There are 60 Flat and National Hunt racecourses in Britain, including 17 multi-purpose tracks offering both disciplines. For the sophisticated sports enthusiast, very little can match the buzz of race day at one of Britain’s many renowned racecourses.
Choosing out of 60 magnificent racecourses is quite difficult but we’ve managed to rule out the top five racecourses in the UK, paying attention not only to the race itself but to the ambiance and environment during the racing festivities.
1 – 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 Cheltenham Festival is the venue’s flagship annual event. The Festival, which takes place in March, boasts a card of several Grade 1 races, including the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the headline event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. This year, Al Boum Photo, ridden by Paul Townend, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup to give trainer Willie Mullins his first victory in the flagship race.
2 – 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. Royal Ascot was founded in the early 18th century by Queen Anne, and still proudly welcomes the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, annually. Each day of the event is preceded by the royal procession, with members of the royal family arriving by horse and carriage. Over 300,000 people make the trek to Berkshire for Royal Ascot every year, making it the best attended race meeting in Europe – particularly on Ladies’ Day, which includes the headline Ascot Gold Cup event. Veteran jockey Frankie Dettori won a successive Gold Cup, once again riding Stradivarius to victory in the most prestigious race at Royal Ascot this year.
3 – Aintree
The most northerly venue in our top five, Aintree, near Liverpool, is synonymous with one event, the Grand National. It is estimated that, in the UK alone, £250m worth of bets are placed at bookmakers for the ‘Superbowl of horse racing. Originating in 1839, the Grand National is the longest jumps race in Britain and considered a National Hunt tradition. The winner of the 2018 Grand National, Tiger Roll, also won this year’s Grand National and his record in the National is now identical to that of Red Rum when he took the race for the second time in 1974, with two wins from consecutive starts at eight and nine years of age.
4 – Haydock
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. Currently, the races are still going on and horses like Warning Fire and Rufus King have achieved the first and third positions in the 8.00 and 8.30 races that took place in the previous week – predicted correctly by many syndicate captains.
5 – 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 excellent thoroughbred racing venue has been around since the 1600s and has been hosting races almost without interruptions ever since. The champion of the Newmarket Handicap 2019 was Sunlight.