There is nothing quite like the thrill of attending one of the UK’s premier racecourses and with regular meetings staged throughout the season, there are numerous opportunities to experience the action first hand. We have compiled a list of five of the most iconic racing festivals held on an annual basis throughout the UK and examine the reasons for their continued popularity.
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Cheltenham Festival – March
Billed as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of National Hunt racing, Cheltenham is the biggest event on the jumps racing calendar and is much anticipated by sports fans around the world. The festival itself is spread across four days with the iconic Gold Cup helping bring the curtain down on the final day of the extravaganza. Previous winners of this contest include the legendary Kauto Star and Denman. There are few occasions which can match the thrill and adrenaline of watching all of the action from the packed out, atmospheric stands. Committed bettors place wagers on many of the key races many months before the event with sites such as Oddschecker regularly compiling and collating a list of the most popular ante-post punts throughout the course of the jumps season. Many well-known horses return to Prestbury Park each year and this simply adds to the appeal of the festival with numerous former winners aiming to retain their crowns against a number of young pretenders.
Aintree Festival – April
The Aintree Festival is also known as the Grand National meeting and is home to the world’s most famous steeplechase. The Merseyside track hosts three days of terrific jumps action just a month after the aforementioned Cheltenham with many trainers opting to run their stable stars at both meetings. The Grand National is the UK’s biggest betting event with 40 runners hoping to complete the four-mile course, including negotiating a number of iconic fences such as The Chair and Becher’s Brook. The festival is one of the final commitments on the jumps racing calendar and with the infamous ladies day held on the Thursday, very few atmospheres can match the Liverpool-based event. Other key races taking place include the Aintree Hurdle and Topham Chase.
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Royal Ascot – June
Royal Ascot is generally considered to be the highlight of the summer flat racing season and is a prestigious, stylish and extremely British festival. Visitors must adhere to a strict dress code in order to obtain attendance to the five-day showpiece. Sartorial elegance and top class racing meet in Berkshire and guests flock from far and wide to attend on an annual basis. There are 17 group races staged each and every year and prize money has continued to exponentially rise with each passing and rose to £6,580,000, £1 million ahead of the 2016 festival. The Prince of Wales and Queen Anne Stakes are just two of the standout races on offer to punters, with trainers from the likes of Australia, USA, France and Japan often bringing their charges over for a tilt at one of the many lucrative contests.
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Glorious Goodwood – July/August
Glorious Goodwood takes place in the heart of British summertime and is one of the cornerstones of the flat season. Goodwood is one of the most picturesque racecourses in the country and with the sun beaming down on the well-maintained course, it certainly lives up to its name. The five-day festival regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors and has a far more relaxed feel than the likes of the Royal Ascot and Newmarket’s July Meeting. Its laid-back atmosphere offers the perfect summer vibe but that doesn’t detract from the racing where several top-class horses compete across a number of prestigious contests. There are 35 races in total with highlights including the Lennox Stakes, The Stewards Cup and Nassau Stakes.
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Ebor Festival – August
If Goodwood claims to be the most picturesque racecourse in the UK, York will offer it a good run for its money. The four-day festival is the flagship meeting at the northern track and now boasts over £4.4 million of prize money across its plethora of prestigious races. 1843 was the first staging of the event and it has continued to attract some of the finest flat horses in the country and has also gained a worldwide appeal with US trainers such as Wesley Wards regularly sending over a handful of his stable stars to compete. The Knavesmire plays host to some top-class action including the Dante Stakes and Yorkshire Oaks. Visitors can drink in all of the action whilst admiring the beautiful surroundings and it’s only a stone’s throw away from the historic city of York, which adds to the appeal of this increasingly popular meeting.
Attending one of these legendary racing festivals should be on the wishlist of any sports fan and there are plenty more to choose from throughout the course of the year including the Hennessy, Newmarket’s July meeting and the St Leger. You simply cannot beat the thrill of attending one of the UK’s top race meetings and absorbing the atmosphere of thousands of punters and fans cheering on their favourite runner as some of the finest racehorses in the world compete for top honours.