Known as the Sport of Kings, horse racing in Britain has been a popular spectator sport since the 17th Century, when King James I established Newmarket, now the headquarters of British Horse racing. Since then, the sport in the UK has gone from strength to strength, with an estimated 10,000 races each year and off-course betting alone bringing in around £4billion a year. Recently playing the ITV7 COMP has proven popular amongst bettors. We take a look inside the winners’ enclosure to reveal the best British races of them all.
The Epsom Derby
Epsom Downs Racecourse, Surrey
First run in 1780, the Epsom Derby is one of the five British Classics on the flat race calendar and is renowned as one of the world’s best racing events. Held over one mile, four furlongs, the race offers punters the double-spectacle of speed and skill, as three-year-old thoroughbreds compete to be crowned the Derby winner and scoop a slice of the £1.5m prize pot. The Derby has seen some world-famous winners, including Lester Piggott, who has been crowned champion no less than nine times.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire
Run on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, the Gold Cup is widely considered the best race in the British National Hunt calendar. With 22 fences to be navigated over its three mile, 2½ furlong course, it’s a race that offers thrills and challenges to some of the world’s best jockeys as well as spectators. It has also seen wins by some of the most famous racehorses of all time, including Arkle and the remarkable Desert Orchid.
King George VI Chase
Kempton Racecourse, Staines
Hot on the heels of the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the King George VI Cup, which runs every Boxing Day so is a seasonal treat on the British horse racing calendar. First held in 1937, the course is a challenging National Hunt steeplechase spanning three miles and 18 jumps. Endurance, skill and speed is the order of the day for the Chase, epitomised by Desert Orchid, who has been crowned four times winner.
St. Leger Stakes
Doncaster Racecourse, South Yorkshire
Another of the British flat race classics, the St Legers is also the oldest – first staged in 1776 – and is steeped in history and tradition. Run over a distance of one mile, six furlongs, the race is held every September and is a showpiece of the British horseracing world. As the world’s oldest Classic, it attracts almost 30,000 spectators each year and is a particular favourite of iconic jockey, Frankie Dettori, who scooped his sixth St Leger win in 2019.
The Grand National
Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool
And last, but certainly not least is the Grand National. Undeniably one of the world’s most famous horse races, the National is a true British icon, with over 600 million people watching the four and a half-mile steeplechase around the world. Held every April, 2019 saw an estimated £300m worth of bets placed on the race. With infamous jumps such as Becher’s Brook and The Chair, the National is also considered one of the most challenging jump races, offering one of the biggest prizes, with the winner pocketing over £560,000.