There are 60 registered flat and national hunt racecourses in the UK, all of which offer their individual perks and specialties. It is tremendously difficult to select the top 6% of these extraordinary horse racing venues but we have done our best based on the quality of races staged at each racecourse and the general ambience during the racing festivities. After all, a day at the races is about much more than just the race - if you know what we mean...
Aintree Racecourse is home to the most infamous national hunt race in the UK, the Aintree Grand National, which has contributed greatly to this venue's fame. The Grand National is without question the biggest event to take place at Aintree and was established in 1839, just ten years after this historic racecourse was inaugurated. Aintree Racecourse is situated outside the city of Liverpool and the racetrack features some of the most notorious fences in the country. Steeple chasing at Aintree is a serious affair and an experience that won't leave you for a long time.
Ascot Racecourse is without question one of the best-regarded thoroughbred racing venues in the United Kingdom. It is home to nine of 32 annual UK-wide Group 1 events, including the King's Stand Stakes, the Prince Of Wales' Stakes, the Golden Jubilee Stakes and - most importantly - the iconic Ascot Gold Cup. Ascot Racecourse also hosts a number of prestigious national hunt races, like the Long Walk Hurdle, the Victor Chandler Chase and the Ascot Chase. To top it all off, Ascot is the Royal Family's favourite racecourse. Her Majesty the Queen attends the annual Royal Ascot Festival without fail, and even during other meetings the proximity of the course to Windsor Castle makes for an enchanting experience truly worthy of the sport of kings.
Cheltenham Racecourse is a must-visit venue for every serious national hunt racing fan, as Cheltenham is widely considered the home of English jump racing. It is particularly renowned for the Cheltenham Festival, a four day national hunt carnival, which features - amongst other outstanding races - the Cheltenham Gold Cup, one of the most prestigious steeple chasing events of the British jump racing calendar. If you are looking to experience the nation's true passion for the steeple chase in a historically valuable environment, a trip to Cheltenham Racecourse is just what you need.
Doncaster is a mixed racecourse, offering national hunt and flat race days throughout the year and hosting some of the most anticipated events of the season. The declared highlight of the racing season at Doncaster is the St. Leger Festival, which culminates in the running of the St. Leger Stakes, the final leg of the English Classics Series. Doncaster Racecourse is also the home of the Racing Post Trophy, a Group 1 event attracting extremely high-profile thoroughbred contenders. As Doncaster is located close to several training stables, this is the perfect venue to catch an early glimpse at new talents trained by legends like Aidan O'Brien and Nigel Twiston-Davies.
The three main fixtures held at Epsom Downs Racecourse are the Epsom Derby, the Epsom Oaks and the Coronation Cup. These three Group 1 events attract vast numbers of spectators; especially as the Derby and the Oaks, how they are simply known to those in the know, are part of the Triple Crown and the Fillies' Triple Crown respectively. Horse racing at Epsom Downs dates back to the late 1700s, so there is plenty to discover for the history buff as well as for the racing aficionado. With a wide range of race days hosted throughout the year it is never a bad idea to take a trip to Epsom for a day at the races.
Goodwood Racecourse sets the scene for one of the most luscious horse racing festivals of the country, Glorious Goodwood. If you are looking for a horse racing festival that really celebrates the old school style and glamour associated with British horse racing, the Glorious Goodwood could be the meeting of your dreams. Featuring some truly great fixtures like the Nassau Stakes and the Sussex Stakes, Glorious Goodwood invites you to unleash your inner aristocrat and come out with flair blazing. Conveniently located just 60 miles from London, Goodwood racecourse is the perfect destination for a weekend break at the races. The horses are hot, the location divine - what's not to like?
Hamilton Park is the best address if you want to explore the world of Scottish flat racing. It provides some excellent entertainment pre- and post the fixtures and has witnessed developments which changed the way we conduct and view thoroughbred racing. Hamilton Park was the first racecourse in the United Kingdom to host evening races, a practise which is now inseparable from horse racing culture. Some of the greatest races to be caught at Hamilton are the Braveheart Stakes and the Glasgow Stakes - both evening meetings to celebrate Hamilton's great achievement - which will have even the most hardened punter at the edge of his seat.
When it comes to history, very few racecourses in the United Kingdom can compete with Newmarket Racecourse. This excellent thoroughbred racing venue has been around since the 1600s and has been hosting races almost without interruptions ever since. Newmarket Racecourse is the home of the first legs of the English Triple Crown and the Fillies' Triple Crown, the 2,000 Guineas Stakes and the 1,000 Guineas Stakes; as well as stand-out events like the Champion Stakes, the Dewhurst Stakes, the July Cup and the Sun Chariot Stakes. Like Ascot Racecourse, Newmarket hosts nine Group 1 races every season, making it one of the best attended racecourses in the country.
Sandown Park, the late Queen Mother's favourite racecourse, has seen its fair share of legendary horse racing moments. Iconic contenders like Arkle, Mill Reef and Desert Orchid have graced the track with their presence and revered jockey Fred Archer won the first race ever held at this venue in 1875, creating auspicious beginning conditions for the course. In 2002 Sandown underwent a series of refurbishments and renovations and is now not only one of the most historic but also one of the best-outfitted locations for thoroughbred racing in the UK. Sandown hosts both flat and national hunt races, the Bet365 Gold Cup and the Tingle Creek Chase being two of the most important steeple chasing events of the Sandown season.
York Racecourse's signature event is the Ebor Handicap, which is hosted as part of the Ebor Festival. It is home to three annual Group 1 events and focuses of flat racing only. Racing at York is a traditional and tasteful affair; in fact, the racecourse is considered so prestigious it was deemed fit to serve as the alternative venue for all races planned at Ascot, when Ascot underwent renovations. Some seasonal highlights running at York Racecourse are the International Stakes, the Nunthorpe Stakes and the Yorkshire Oaks.