Horse racing is incredibly popular across Britain and race meetings welcome thousands of people on a regular basis. The Grand National, held at Liverpool’s prestigious Aintree Racecourse, attracts an international audience of hundreds of millions of people, making it the most-watched race in the world. A prominent part of Britain’s culture, the race meeting is known for its eye-catching fashion and designer outfits, with big prizes on offer for the ultra-stylish.
With racecourses in all corners of the UK offering both jump and flat racing, here are some of the main picks from Britain’s horse racing calendar where visitors can catch the action live.
Famed for the Grand National, the Randox Health Grand National Festival hosts an array of top quality racing across three days in April. Racing gets underway on Thursday and culminates on Grand National Saturday, when 40 runners and riders battle it out for the ultimate prize in the world’s most iconic handicap race. First run in 1839, around 150 tonnes of spruce branches from the Lake District are now used to decorate the fences for the big race, with horses and jockeys looking to complete two circuits of Aintree’s unique course. With eight Group 1 races during the first two days of the event, the Friday is renowned for its colour, style and fashion – with a big car prize on offer for the winner of the Style Award.
When? 2-4 April
Mixing incredible racing with fantastic entertainment and an unbeatable atmosphere, the QIPCO Guineas Festival in early May features the first two Classics of the season – the 2000 Guineas on Saturday and the 1000 Guineas on Sunday. Both races can trace their roots back to the early 1800s and as well as live music and Après Racing parties, there is plenty more to keep racegoers entertained across the weekend.
When? 2-3 May
A weekend of heart-pounding action at the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom racecourse features what is widely considered to the ‘greatest flat race in the world’ – the Investec Derby. Alongside the racing, a host of entertainment including skydiving and live DJs is on offer, while Ladies Day is a celebration of fashion and includes the highly contested Style Awards. With enclosures to suit everyone at the meeting, there is also an array of hospitality options to suit all budgets.
When? 5-6 June
With five days of top quality racing, Royal Ascot is the pinnacle of the British horse racing calendar. As Britain’s most valuable horse racing meeting, with millions of pounds of prize money for owners, it welcomes racehorses, jockeys and trainers from every corner of the globe. Mixing sartorial elegance, with incredible heritage, gallantry and tradition, six stand-out races follow the arrival of the Royal Procession each day, when the Queen makes her way along the Straight Mile in horse-drawn landaus, pulled by four spectacular Windsor Grey horses.
When? 16-20 June
Featuring five days of exhilarating racing, the Qatar Goodwood Festival – popularly known as Glorious Goodwood – mixes top quality flat racing with elegant fashion, all set against the spectacular backdrop of rolling Sussex countryside. This feast of elite racing gets underway on Tuesday 28 July 2020 and, like Royal Ascot, offers a range of enclosures to pick from.
When? 28 July – 1 August
Mixing racing excellence with high-end fashion, the Yorkshire Ebor Festival features Britain’s oldest, fastest and richest races, spread over four incredible days from Wednesday 19 August 2020. With £1 million of prize money on offer to the winners of both the Juddmonte International Stakes and the Ebor Heritage Handicap, it’s easy to see why the meeting is popular with British and international trainers, jockeys and racing fans alike.
When? 19-22 August
With two days of iconic jump racing, the Ladbrokes Christmas Festival is the jewel in Kempton Park’s crown. Held on 26 and 27 December, Boxing Day includes three Grade 1 races and often welcomes the best horses and trainers in the business. It might be colder at this time of year, but the quality of the jump racing shows no sign of reducing.
When? 26-27 December
An essential part of the horse racing calendar and the pinnacle of global jump racing, the Cheltenham Festival attracts mainly British and Irish trainers to the Prestbury Park course, near Cheltenham. Taking place in mid-March, and often coinciding with St Patrick’s Day, the Irish celebration of the Patron Saint of Ireland, half of the Festival’s 28 races are at Grade 1 level. Listen out for the renowned ‘Cheltenham Roar’ when the first race of the day gets underway, while the Gold Cup on the Friday of the meeting is the most prestigious race in the National Hunt Calendar. More than 260,000 people regularly attend the four days of the Festival, making it Britain’s most popular jump meeting.
When? 16-19 March 2021
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