Here is the ultimate to the big horse racing festivals in the UK:
All roads in the Jump season normally lead to the Cheltenham Festival, which runs over four days in March. This attracts the best National Hunt horses from the UK and Ireland to compete. The Gold Cup, held on the final day of the Festival is deemed to be the ‘Blue Riband’ event of the Jumps racing calendar. It also brings out the good natured rivalry between England and Ireland in the form of the Betbright Cup which is awarded to the nation that has the most winners throughout the week.
The Grand National Festival follows in April, an event which needs little preamble. This three-day racing festival culminates in a race that captivates audiences worldwide and whose obstacles are almost as famous as the race itself. Held at Aintree Racecourse on the outside of Liverpool, the city comes alive during the three days for a spectacle not to be missed.
Spring marks the start of the UK Flat season, which is opened by the QIPCO Guineas Festival in May. Held at Newmarket, the ‘Home of Racing’, the season opens with a bang with the first two Classics of the Season, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas (for colts) and the QIPCO 1000 Guineas (for fillies). It is also the opening leg of the Triple Crown, with the other two races being the Derby and St Leger. This feat is incredibly rare, however, and has not been achieved since 1970.
The Investec Derby Festival is held at Epsom in June and features the next two Classic races, the Investec Oaks (for fillies) and the Investec Derby (for colts). The latter contest is Britain’s richest horse race and has been replicated worldwide. The Queen is a regular attendee alongside many other famous to watch the top three-year-old horses contest one of the most prestigious prizes in the sport.
Royal Ascot is synonymous with pageantry and spectacle, opened every day by a royal procession it never fails to deliver a parade of fashion and style as well as highly anticipated and hotly contested racing. Held over five days in the middle of June, it is one of the most unique and well-known horse racing festivals, which needs little introduction around the world.
The July Festival sees the racing world turn its attention back to Newmarket and the July Course, sometimes referred to as the ‘Summer Course’. This beautiful and quaint racecourse with thatched roofs, old-style grandstands and beautiful lawns give it a magical atmosphere, and makes it popular with spectators who flock here in the summer months to watch the sprinters fly in the July Cup.
Glorious Goodwood follows later in July and features five days of spectacular racing that regularly attract some of the best horses in the world – particularly for their QATAR Sussex Stakes on the Wednesday of the fixture. The tradition for panama hats and linen suits here make it unique along with its summer garden party atmosphere.
The action moves to York for the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival for four days in August. Held on the hallowed ground of the Knavesmire it has hosted many of the greats including Frankel and more recently superstar filly Enable. One of the highlights of the festival is the Ebor, the richest handicap in Europe and a puzzle that never fails to disappoint.
The world’s oldest Classic race takes place at the Doncaster St Leger Festival in September. This meeting opens with the Leger Legends Charity Race in which retired racing celebrities make a return to the saddle in aid of some great causes. The saying goes ‘The fastest horse wins the Guineas; the luckiest the Derby – and the best horse wins the St Leger’ illustrating that many eyes will be glued to the action unfolding here.
QIPCO British Champions Day is the finale to the UK Flat season held at Ascot. It has been the backdrop for incredible scenes in its feature race, the QIPCO Champion Stakes, which was the final race Frankel competed in and was won in 2014 by his half-brother Noble Mission. It is the richest raceday in the UK and the action both on and off the track never fails to disappoint.
The autumn sees the National Hunt season return at Cheltenham with three days of action from The Showcase meeting. This meeting covers all aspects from the twists and turns on the cross-country course to the Paddy Power Gold Cup, which has been won by some big names en route to success at the highest level .