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Horse racing in the UK is quite the sporting phenomenon that’s steeped in history and tradition. Every year, fans and seasoned punters alike eagerly anticipate the arrival of the nation’s most prestigious racing festivals, where the finest thoroughbreds, jockeys, and trainers compete for glory. The British racing calendar is packed with events that showcase the epitome of racing excellence, from the iconic Grand National to the nail-biting Classics.
These great British races are also an excellent opportunity for those new to the sport to get involved with having a flutter or two. There are plenty of leading bookies offering horse racing free bets on major races like the Cheltenham Gold Cup. So, whether you’re an avid fan or keen to learn more about the Sport of Kings, read on to discover the UK’s most celebrated events.
The Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Festival, held annually in early March at Cheltenham Racecourse, is the undisputed pinnacle of National Hunt racing. This four-day extravaganza, known as the “blue riband” of jumps racing, attracts thousands of spectators who are drawn to its electrifying atmosphere and exhilarating on-course action.
Notable winners at the Festival include the legendary Arkle, who secured three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup victories from 1964 to 1966, solidifying his status as one of the greatest horses of all time.
- The Cheltenham Gold Cup – The ultimate test of stamina and jumping prowess, this Grade 1 event crowns the best-staying chaser of the season.
- Champion Hurdle – A high-speed spectacle over jumps that showcases the agility and speed of the finest hurdlers.
- Queen Mother Champion Chase – A fierce battle of the speedsters, where the quickest two-mile chasers go head to head.
The Cheltenham Festival takes place over four action-packed days, typically running from Tuesday to Friday in the second week of March.
The Randox Grand National Festival
This three-day event held at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool is world famous for its titular race. The National, an infamous steeplechase known across the globe for being the “ultimate test of horse and rider”, is a race that has gone down in history and has even been immortalised in film and media.
The Grand National is also associated with the legendary Red Rum, an immortal name in the annals of horse racing. Rummy braved this challenging course time and time again and triumphed in the National an unprecedented three times (1973, 74 and 77).
- Grand National – A gruelling four-and-a-quarter-mile marathon featuring 30 formidable fences that demand extraordinary athleticism, courage, and stamina.
The Grand National Festival traditionally takes place on the first weekend in April, with the National itself running on the Saturday.
Royalty meets racing prestige at Royal Ascot, aka the jewel in the crown of flat racing. Set against the backdrop of Ascot Racecourse, this prestigious five-day festival combines the excitement of top-class competition with a glamorous social scene.
Outside of racing circles, Royal Ascot is most known for its fashion, with Lady’s Day being the sartorial highlight. In Ascot Gold Cup history, the remarkable Yeats dominated the race from 2006 to 2009, setting a record with his four consecutive victories.
- Gold Cup – A supreme test of stamina for stayers, with the final furlongs often resulting in nail biting finish.
- Queen Anne Stakes – A thrilling mile-long contest that launches the festival in style, attracting the finest milers from across the globe.
- Diamond Jubilee Stakes – A sprinting extravaganza that showcases the speed and agility of the world’s best sprinters.
Royal Ascot is typically held in mid-June, offering racegoers the perfect opportunity to showcase their finest attire while witnessing top-quality racing action.
These extraordinary events not only celebrate the timeless sport of horse racing but also unite passionate racing fans and captivate a global audience. Whether it’s the thunderous roar of hooves at Cheltenham, the spine-tingling charge to the first fence at the Grand National, or the regal elegance of Royal Ascot, these festivals offer an unrivalled experience for all who appreciate the artistry and spectacle of the sport.