Great Britain is, quite simply, the home of horse racing and right across the UK there are some historic courses dating back hundreds of years. The sport of kings has been with us for many centuries and here are the top 5 horse racing courses in the UK today.
Aintree racecourse first opened its doors for racing back in July 1829 and it is known across the world as the venue for the Grand National. Initially, this was a flat racing course for the first ten years of its existence until steeplechasing was introduced.
The very first Grand National was run in 1839 and in the years that have followed, there have been many well known winners. Undoubtedly, the most famous of all was Red Rum, who won the race on three separate occasions in the 1970s.
There have been other memorable winners too, including Foinavon and Tipperary Tim but more recently, the Grand National was in the news in 1993 after a false start led to the race being abandoned for that year.
The Epsom Derby, which is run in June each year, is arguably just as famous as the Grand National. Epsom itself has been in existence since the mid 17th century and the Derby has been run there since 1780.
An exclusively flat race course, Epsom holds many other races besides, but it is the Derby that is synonymous with this historic venue. As a public course, there are even areas where you can watch racing for free, although views are somewhat limited if you decide to attempt this.
As the Derby is run by three year olds there have been no multiple winners but over the years, some of the World’s greatest jockeys have made their mark here. Lester Piggott won the Derby on no less than nine occasions, while Willie Carson and Pat Eddery are also multiple winners.
Cheltenham racecourse is known for hosting the famous Gold Cup along with many other major events and for many race goers, the Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of their horse racing calendar.
The Gold Cup emerged relatively recently and when it was first introduced in 1924, it was considered a minor event. Today, however, this is the best attended race here although Cheltenham’s National Hunt course also hosts many notable races, including the Champion Hurdle and the Triumph Hurdle.
It’s the Gold Cup, however, that dominates the calendar and some of the UK’s best loved horses are linked with this race. Arkle won the race three years running in the 1960s and Best Mate repeated that feat between 2002 and 2004. More recently, Kauto Star has been the most successful horse here, with the second of his wins coming in 2009.
York racecourse is steeped in history and is also one of the biggest from a capacity point of view. 60,000 spectators can be accommodated here and while there are notable races throughout the year, the most famous of these by far is the Ebor Handicap.
The Ebor takes place in August and is a summer highlight for race goers all over the world, taking place as part of a four day festival. This is one of the oldest flat races in the UK, having been first run in 1843 and top jockeys such as Lester Piggott, Willie Carson and Kieren Fallon are all previous winners here.
Although the Ebor handicap does dominate at York, there are many other events right through the flat season and other famous races include the Nunthorpe Stakes, the International Stakes and the Lonsdale Cup.
Newmarket is the headquarters of horse racing in the UK and although the races held here aren’t nearly as well known of some that have been mentioned, Newmarket is arguably the most historic course in the whole world.
There are, however, some very important events in the flat racing calendar and these include the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, as well as the Cesarewitch and the Cambridge Handicap.
Newmarket is also known as being one of the most hospitable courses in the UK with excellent facilities and a number of post race concerts featuring top artists. Additionally, don’t forget to visit the National Horse Racing Museum in the town, which has a fascinating collection of exhibits and artefacts dating from the birth of racing.