Horse racing is considered the second largest spectator sport in the UK, behind only football with its origins going back hundreds of years.
Unlike other sports, horse racing doesn’t break off at any point in the year and is a 12-month spectacle with traditional Flat and National Hunt seasons overlapping.
Racing in the UK is part of the social and fashion fabric of the country with meetings such as the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot important to more than just fans of the equine talent on show.
The sport generates more than £3.7 billion to the economy and with gambling being the very foundation of the sport the relationship between bookmakers and the sports administrators remains important, bookies paying a levy to the sport which helps to fund it.
We will aim to provide the most up to date information on each of the country’s biggest races including their famous past winners, betting tips and any relevant offers from bookmakers.
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Finding a Good Horse Racing Event
The biggest betting races aren’t always the best ones in terms of the quality of the horses. Often in the Eclipse Stakes or the King George VI Chase the quality is top notch but the likely winner may well be more obvious than ideal and as such the odds will not be the very best.
Handicap races with 20-40 runners are the punters’ favourite and best races to bet on as they provide a stern challenge with even favourites going off at 5/1 and bigger.
A large field, some good quality horses and a high profile meeting/race are the ingredients needed and as such these are the biggest betting races in the UK by turnover:
|Cheltenham Gold Cup||March||Cheltenham||The best race on the National Hunt Calendar, this race crowns the champion at the Festival every year|
|Grand National||April||Aintree||The biggest betting race of the year in Britain. Up to 40 runners take part in this marathon event with winners right up to 100/1 expected|
|Scottish Grand National||April||Ayr||Run just one week after the National in England, the Scottish version is the biggest betting event north of the border|
|2000 Guineas||May||Newmarket||The first colt’s classic of the season, often a competitive betting event as we don’t yet know who the best three-year-olds are|
|Derby||June||Epsom||The biggest betting event on the Flat, the Derby is usually competitive with favourites far from guaranteed to win|
|Northumberland Plate||June||Newcastle||A great mid-season betting event; this is Newcastle’s biggest race with 20 runners vying for a large prize|
|Ebor||August||York||One of the richest handicaps anywhere in the world, the Ebor gets all punters’ hearts racing|
The Most Famous Horse Races in the UK
Often the best and most famous races in the UK differ from the biggest betting events, though they are broadly similar. These are the races and meetings everyone wants to be seen at:
This is the biggest betting meeting of all where £500 million could be gambled on 28 races across four fantastic days each March.
The Gold Cup, which is one of the top horse races to place bets on, the Champion Hurdle and the Arkle Chase are just three of the Grade 1 championship races held at the festival which brings together the very best of Britain and Ireland’s jumpers.
The Grand National
Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool hosts this three-day meeting in April with Grade 1 races and top handicaps featured. Friday is Ladies’ Day and along with Chester in May is the top social high point of the year in the North West. The Grand National itself takes place on the Saturday and remains one of Britain’s biggest sporting events.
The Royal meeting takes place in late June and comprises 30 top class races across five days. This meeting is as famous for fashion as it is for racing in fact and is the social highlight of the summer.
The biggest races at the meeting include the Gold Cup, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the King’s Stand Stakes.
Other Famous Horse Races around the World
Britain by no means has the monopoly on the most famous horse races and right around the world there are some huge days of action, watched by tens of millions of people, including:
Dubai World Cup
The World Cup meeting features numerous Group 1 races and given its timing (late March) and its location in the UAE, the meeting attracts runners from America, Ireland, UK, France, South Africa, Japan and Hong Kong. The World Cup itself is the second richest horse race in the world.
Run on the first Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville and is the first leg of the American Triple Crown. The race is for 3yo’s and is run on the dirt over a mile-and-a-quarter. The Derby is attended by up to 150,000 people and is steeped in tradition.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
The premier race in Europe, bar none. The Arc is run in early October at Longchamp in Paris during a meeting which comprises two days of racing with other top class Group 1 events featured.
The Arc essentially crowns Europe’s champion middle-distance horse with the race meeting attended by anyone who’s anyone from both the UK and France.
Billed as “the race that stops a nation”, the Melbourne Cup is the southern hemisphere’s biggest betting event and the place to be seen for the fashionable and the racing elite alike. The race is a frightfully competitive two-mile event now popular with British and Irish trainers and is now one of the most popular horse races in the world.
This event features no fewer than 14 Grade 1 races across two days and moves from location to location within the USA each year. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is the big race and the event closer, a $6 million race over the ‘classic’ distance of a mile-and-a-quarter.
Explore the Biggest Horse Racing Venues
Horse racing manages to bring together a betting community, a sporting community and even the fashion community right around the world, twelve months of the year.
The ‘Sport of Kings’ is one of the oldest pastimes on the planet but is no longer only the domain of the rich and famous as everyone can get involved either at the track, or from the comfort of their sofa at home.