The UK Horse Racing Calendar

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In the following article I will go through the major meetings in British Horse Racing, starting with the flat season, followed by the National Hunt season.

UK Racing Calendar - The Flat Season

flat racing horsesThe Flat Racing seasons runs every year from the day of the Lincoln Handicap to the the day of the November Handicap (in late October or early November). This is the official flat season, but the winter flat season runs for the rest of the year.

As stated before the first main meeting on the Flat is the Lincoln meeting at Doncaster.  The Lincoln is a handicap race over a straight mile for four year olds and upwards, and is seen somewhat as a cavalry charge – a good gambling race as there are normally at least twenty runners.

The next big meeting is the Guineas meeting at Newmarket in late April/early May. This meeting has the opening two flat “classics” of the season, in the 1000 and the 2000 Guineas. They are both run over a mile, with the 1000 Guineas open to Fillies, and the 2000 Guineas is open to both Fillies and Mares (although Fillies rarely run in the 2000 Guineas nowadays).

In early May there is a three day meeting held at Chester, with the highlight races being the Chester Cup and the Cheshire Oaks, and in mid May, there is the three day May meeting at York, with the highlights being the Musidora Stakes, the Dante Stakes and the Yorkshire Cup.

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The Epsom Derby

In early June the Derby Festival takes place at Epsom. One of the highlights of the Flat Racing season, featuring both the Derby and the Oaks. The Oaks takes place first on the Friday afternoon, over one and a half miles, open to three year old fillies and is the third “classic” of the season. On the Saturday the Epsom Derby takes place. Seen as the Blue Riband event of the season, with a huge worldwide audience, this is again over a mile and a half, with entries open to both Mares and Fillies (3 years old), and considered  the most prestigious of the five Classics.

Later in June, Royal Ascot takes place. This is a five day meeting from Tuesday to Saturday and named Royal Ascot as members of the British monarchy attend this meeting daily. Over the five days there are many group one races, with the highlights being The Prince of Wales’s Stakes, the St James’s Palace Stakes,  The Gold Cup, The Coronation Stakes and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

In late June the Northumberland Plate takes place at Newcastle, and in early July the Eclipse meeting takes place at Sandown park, with the three day July meeting also taking place at Newmarket, and also the prestigious King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes takes place at Ascot.

Glorious Goodwood

At the end of July/start of August Glorious Goodwood takes place, a 5 day meeting featuring the Sussex Stakes and the Nassau Stakes, followed by the 4 day Ebor meeting at York later in August, featuring among others the Ebor handicap and the Yorkshire Oaks.

In September the St Leger meeting takes place at Doncaster. The St Leger is the final classic of the season, run over one miles and six furlongs, and is open to both three year old  Fillies and Mares, being the final leg of the Triple Crown (1000 Guineas and Oaks being the first two legs for Fillies, and the 2000 Guineas and the Derby for Mares), although this feat is rarely attempted.

In late September the Cambridgeshire meeting takes place at Newmarket, the Cambridgeshire Handicap itself being another “Cavalry Charge” with many runners over a straight mile.

In October Champions Day takes place at Ascot, featuring the culmination of the British champions series, the richest day of the British horse racing season. The day features the Queen Elizabeth II stakes and the Champion stakes. Points are accumulated over the season in some of the flat’s biggest races, and this meeting sees the finales of the series.

The November handicap at Doncaster sees the culmination of the Flat Racing season. 

Overseas Races Popular With UK Horse Breeders

Although not part of the UK horse racing calendar, there are two meetings where many UK based horses will enter near the end of the season.

The Prix del’Arc de Triomphe takes place the first sunday in October at Longchamp in Paris, with many great British raiders trying to win the prestigious prize over the years. For 3 year olds and older, it is run over a mile and a half.

In late October/early November, the Breeders Cup takes place in the USA. Another meeting where some top UK based horses will try their luck. Currently based at Santa Anita park, this is a highly prestigious meeting with horses coming from all over the world to compete – with several rich prizes, including the Breeders Cup Turf and the Breeders Cup Classic.

UK Racing Calendar - The National Hunt Season

jumping horsesThe season over the jumps runs all year around, but the main part of the season runs from November to April, where all the biggest meetings are found.

The first big meeting is the Open meeting at Cheltenham in mid November, featuring the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase, a handicap run over two and a half miles.

In mid November the two day NorthWest Masters meeting is held, shared between Aintree and Haydock.  The big event of this meeting is the Betfair Chase held over three miles, a real class affair, and deemed to be one of the “Triple Crown” of National Hunt races.

The last weekend in November features the Hennessy Winter Festival, featuring both the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup and the Long Distance Hurdle, and the same weekend also features the Fighting Fifth Hurdle which takes place at Newcastle.

The first Saturday in December brings the Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown Park. The Tingle Creek Chase itself is a two mile Chase, and seen as an important pointer for the Cheltenham Festival later in the season.

The Long Walk Hurdle takes place at Ascot on the last Saturday before Christmas. This meeting is Ascots most valuable day of Jump Racing, and as well as the Long Walk hurdle, also features the “Ladbroke”, Europe’s richest Handicap Hurdle race.

The William Hill Winter Festival at Kempton is one of the biggest meetings of the year, taking place over two days, the first of which is Boxing Day. The main event is the King George run  over three miles, and this always attracts a very strong field, and is considered to be the second of jump racing’s “Triple Crown”.

The last Saturday of the year sees the Coral Welsh National, Wales most lucrative race, and seen as a potential indicator for the Grand National.

The Victor Chandler Chase takes place at Ascot in mid January, a two mile high quality chase, and Ascot also hosts the Ascot Chase in mid February, the last Group One race before the Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham - The Highlight Of The Jumps Season

The main event of the National Hunt season takes place in March. Four days of great Races, running from Tuesday to Friday. Tuesday sees the Champion Hurdle, the premier race of the season for two mile hurdlers. Wednesday sees the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the premium chase over two miles. The World Hurdle takes place on Thursday (for the best three mile hurdlers) and this is also Ladies day. Friday sees the Cheltenham Gold Cup – twenty two fences over three miles and two furlongs, and for many seen as the most prestigious race of the year. This is also the third leg of the “Triple Crown” of National Hunt racing.

The Grand National

In early April possibly the most famous Horse Race in the world  takes place– the Grand National at Aintree. Considered the Ultimate test of National Hunt Racing, this race is run over four miles, and thirty fences must be jumped, including the famous Becher’s Brook, The Chair and the Canal Turn. The most valuable jump race in Europe, the race is a handicap and will see up to forty runners stake a claim. The one race of the year that most of the general public will be involved in, either in the form of a sweepstake or a flutter.

In mid April the Scottish national takes place. Once again over four and a half miles, this is another supreme test, and takes place at Ayr.

The final big day of the National Hunt season is the Bet365 Gold Cup day, a mixture of jump and flat racing  that signifies the end of the season. The The Bet365 Gold Cup itself a handicap chase run over three miles five furlongs, and the day also includes ceremonies to award top performers for the season.

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