There are major horse races all year round but the British horse racing festivals are where we are treated to the crème de la crème of the equine world over several days whether it is at Cheltenham, Newmarket, Goodwood, Royal Ascot, York Ebor, Chester, Doncaster or even The Grand National.
Flat race meeting festivals are staged between spring and autumn at Newmarket, Goodwood, Ascot, York, Chester, Doncaster and Epsom and include some of the world’s most famous horse races including the Derby, the Oaks, St Leger and 1000 and 2000 Guineas, the five British Classics.
Newmarket’s Guineas Festival, held at the end of April or start of May with the staging the first two Classics of the season – the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, is the first flat racing festival of the year and is swiftly followed by several in May which act as Derby and Oaks Trials, in particular Chester’s May Festival and York’s Dante Festival. The trials pave the way to Epsom Downs for the Derby Festival on the first Saturday of June as the third and fourth Classics of the season are run – the Oaks for fillies and the Derby for colts.
Royal Ascot, not a festival in name but definitely in nature as a track staging five days of racing with such history and pageantry in the presence of the Royal Family. The Royal Meeting, as it is known, is major racing fixture in June, while in July it is back to Newmarket for their summer festival, the July Cup Meeting. The racing matches the fashion at the three-day July Festival at Newmarket with the action on the track headlined by the July Cup itself. Check out this Royal Ascot betting guide for tips and previews.
The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest of all UK horse racing festivals with the four-day event taking place in March and including the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Run for well over a century, the National Hunt Festival, as it was once known, has wall-to-wall quality with 27 races across the four days having been extended from three days in recent years. Aintree’s Grand National Festival, which follows Cheltenham races and is staged in April, is another key three-day event for jump racing and includes the most famous worldwide race the Grand National, while Kempton Park’s two-day Winter Festival begins on Boxing Day and features the prestigious King George VI Chase.
Glorious Goodwood, like Royal Ascot a five-day festival, is held at the end of July and includes the Sussex Stakes and Stewards Cup among the tricky puzzles to solve. The Goodwood Festival is held on the historic Goodwood estate which also hosts the Goodwood Festival of Speed. York’s racing fixtures also include the Ebor Festival, a four-day bonanza in August in which the Group 1 action includes the Juddmonte International, Nunthorpe Stakes and Yorkshire Oaks.
The final festival of the flat season takes place at Doncaster in September and is the one which also stages the fifth and final Classic of the season – the St Leger. It is the world’s oldest Classic and rounds off four days of racing on Town Moor.
The Grand National
With only 6 race meetings throughout the year, comprising just 8 race days, racing at Aintree always has a special feel for visitors. The highlight of the Aintree calendar is the 3-day Grand National meeting, held on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday in early- or mid-April. The centrepiece is the 4 mile 4 furlong Grand National, over 2 circuits of the unique National course. This iconic event has become a sporting institution, both in the UK and worldwide, with some 600 million TV viewers.
However, Aintree Racecourse is the best place to watch the world`s greatest steeplechase. Private boxes are ideal for corporate visitors, whilst the great restaurants are ideal venues for enjoying fine dining, terrific views of racing and the company of family and friends. Apart from the feature race, there are 8 Grade 1 races, featuring some of the biggest names in the game, spread throughout the 3 days, along with the Topham `Chase and Foxhunters` `Chase over the National fences.