The Biggest British Horse Racing Festivals

Horse racing is one of the most popular spectator sports in Great Britain and has been part of the country’s heritage as far back as the Roman times.

Today, the industry is worth more than £3 billion and some of its major events are important dates on the international sporting and racing calendar.

There are two main types of racing in Britain – Flat and National Hunt. The former is run over distances between 5 furlongs – 2 miles and 5 furlongs on courses without obstacles. National Hunt Races are run over distances between 2 miles and 4.5 miles with horses usually required to jump either hurdles or fences.

4 of the biggest horse racing festivals in Great Britain are as follows:

Aintree

The Aintree Grand National is one of the most famous races worldwide and has taken place annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool since 1839. The race is a handicap steeplechase with a distance approximately 4 miles and 2.5 furlongs with 30 fences over two laps.

This is the most valuable jump race throughout Europe with a prize fund of £1 million to Tiger Roll when Davy Russell rode home Gigginstown House Stud’s horse to victory in 2019. This was the second year in a row the horse had won but didn’t get the opportunity to make it three consecutive due to circumstances out of everyone’s control.

Odds for next year’s event can be found at bet-grand-national.co.uk as soon as entrants are confirmed.

Royal Ascot

Beginning as a four-day race meeting back in 1768, the biggest race at Royal Ascot today is the Gold Cup, which itself was first run in 1807. This feature race of the third day takes place when high fashion and exquisite attendees take centre stage alongside flat racing’s most elite stayers.

Frankie Dettori rode Bjorn Nielsen’s Stradivarius to a third consecutive victory earlier this year, taking home a £500,000 purse.

Cheltenham

With prize money second only to the Grand National in Great Britain, the Cheltenham Festival is hugely popular among both racing fans and owners themselves. The four-day event takes place annually in March at the Cheltenham Racecourse and usually coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day.

The Grade I Gold Cup is the most popular race, ran over 3 miles and 2.5 furlongs with 22 fences to be jumped. Its roll of honour features names such as Arkle, Kauto Star and Denman.

Al Boum Photo became a back-to-back winner in 2020, earning its owner a £625,000 purse.

Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby, Derby Stakes or simply the Derby as it is sometimes known, is an annual Group 1 flat horse race at Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey that has been running since 1780.

The track covers a distance of one mile, four furlongs and six yards and is usually held on the first Saturday of June each year.

Aidan O’Brien trained his third different winner in four years earlier this summer as Emmet McNamara rode Serpentine to glory by five-and-a-half lengths with £850,000 going to the winner.

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