UK Horse Racing
Horse racing in the UK is one of the most popular sporting and gaming outlets available, a massive industry with dedicated professionals fulfilling the many needs of such a varied and challenging sport. UK horse racing holds some of the most important races in the world, as well as featuring many challenging racecourses. Not all the kinds of racing found in the UK are the same as those found in North America and other parts of the world. Chases, for instance, are a major part of UK horse racing, accounting for many of its biggest events.
Newmarket is the home of English horse racing, due to a long standing association with horse breeding as well as the landmark races held there. Racing in the UK probably began during the Roman occupation, though it did not truly begin to be a tournament sport until much later, probably during the late middle ages or during the Renaissance. Ever since it began, racing has remained popular in the UK, surviving even despite a ban by Oliver Cromwell and interruptions during the World Wars.
As long as horse racing has been popular in the UK, so has betting on the outcome. Despite short periods of time when there have been harsh government crackdowns on gambling, betting on horseracing has been a major part of everyday life for many people in the UK. More than any other event, punters in the UK will bet on horse races.
There are a number of major UK horse races during the year, some of which are so important that they will receive attention even from the general public. These include the Aintree Grand National, the Scottish Grand National and the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Horse Racing in the UK: the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, the Epsom Derby, and the St. Leger Stakes.
The Aintree Grand National is not only the mostly highly prized handicap chase horse race in the UK, it is the most important such race in the world. Popular even with people who are not normally interested in horse racing, the Grand National is held at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool each year at the beginning of April as part of a three day meet. It is watched by more than 500 million people each year and has been run for around 170 years.
While not popularly considered to be as prestigious as the Aintree Grand National, the Scottish Grand National is an important National Hunt horse race, often drawing previous runners of the Aintree Grand National. Run at the Ayr Racecourse since 1966, having first been run at the Bogside Racecourse, the Scottish Grand National is 4 miles 110 yards long with 27 fences to be jumped. Nowhere near as high profile as the Aintree Grand National in terms of general public perception, the Scottish Grand National is still considered to be an important and challenging handicap chase.
The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Horse Racing in the UK, featuring the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, the Epsom Derby and the St. Leger Stakes, has only ever been achieved by fifteen horses. No horse has won the UK Triple Crown since 1970, when Nijinsky II took it, the first to do so since 1935. The races that make up the Triple Crown are some of the most hotly contested in the world for three-year-old thoroughbred racehorses, making a Triple Crown win an incredible achievement for anyone involved.
First of the Triple Crown races is the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, run at the Newmarket Racecourse over a distance of 1 mile. It has been run since 1809, and is open to both colts and fillies, though fillies have become rare is recent years as none have won the 2,000 Guineas Stakes since 1944. It takes place each year in late April or early May.
The second race of the Triple Crown is the Epsom Derby, also known as the Derby Stakes, and it is held on the first weekend of June on the Epsom Downs Racecourse. Run over 1 mile 4 furlongs, the Derby Stakes is one of the most prestigious flat races in the world.
Finally, the St. Leger Stakes finishes off the races that comprise the Triple Crown. It is run over 1 mile 6 furlongs 132 yards at Doncaster Racecourse each year in September. Started in 1776, it is the oldest British Classic race and the last test of horses looking to contend to earn the Triple Crown.
There are many more landmark races in the UK horse racing calendar, with especially important meets such as the Royal Ascot meet holding a great number of Grade I races. Anyone interested in becoming more involved in the UK horse racing scene has an exciting time ahead of them. The rich history of the sport coupled with growing enthusiasm from the public has made UK horse racing into a fascinating hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone.