By William Hill
Last Updated: 27th January 2021
We were treated to countless great races in 2020 and that looks set to continue in 2021 with so many prestigious UK horse racing fixtures taking place throughout the year. The action is non-stop in racing, from the winter months and heavy going on the Jumps to the sunshine and glamour of the Flat season. There’s something for everyone at these iconic UK horse racing venues. Here is our guide to the biggest UK horse racing meetings of 2021.
Cheltenham Festival, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, 16-19 March 2021
Prizes: Gold Cup £625,000
The Cheltenham festival is the highlight of the National Hunt year and the pinnacle of Jumps racing. Over four days the festival showcases the best the sport has to offer and all competing for the highest honours, with 28 races and incredible Grade One action, it’s not one to be missed. This year Al Boum Photo bids to land a remarkable hat-trick in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, emulating the likes of racing legends Best Mate and Arkle. Catch the action at one of the most iconic UK horse racing tracks, Cheltenham.
The Grand National, Aintree, Liverpool, 8-10 April 2021
Prizes: Grand National £1,000,000
The Grand National festival is a three-day event building up to possibly the most widely recognised race in history, the Grand National itself. This is the race where the nation stops to have a bet, office sweepstakes are made, and horses are cheered home up and down the country. The Grand National is raced over one of the toughest UK horse racing courses, and it takes the hardiest of horses to complete the 30-fence race. With 40 runners featuring in the competitive contest, Tiger Roll has come out on top the last two times and looks to land his third win this year.
Guineas Festival, Newmarket, Suffolk, 1-2 May 2021
Prizes: 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas – £500,000 each
The first two Classics of the season are named after the prize money originally on offer for the races, but those prizes have significantly increased. The Guineas are regarded as two of the most prestigious UK horse racing fixtures and have been imitated all over the world.
Looking at the previous winners of the 2,000 Guineas, which includes the likes of Frankel, Sea The Stars and Dancing Brave, can tell you all you need to know about the prestige and history of the race.
The 1,000 Guineas follows a day later and is open to three-year old fillies. 2020 saw Love dominate the race and put her name alongside other greats like Cape Verdi and Kazzia.
Both races set the tone for the Flat season and can be career-defining for horse, trainer, and jockey.
Epsom Derby Festival, Epsom, Surrey, 4-5 June 2021
Prizes: The Oaks – £500,000 and The Derby – £1,500,000
Another festival and another two of the British Classics up for grabs. The Epsom Derby Festival features both The Oaks and The Derby where horses have their one shot at immortality. They are both ran over the same 1 mile 4 furlongs and 10 yards on the undulating Epsom course. With The Oaks only open to three-year old fillies, recent superstars Love and Enable have claimed their glory, while Frankie Dettori is the leading jockey in the race with five wins.
The Derby is Britain’s richest race and is often regarded as the best Flat race in the world. The horses, trainers, and jockeys that are successful in the race can claim to have reached the pinnacle of the sport, as Aidan O’Brien has done with 8 successful training victories.
Royal Ascot, Ascot, Surrey, 15-19 June 2021
Prizes: Prince of Wales Stakes – £1,000,000 and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes – £1,000,000
Royal Ascot is the showcase event of the Flat season, full of glamour, class, and pageantry, it’s one of the UK horse racing fixtures like no other. However, that doesn’t take away from the world-class action on show in races such as the Queen Anne Stakes, Commonwealth Cup, and Gold Cup. Royal Ascot is attended every day by The Queen and a Royal winner is always popular with Racing fans and none more so than Estimates Gold Cup victory in 2013.
Eclipse Summer Festival, Sandown Park, Surrey, 2-3 July 2021
Prizes: Eclipse Stakes – £750,000
Eclipse was a successful racehorse winning 18 races from his 18 starts before going on to have a successful career as a sire. It is no wonder then that his name be associated with a festival also filled with class. Taking place in the peak of summer the festivals main attraction, the Eclipse Stakes, has served up memorable winners such as Roaring Lion, Enable, and most recently Ghaiyyath.
The King George Weekend, Ascot, Surrey, 23-24 July 2021
Prizes: King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes – £1,250,000
The King George weekend is headlined by the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. It is Britain’s most prestigious open-age Flat race and always attracts the brightest of equine stars, its roll of honour features some of the most highly acclaimed and respected horses. The 1975 running is frequently described as the ‘race of the century’ and more recently in 2019 the King George will live long in the memory as two of the best, Enable and Crystal Ocean, fought to the finish for victory.
Glorious Goodwood, Goodwood, Sussex, 27-31 July 2021
Prizes: Sussex Stakes – £1,000,000
Glorious Goodwood really does live up to its name, the five-day festival is an occasion like no other. The superb racing and unrivalled style combined with the Sussex sunshine make it a staple of the UK horse racing fixtures calendar. Last year star sprinter Battaash eclipsed his own track record at this meeting as he claimed the King George Stakes for the fourth consecutive year in a time of 55.62 seconds.
Ebor Festival, York, Yorkshire, 18-21 August 2021
Prizes: Juddmonte Stakes – £1,000,000
The Ebor Festival is an historic four-day event and one of the major UK horse racing meetings of the Flat season. The festival is kicked off with the Group 1 Juddmonte International, a race won by the legendary Frankel, and is followed by the Yorkshire Oaks the next day. Friday’s feature race is the Nunthrope which Battaash has won the past two years.
St. Leger Festival, Doncaster, Yorkshire, 8-11 September 2021
Prizes: St. Leger – £700,000
The feature race of the St. Leger festival is the world’s oldest classic horse race and another of the British Classics, the St. Leger Stakes. Bringing the festival to a dramatic close the St. Leger Stakes attracts the leading stables from across the country and boasts an impressive roll of honour littered with some of the great horses in history. Last year’s winner Galileo Chroma gave trainer, Joseph O’Brien, the honour of becoming only the second man in history to have won the race as both a jockey and trainer.
British Champions Day, Ascot, Surrey, 16 October 2021
Prizes: Champions Stakes – £1,300,000
We round off the action back at Ascot, the iconic UK horse racing venue, for the final day of the British Flat season. There’s less actual royalty on this occasion but that doesn’t mean that the equine royalty doesn’t turn up. The kings and queens of the turf arrive to battle over one of the most valuable days of racing in Britain, with four Group Ones up for grabs it really is the perfect finale.