Five of the best British racecourses to visit in 2019
For the sophisticated sports enthusiast, very little can match the buzz of race day at one of Britain’s many renowned racecourses.
But with over 50 venues spanning the UK, from the foot of the Highlands in Perth to Newton Abbot in Devon, where should you start? If you’re keen on taking your hobby to the next level, look no further than these five iconic venues to ensure your experience is filled with the style, glamour and success associated with the ‘Sport of Kings’.
Windsor racecourse boasts one of the most stunning locales in modern horse racing, sitting on an idyllic island on the bank of the River Thames. The racecourse has a heritage and history tracing back to Henry VIII, but is perhaps best-known to enthusiasts for its rare ‘figure of eight’ course layout, as one of only three racecourses in the country to bear this shape.
Windsor switched to exclusively flat racing just before the turn of the millennium, ending its association with National Hunt races, but is still one of the more aspirational and classy courses to visit in contemporary times. Pretty firm dress codes are in place year-round in two of their three enclosures – holding a policy of ‘no t-shirts, trainers, sports attire or cargo shorts’ in these areas. Dress to impress, gents.
Located in the heart of the Goodwood Estate, belonging to the Duke of Richmond, Goodwood racecourse couples the value of traditional pageantry with the buzz of modern horse-racing like perhaps no other racecourse in Britain.
A few miles north of Chichester in West Sussex, this venue hosts the annual ‘Glorious Goodwood’ festival in the early days of August. The five-day event packs in as much action as is possible, with the highlight arguably being the Sussex Stakes, where the field competes for a massive £1 million prize pool. If it’s glamour you’re after, Goodwood doesn’t disappoint with its own Ladies’ Day following on the next day in the sweltering August sunshine.
No racecourse captures the quintessential British racing experience quite like Ascot, which hosts the iconic Royal Ascot festival each summer. The five-day event offers something for both the experienced racegoer and those new to the sport, as well as those simply hoping to rub shoulders with members of the aristocracy.
Royal Ascot was founded in the early 18th century by Queen Anne, and still proudly welcomes the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, annually. Each day of the event is preceded by the royal procession, with members of the royal family arriving by horse and carriage. Over 300,000 people make the trek to Berkshire for Royal Ascot every year, making it the best attended race meeting in Europe – particularly on Ladies’ Day, which includes the headline Ascot Gold Cup event.
If you prefer a more understated race day experience, Ascot regularly hosts race meets throughout the year, with 26 days on offer through the calendar.
The most northerly venue in our top five, Aintree, near Liverpool, is synonymous with one event, the Grand National. It is estimated that, in the UK alone, £250m worth of bets are placed at bookmakers for the ‘Superbowl of horse racing’ – and that’s notwithstanding thousands of office sweepstakes taking place up and down the country.
The famous Grand National, which is reportedly watched by 600 million people on television worldwide, takes place on Saturday 6 April next year, on the third day of the Grand National Festival. The four-day festival, which comprises of 21 individual events, has a rough annual footfall of 150,000 spectators – so if you’re planning on visiting Merseyside this year, plan early.
Topping our list of must-visit racecourses for 2019 is Cheltenham, located on the border of the spectacular Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But the venue’s postcode is not the only reason to check out Cheltenham, which is one of, if the not the most, state-of-the-art venues in modern horse-racing. Cheltenham racecourse features two competition-level courses, known as ‘Old Course’ and ‘New Course’, which run alongside each other. The venue boasts a multi-purpose conference complex known as The Centaur, as well as a £45 million main grandstand, the Princess Royal Stand, which opened in 2015 and has a capacity of 6,500.
The Cheltenham Festival is the venue’s flagship annual event. The Festival, which takes place in March, boasts a card of several Grade 1 races, including the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the headline event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Want to make the most of your visit to Gloucestershire? Check out these tips for racing at Cheltenham to give you the edge come raceday.