Which are the top five racecourses in the United Kingdom?

Which are the top five racecourses in the United Kingdom? The United Kingdom is home to 60 racecourses, Flat and National Hunt, spread across the length and breadth of the country, from Perth in Central Scotland to Newton Abbot in South West England. Each racecourse is officially graded on the total amount it is allocated, annually, in General Prize Fund (GPF) grants from the Horseracing Betting Levy Board (HBLB). Such grants are based on how much each racecourse contributes to prize money and how much off-course betting turnover it generates, so can be used as an objective, empirical measure of the ‘top’ racecourses in the country. Based on GPF grants, in 2020, the top five racecourses in the United Kingdom were Ascot, Cheltenham, Newmarket, York and Goodwood.


Situated just six miles from Windsor Castle, Ascot Racecourse was founded by Queen Anne in 1711 and has been associated with the British Royal Family ever since. Royal Ascot, staged annually over five days in mid-June, hosts eight of the 36 Group 1 races run in Britain each year, while British Champions’ Day, in October, hosts another four. Of course, Ascot Racecourse is dual-purpose and, during the winter months, stages three Grade 1 National Hunt races.


Synonymous with the Cheltenham Festival, staged annually over four days in March, Cheltenham Racecourse is the undisputed home of National Hunt racing. The 14 Grade 1 races run at the Cheltenham Festival include the Champion Hurdle, Queen Month Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and the ‘Blue Riband’ event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.


Colloquially, Newmarket Racecourse is known as ‘Headquarters’ and is home to the Rowley Mile Course, used in the spring and autumn, and the July Course, used in the summer. Collectively, the courses host nine Group 1 races during the season, including two ‘Classics’, the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, run on the Rowley Mile Course on consecutive days in late Apri or early May.


Built on area of flat, low-lying ground, known as the ‘Knavesmire’, close to the city centre, York Racecourse has hosted horse racing since 1731 but, nowadays, is one of the premier racecourses in Europe.Seasonal highlights include the Juddmonte International Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks, Nunthorpe Stakes and the most valuable Flat handicap in Europe, the Ebor Handicap. All four race are run during the ‘Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival’, staged annually in August.


Synonymous with another highlight of the British sporting and social calendar, the five-day Goodwood Festival, a.k.a. ‘Glorious Goodwood’, Goodwood Racecourse is set high on the Sussex Downs and billed as ‘The most beautiful racecourse in the world’. Racing highlights include the Goodwood Cup, Sussex Stakes and Nassau Stakes, all of which are Group 1 contests.




What is the difference between a fence and a hurdle?

What is the difference between a fence and a hurdle? In National Hunt racing, participants are required to jump two basic types of obstacle, namely fences and hurdles. Fences, which are jumped in steeplechases, or chases for short, come in three different varieties, plain, open ditch and water jump; with the exception of the water jump, which is optional in any case, they are higher, less rigid and less forgiving than hurdles. A plain fence, which must be at least 4’6″ in height, consists of a rigid frame, made from steel or timber, stuffed with real or artificial birch – the density of which determines the ‘stiffness’ of the fence – and sometimes, but not always, ‘dressed’ with loose spruce topping. An open ditch is simply a plain fence preceded by a shallow ditch, several feet wide, to create a broader, more challenging obstacle.

Hurdles, on the other hand, are lightweight, portable panels of cut brushwood, which are hammered into the ground, side by side, to create a so-called ‘flight’ or hurdles. Each flight of hurdles must stand at least 3’1″ high and at least 30′ wide, but is nonetheless a relatively flimsy obstacle when compared to even the most innocuous steeplechase fence. In a hurdle race, it is not unusual for horses to kick out the top bar or knock individual hurdles flat.

Which is the best racecourse in the world?

Which is the best racecourse in the world? Horse racing is popular in many jurisdictions, including Europe, North America, Australia and Asia, so any discussion of the ‘best’ racecourse in the world is bound to be highly subjective. However, what makes a premier racecourse essentially boils down to the configuration, construction and location of the course, available facilities and the type, frequency and quality of the racing staged.

For example, Ascot Racecourse, in Berkshire, South East England, has enjoyed a prestigious association with the British Royal Family for over 300 years. Ascot is best known for the five-day Royal Ascot meeting, staged annually in June, but hosts numerous premier events throughout the year. Between September, 2004 and June, 2006, Ascot underwent a £200 million redevelopment, including a new, 45,000-capacity grandstand building and a new parade ring, with the express intention of becoming the ‘finest racecourse in the world’.

Just a short hop across the English Channel, in the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris, Longchamp Racecourse is best known as the home of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, run annually on the first Sunday in October. Nowadays the most valuable race in Europe, with €5,000,000 in total prize money, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe celebrated its centenary in 2021. The roll of honour includes Ribot, Sea Bird, Mill Reef, Dancing Brave and Sea The Stars, to name but a handful. Redeveloped, at a cost of €140 million, in 2016 and 2017 and rebranded ‘ParisLongchamp’, the most iconic racecourse in France nows features a striking 160-metre long grandstand, offering uninterrupted, 180º views across the racecourse.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Churchill Downs in Kentucky, in the Southeastern United States, is best known as the perennial home of the so-called ‘Run for the Roses’, the Kentucky Derby, which it has hosted annually, on the first Saturday in May, since 1875. Universally recognisable by its trademark twin spires, Churchill Downs is a National Historic Landmark but, in 2005, unveiled a 3½-year, $121 million facelift, which included a new, spacious clubhouse and luxury suites.

Elsewhere in the world, other candidates for the ‘best’ racecourse include Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, home of the Dubai World Cup, and Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia, home of the Melbourne Cup. Of course, there are many more, but ultimately the choice is a matter of personal preference.

Who founded Aintree?

Who founded Aintree? Of course, nowadays, Aintree Racecourse is synonymous with the most famous steeplechase in the world, the Grand National. However, the race that became the Grand National, the ‘Grand Liverpool Steeplechase’, was not run for the first time until February, 1836, nearly seven years after Aintree staged its inaugural Flat meeting in July, 1829.

Horse racing at Aintree was the brainchild of local hotelier and sports promoter, William Lynn who, in 1829, approached William Molyneux, Second Earl of Sefton with a view to leasing the land on which the racecourse now stands. Molyneux sanctioned the use of his land for horse racing and, following the construction of a grandstand, the first race, the Croxteth Stakes, was run on July 7 the same year.

The venture proved highly successful and supported, financially, by Molyneux, the Jockey Club and others, Aintree Racecourse flourished. National Hunt racing was introduced in 1835 – although the National Hunt Committee would not be formed until three decades later – and the following year, drawing inspiration from an existing race, the Great St. Albans Steeplechase, Lynn staged his own version. The Grand Liverpool Steeplechase was still known by its original title until 1947, when it was renamed the Grand National, but the word ‘national’ was first used in connection with the 1839 renewal, which is now generally considered the first ‘official’ running of the Grand National.

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