There’s something glorious about taking in live horse racing at major UK racetracks. It could be a summer festival spent sipping champagne and eating picnics on the grass with fellow equine enthusiasts, or braving the biting cold to roar on the best in the business during the National Hunt season.
Horse racing in the UK continues to grow in popularity year-on-year, attendance figures and bet slip numbers both rising. Punters love to gamble on the outcome of the year’s biggest races in a number of ways, including gambling at track, on a home computer or using one of the best horse racing apps.
There’s certainly no shortage of beautiful horse racing tracks to visit in the UK either, each offering a unique take on the sport that sees people from all walks of life rub shoulders in a mutual appreciation of the majesty of it all. The best-bred racehorses, most experienced trainers, fearless jockeys, all risking life and limb in the name of entertainment and, of course, life-changing sums of prize money.
Which are the best UK tracks and which are the ones you simply must visit if given the chance? Read on for a list of our favourites…
Cheltenham racecourse is best known for the Cheltenham Festival that is run every year. Millions of spectators descend on the Gloucestershire track, with lots more watching the live TV coverage around the world. It’s a real standout of the horse racing calendar but it’s only one week of a packed year for the venue. Cheltenham is serviced by the local railway station which is just a short journey away from the gates.
Make the walk and on a pleasant afternoon and you’ll feel the excitement growing as you approach. Once inside, sports fans will be blown away by the splendour of it all. Some of the races of note throughout the year include the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Gold Cup, Greatwood Hurdle and the International Hurdle that usually takes place in December.
Another track that may surprise you as it’s not all about the Royal Ascot meeting in summer that makes headlines. There’s much more to this course that can be found in the Berkshire countryside. Some of the main events of the year are the Queen Anne Stakes, Kings Stand Stakes, Gold Cup, Coronation Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes but they give the big race feel to each and every meeting they host.
There can be no doubts that Royal Ascot is something a bit special, however, and organisers make no apology for that. Ascot in numbers proves just how big this meeting is. With over 300,000 attending the meeting every year, 56,000 bottles of champagne bought, 3000 lobsters eaten, 22 private boxes filled to take in a total of 30 races. If you are a horse racing lover, attending Royal Ascot at least once should feature highly on your to do list. Although tickets don’t hang around for very long.
Aintree Racecourse can be found near Liverpool. It is one of the best-known tracks in the country, thanks to the Grand National. Aintree hosts what has become one of the richest races in the world. As well as the Grand National, the course also stages delights such as the Liverpool Hurdle, Mersey Novices Hurdle, Sefton Novices Hurdle, Melling Chase and the Top Novices Hurdle.
The Grand National attracts TV audiences in the thousands every year while others pack the venue to see the historic race in the flesh. The Aintree Festival in April is a meeting that brings together both diehards and casual followers of the sport who pack the stands and send up that famous roar at the start of each contest. You can purchase tickets for any event at the venue through the jockey club website. Although finding somewhere to stay during National week is no mean feat.
Newmarket is often referred to as HQ by British horse racing fans. It’s little wonder as it stages some of the year’s biggest and best events. Located in the idyllic setting of Suffolk, it has a history that can be traced back hundreds of years, having first opened its doors in 1667. Few can compete with that.
Today’s schedule is crammed to bursting, with the track hosting a number of Group 1 races throughout the year, including the 2000 Guineas, 1000 Guineas, Falmouth Stakes, July Cup, Sun Chariot Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes. There’s also many Group 2 and Group 3 delights included on the schedule. If you’re looking for a big race day at a major venue, you will be well looked after at Newmarket, regardless of when you visit.