By News Team
Last Updated: 16th February 2022
The UK racing calendar is filled with some of the greatest races which have captured the imaginations of generations of racing fans the world over.
We’ve picked out five of the most prestigious Flat and National Hunt races.
Cheltenham Gold Cup (Cheltenham) — March
In a list of famous horse races, few can touch the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It is the highlight of the annual Cheltenham Festival and is considered the Blue Riband event in National Hunt racing.
In terms of prestige and prize money, it is the most valuable Jumps race other than the Grand National, with more than half a million pounds up for grabs.
Horses that win the Gold Cup become household names and the list of past winners features many of the great names of jumping including Golden Miller, Arkle, Best Mate and Kauto Star. It’s the race that every Jumps trainer, jockey and owner wants to win.
Grand National (Aintree) — April
The National is a truly unique race. A field of 40 runners compete over a marathon distance of four and a quarter miles, jumping 30 spruce fences. It has been run at Aintree, outside Liverpool since 1839 and has always had a special place in British culture.
The Grand National is the ultimate test of horse and jockey that has punters tuning in from all over the world. No horse is more synonymous with the National than Red Rum, a horse trained on the beach not far from Aintree by Ginger McCain, who became the people’s champion when winning the race three times in the 1970s.
In recent years the National has been the source of many brilliant stories. In 2009, Mon Mome won the race at 100/1, Neptune Collonges prevailed in the closest finish in National history three years later, while the diminutive but irrepressible Tiger Roll won back-to-back renewals in 2018 and 2019. Last year Rachel Blackmore made history, becoming the first female jockey to win the National.
More money is bet on the National than any other British race. 13 million punters in the UK enjoy a flutter on the race, and for many it will be their only bet of the year.
The Derby (Epsom) — June
The Epsom Derby is perhaps the most famous Flat race in the world and the most prestigious of the five British Classics.
It is run on Epsom’s unique undulating track and is considered to be a huge test of horse and jockey thanks to the famous camber. The Derby has inspired versions all over the world, but there is only one original that has been run since 1870.
It is contested by three-year-old colts, with winners often going on to have fruitful and lucrative careers at stud. Many great names have won the race, including Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Shergar, Galileo and Sea The Stars.
Master trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the race a record eight times, with six of those victories coming in the last 10 years.
Gold Cup (Royal Ascot) — June
The Gold Cup is the highlight of Royal Ascot and is a true test of stayers at two and a half miles, making it one of the longest Group races in the world.
It was first run way back in 1807, which makes it one of the oldest horse races in the world. The Gold Cup is the first leg of the Stayers’ Triple Crown and is followed by the Goodwood and Doncaster Cups.
It has been won by royalty many times, including the Queen who took the prize with Estimate in 2013. One of the most famous winners is Yeats who won the prize four times in a row between 2006 and 2009. Last year three-time winner, Stradivarius, came up short in his bid to equal Yeats’ record.
King George VI Chase (Kempton) — December
The King George has long been considered the biggest jumps race of the season prior to the Cheltenham Festival, and is regarded by many as the best form guide to the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Run over three miles, with horses jumping 18 fences on the way round, it has taken place at Kempton Park on Boxing Day since 1937 and is the highlight of the track’s popular Christmas festival.
Some of the biggest names in the sport have their name on the trophy. The great grey, Desert Orchid, won it four times in the late 80s and early 90s. His record was topped by the Paul Nicholls-trained Kauto Star who managed a fantastic five successes in the 2000s. Nicholls is the leading trainer in King George history, winning the race a remarkable 12 times.