British Horse Racing – Dates for your Diary
We’re under starter’s orders as the UK saddles up for another racing season. Horse racing is one of the oldest and most popular spectator sports in the UK, which sees thousands of casual and hardcore fans alike flocking to iconic race courses dressed to the nines and ready to flutter. The quintessentially British practice of donning a flashy dress or sharp suit, sipping Pimms and lemonade as you check the form, and dreaming of a big win with the bookies signals that spring has begun, as well as contributing billions to the UK economy.
The Cheltenham Festival has just been run, with big wins in the marquee races for Al Boum, Paisley Park, Altior and surprise winner Espoir D’Allen, and also saw some huge wins at the bookmakers’ counters, all setting a dramatic tone for the rest of the season. Let’s look at what’s coming up over the spring and summer of 2019.
Grand National, April 6th, Aintree
And we’re off! THE most iconic race on the calendar, the Grand National at Aintree encourages unprecedented levels of interest from fans and punters across the country, and 2019 looks to be no different. This challenging steeplechase has trotted its way into the national psyche since it began back in 1839, attracting huge crowds and TV viewers of 9 million plus. 40 starters run and jump the 4 miles 3 1/2 furlongs course negotiating fences whose names have made their way into the history books of racing – Becher’s Brook and the Chair to name but two. Of course, the National is just one of many races held across the weekend which encourages wagers totaling £150 million.
Guineas Meeting, 4th – 5th May, Newmarket
A doubleheader of great Group 1 flat races, constituting two more of the five ‘Classics’. The 1,000 Guineas and 2,000 Guineas were first to run in 1814 and 1809 respectively and quickly established themselves as two of the most prestigious races on the calendar. The 2,000 Guineas also serves as the first leg of the Triple Crown, followed by the Epsom Derby and the St Leger Stakes (see both below). Both races are 1 mile long and open to 3-year-old thoroughbreds – through the 1,000 Guineas is only open to fillies.
Epsom Derby, June 1st, Epsom Downs
The most prestigious of the five ‘Classics’, the Derby has been run every year since 1780. It has the biggest purse on the UK racing calendar, and its status as one of Britain’s great sporting events draws large crowds and a huge worldwide TV audience with millions more streaming the action online. The weekend is divided into Ladies Day and Derby day, and also features the Oaks and the Coronation Cup, two other Group 1 races.
Royal Ascot, 18th – 22nd June, Ascot Racecourse
The jewel in the crown of the racing calendar, founded by Queen Anne in 1711 and attended every year by Queen Elizabeth and other members of the British Royal family, Royal Ascot truly lives up to its name. As well as being a key fixture of the horse racing schedule, it is also a major social event, with the attendees (and their attire) often eclipsing the runners in the newspapers. Boasting the most famous Ladies Day, Ascot is the best-attended race meeting of the year, drawing crowds of 300,000 from all over the world, all dressed to impress. However, the racing should not be overlooked – the Gold Cup, Royal Hunt Cup and the Queen’s Vase amongst the scores of high stakes races on the card.
St Ledger Stakes, September 14th, Doncaster
The fifth of the five ‘Classics’ (also the oldest and longest of them) is the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. The St Ledger Sakes is another iconic race on the calendar, taking place at the historic Doncaster course. Established in 1776, the flat 1 mile, 6 furlongs, and a 115-yard course is run by thoroughbreds. Ace jockey Ryan Moore rode the winners (both owned by Aidan O’Brien) in 2017 and 2018.
Horse racing in Britain is always an exciting prospect, and 2019 is shaping up nicely as the nation gets its bit between the teeth for the marquee events this spring and summer. Put these dates in your diary!