On This Page

Major Races & Meetings in the UK & Ireland

Horse racing has always been a bettor’s paradise. The thoroughbred scene in the United Kingdom and Ireland showcases some of the best races in the world. Believe it or not, horse racing is the second largest spectator sport in all of Great Britain.

With a season that spans from March to December, there is no shortage of action throughout the year. With some races dating back hundreds of years it comes as no surprise that these sporting events are near and dear to their countries’ hearts.

Many of the races are seen as focal points in both the social and sporting calendars in both the United Kingdom and Ireland. It’s no wonder people are flocking to the gates or their computers to place their bets.

Below you will find a brief overview of some of the major horse races, meetings, and festivals that take place throughout the season in the UK and Ireland. Additionally, more detailed information can be found on each race via the links within their breakdown.

The major races and festival in the UK and Ireland include:

  • 2,000 Guinea Stakes
  • 1,000 Guinea Stakes
  • Epsom Derby
  • Epsom Oaks
  • Leger Stakes
  • Royal Ascot Festival
  • Irish Triple Crown Races
  • The Grand National
  • King George VI Chase
  • Cheltenham Festival
  • Newbury Winter Festival
  • Irish Grand National
  • Punchestown Festival
  • Galway Races

The British Classics

The British Classics are five long-standing horse races run during the traditional flat racing season. Flat races are races contested on flat courses without fences or ditches for the horses to jump over. These five races are restricted to three-year-old horses and traditionally represent the pinnacle of achievement for race horses against their own age group.

The five British Classics are:

  • 2,000 Guinea Stakes
  • 1,000 Guinea Stakes
  • Epsom Derby
  • Epsom Oaks
  • Leger Stakes

The 1,000 Guinea Stakes and the Epsom Oaks are both restricted to fillies only. The 2,000 Guinea Stakes, the Epsom Derby, and the St. Leger Stakes make up what is known as the English Triple Crown and are open to both fillies and colts. An English Triple Crown winner has not been crowned since Nijinsky in 1970.

The races are held at Newmarket (1,000 & 2,000 Guinea Stakes), Epsom Downs (Epsom Derby & Epsom Oaks), and Doncaster (St. Leger Stakes).

The Royal Ascot is the centerpiece of the Ascot Racecourse’s year and is comprised of 30 races that always span five days from Tuesday to Saturday during a week in June. Over 300,000 people make the annual visit to Berkshire, England, during Royal Ascot week.

Among the hundreds of thousands of spectators, Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal Family attend every year, arriving by horse-drawn carriage.

The Royal Ascot is a major event in the British social calendar with plenty of press and celebrities on hand every day and millions and millions of pounds in prize money on the line.

The Grand National is a National Hunt horse race held annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool in England. Hunt races are the name given to races where horses are required to jump over fences and ditches along the course.

With a distance of over 4 miles and fences that are higher than that of other National Hunt races, the Grand National is one of the toughest and most physically demanding horse races of the season. It has been often referred to as the ultimate test of horse and rider.

An estimated 500 to 600 million people across 140 countries watch the Grand National. The race is popular amongst many people who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing throughout the year.

The Newbury Winter Festival is being rebranded as the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival. Taking place at the Newbury Racecourse, the racecourse has entered into a valuable long-term partnership with Ladbrokes. Of the number of races run during the festival in early December of each year, 2017 will be highlighted for the first time by the Ladbrokes Gold Cup.

For the past 60 years, the race was called the Hennessy Gold Cup after its former sponsor. The Gold Cup is a handicap race and one of the most prestigious chase races on the year.

The Punchestown Irish National Hunt Festival is one of the highlights of the Irish social and sporting calendar. The Festival is considered the grand finale of the jump season and is the major festival of the Irish National Hunt season.

Often regarded as the Irish equivalent of the Cheltenham Festival, Punchestown follows the usual horse race festival schedule of Tuesday – Saturday and takes place in April.

Of the many races held over the five day period, the Punchestown Irish National Hunt Festival features an astounding 10 championship races.