later.

Jump racing concluded in 1998, partly attributed to the necessity of preserving the ground for the flat season. Since then, notable events include holding Ascot’s jumps fixtures in 2005, alongside Richard Hughes’ 7 winner afternoon in late 2012.

Haydock Racecourse

The second course found in Merseyside. Haydock Park is a dual purpose track that plays host to numerous quality jumps and flat races throughout the year. The highlights from each code come in November for the jumps, with the Betfair Chase. Which the first leg of the prestigious £1 million Chase Triple Crown that also includes the King George at Kempton and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Whilst on the flat, the Sprint Cup in September holds Group 1 status over 6 furlongs.

History

Located in an area of parklands near the towns of Haydock and Newton-le-Willows to name just two, racing has been prevalent for over 150 years. The current racecourse we enjoy today was opened in 1899. As previously mentioned, is home to many races steeped in history. For example, the Grand National trial in February, the Temple Stakes in May and the Lancashire Oaks in July.

Boasting an array of four grandstands and 33 private viewing suites, restaurants, bars and leading conference facilities. Haydock Park is as well-known for world-class racing as it is for hosting spectacular events, attracting visitors in their thousands each year.

 

Doncaster Racecourse

A fantastic Yorkshire course, with a mixed purpose track catering for both Flat and National Hunt racing. With a total of 36 meetings throughout the year. The official Flat season begins and ends at Doncaster. The Lincoln meeting kicking the flat season off in April, and the Racing Post Trophy closing the season in October. National Hunt racing fills the remainder of the calendar which is equally entertaining.  Racing on the Town Moor has a rich history in racing, and home to the oldest classic horse race; the St Leger.

St Leger

Doncaster racecourse plays host to two Group 1 races; the St Leger and the Racing Post Trophy. They are showcased toward the end of the flat season, one in September the other in October. The St Leger is the oldest flat classic race, first run in 1776 and boasts Group 1 status. The Racing Post Trophy is the last Group 1 race of the flat season, run in October and marks the end of the season. Over the Winter months, Doncaster switch it up and play host to some top quality National Hunt racing. The course holds five Grade 2 races and two prestigious handicaps over hurdles and fences.

 

The course is well renowned for it is Yorkshire hospitality, and as a result the atmosphere is welcoming and well worth a visit even if you aren’t a racing enthusiast.

York Racecourse

 

Awarded the ‘Best Racecourse in Britain’ 4 times. York is a fantastic tourist attraction in the heart of Yorkshire. It’s rich heritage dates back to Roman times, with archaeology evidence that racing on the Knavesmire first began as early as 1530. York hosts Flat racing through the summer months, with it’s feature highlight the Ebor Festival at August’s end. As one of the premier tracks in Britain, York attracts high quality racing as well as the glitz and glamour of a high profile event. With stunning views and  friendly crowds, it’s the perfect venue for a day out in the sun.

History

Despite an outdated dress code. Which requires men in the Country Stand to display a stiff upper lip and stick it out in jackets and ties regardless of how hot is is. York racecourse is friendly with fine facilities. A fine track and fine racing, all situated a pleasant walk away from the centre of a fine city. That is when it’s not periodically flooded by the River Ouse. Meetings, particularly the John Smith’s Cup and Music Showcase fixtures in July, attract justifiably large crowds. However, the four-day Ebor Festival in August is the traditional highlight. The feature is the Ebor Handicap, over one and three-quarter miles. It is the most valuable flat handicap race in Europe and has been run at the Knavesmire since 1843.

Three years later, the Gimcrack Stakes, named after the famous racehorse who won 27 of his 36 races between 1764 and 1771, was staged for the first time. The race, for two year-olds, is run over six furlongs. Gimcrack never actually ran at York. Didn’t run as a two-year old and never raced over over six furlongs. The curiosity is explained by the fact that York-based admirers of the horse named their club, and subsequently a race, after Gimcrack. Traditionally, each December, the winning owner delivers a speech at the Gimcrack Club dinner. York racegoers clearly can’t get enough Gimcrack. No one knows why.

 

 

Newmarket Racecourse

Newmarket racecourse is widely regarded as the ‘home of racing’ due to their rich history in breeding and racing. This  stretches back over 3 centuries. There are two tracks that are ran on at different times of the season, the Rowley Mile and the July Course. The Rowley Mile operates at the beginning of the season before intermittently switching to the July course. The latter of which covers the summer fixtures from June to August, before returning back to the Rowley Mile for the remainder of the season.

There are many training yards that surround the Newmarket racecourses. Some of the more prolific and famous names in equine care originating from the small town East of Cambridge. Masters of the sport such as Sir Michael Stoute, Sir Mark Prescott, John Gosden and the late Henry Cecil spring to mind. The rich history of the area has also seen a rise in the new breed. Young trainers such as George Scott, Richard Spencer and James Tate have served time as assistants. They are now building their own string of contenders, with the backing of some big owners.

 History

Racing here dates back to as early as the 16th century during the reigns of James I and Charles II.  Two meetings a year were held up to the year 1744. This was consistent up until 1840, when there were seven annual meetings including famous names we still see today such as the Craven and the July meeting. Arguably one of the most decorated and historically rich courses in the UK. Newmarket has it’s place as a site for crowning champions in the form of the July Cup. Unearthing potential champions in the Dewhurst Stakes. Showing us the Classic generation in the 1000 and 2000 Guineas races held in Spring of every year.

Goodwood Racecourse

Goodwood racecourse is one of the most southern in Britain. It plays host to the Glorious Goodwood festival and is home to 13 Group races throughout the year. Overlooking the Sussex Downs, it’s picturesque backdrop and unique track undulations make it one of the more remarkable courses in the country. Racing only occurs here from May to October and is highlighted by the Glorious festival in late July/early August. This is sandwiched by the Spring Meeeting before and the August and Autumn meeting later on in the year.

Like Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood is a major feature of the social, as well as the racing calendar. Pimm’s and panama hats are the trademark symbols of the five-day meeting that bridges July and August at one of the most beautiful racecourses in Britain. It is also one of the few racecourses where there is architectural harmony. This is instead of the hotchpotch of buildings that characterise many courses. Harmony, elegance and imagination, as seen in the rather fetching white tent roofed pavilions. Stand on the grandstand steps and admire the view across the Sussex countryside, with barely a building in sight. Stand by the parade ring and admire the horses. In a pavilion and admire the champagne and seafood, or in the racecourse betting shop and see what’s going on at Redcar. You might need to back a winner there to pay for the exotically priced champagne.

History

The Sussex Stakes, over a mile, is the high class highlight of the meeting. Some wonderful horses have won this race including the mighty Brigadier General in 1971. Exactly 40 years later, the equally mighty Frankel was the winner and, uniquely, repeated the feat the following year. Less elite but also prestigious, the Stewards’ Cup, a six furlong cavalry charge, has been contested since 1840. As you will know the winner that year was Epirus. The Stewards’ Cup, a busy betting race beloved of bookmakers, has been won by some distinguished sprinters, none more worthy than Lochsong. After winning the Cup in 1992, the Ian Balding-trained filly won two of the season’s other major sprint handicaps. The Portland Handicap at Doncaster and the Ayr Gold Cup.

Ascot Racecourse

Ascot racecourse is considered the epicentre of British horseracing. Hosting 26 days of top class racing including 9 Group 1 Flat races. Ascot is a mixed purpose track with Flat and National Hunt fixtures throughout the year. However, it is at Royal Ascot where the track really sparkles. The 5-day festival is in the heart of summer. Ir gives racing fans and newcomers the chance to indulge in the finest entertainment, cuisine and sporting action around. Founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, Ascot has maintained it’s association with the Royal Family by catering for Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family each year at Royal Ascot. A true testament to British racing and tradition.

 

Royal Enclosure

 

Obtaining entry to the Royal Enclosure can be difficult. Let alone obtaining a cup of tea in a proper cup for less than about £2.80. The latter problem can be solved by bringing your own teabags. Sequestering a cup, and using the hot-water tap in the toilets. The former either by marrying a member of the royal family. Or perhaps by persuading an existing Royal Enclosure badge holder, who has attended Royal Ascot at least four times, to sponsor your application. Failing that , a member is allowed to bring two guests on the Friday or Saturday. It is the bluffer’s job to be such a guest.

 

You will be dressed, of course, in morning dress. Unless you are a women, in which case you will wear an outfit of captivating elegance. This includes a hat, but not a fascinator (an item no longer welcome in the Royal Enclosure). Men will generally opt for black or grey, perhaps with a daring choice of socks. Whilst women will wear dresses with colours embracing the entire spectrum and hats that have to be seen to be believed. As a result, it is best to wear one that doesn’t require the full-times services of one of your hands to stop it blowing off.

 

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Cheltenham Racecourse

Set among 350 acres at the heart of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham racecourse showcases some of the very best National Hunt racing in the country. Cheltenham began racing in 1815 and has since grown into one of the largest racecourses, attracting crowds of up to 68,000. The highlight of Cheltenham’s racing fixtures is the Cheltenham Festival. It runs for 4 days in March and boasts 14 Grade 1 races. It is the most popular National Hunt meeting in the world and the pinnacle of Jumps racing, every owner, jockey and trainer dreams of running or riding a winner at the Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham is the Mecca of jump racing. Although 3,000 miles apart both are known for attracting a vast number of worshippers. In 2013, over 400,000 racegoers visited Cheltenham, 235,000 of them during the four-day Festival meeting, in March. Sometimes, every significant jump race during the winter months seems merely to be a starter dish. This is followed by the bookmakers’ revised the ante-post prices for the main dishes at the Festival.

The November meeting, with the Gold Cup as its highlight, has grown in stature in recent years. Confirming Cheltenham’s pre-eminence in jump racing. It is a tremendously popular racecourse, unmatched for the anticipation and expectation it generates. People look forward for months to backing the wrong horse in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Which is what almost everyone did in 1990, when Norton’s Coin won at 100-1. The Cheltenham Festival, with its atmosphere of contentedness and hysteria, is on the ‘must’ list. Do try to wheedle your way into someone’s private box, or consequently get invited into one of the big bookmakers’ boxes by losing a fortune to them. Wearing a clerical white collar sometimes helps, unless the box is reserved for atheists.