The introduction of a summer jumping programme means that National Hunt betting is essentially available all year round but we are approaching what is traditionally the best time for National Hunt racing in the calendar year. While the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National at Aintree are already in the books for 2023, there are still plenty of other exciting races throughout the UK. There is no shortage of hurdles, steeplechases or bumps to keep racing fans entertained and with the Jumps season fast approaching here’s our look at some of the most popular race tracks across the UK you should visit across the colder months.
This Merseyside racetrack hosts the world’s most famous National Hunt race every April in the form of the Grand National. Originating in 1839, the Grand National is the longest jumps race in Britain and sees record TV viewership and crowds in excess of 70,000 each and every year. The popularity of the event makes it a bucket list attraction for every dedicated racing fan. The course has been known as one of the most unique and treacherous over the years but slight modifications to the fences over the years might have made them a little less fearsome than previous iterations. The iconic dressing on obstacles, like the famous five foot high Becher’s Brook, Valentine’s and The Chair have helped establish Aintree as one of the most spectacular courses in the UK and a staple of the horse racing calendar.
Ascot is considered the home of British horseracing, hosting around 26 days of racing annually. Founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, Ascot has maintained its association with the Royal Family by continuing to cater for Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family each year at Royal Ascot. The track hosts both Flat and National Hunt fixtures throughout the year and while it is well known as a flat track because of the five-day festival in the heart of summer, Royal Ascot, it still holds its own in the Jump season too. It is a very challenging course and aside from the appeal of the Royal Ascot as an entertaining spectacle for the masses, it is often a course for the purists. A 73-foot uphill climb becomes a lot harder to navigate when fences are added and with its long sweeping turns it can be very hard to claw your way to the front of the pack if you are stuck at the back. An intriguing course with a unique and storied history, Ascot is a must-see track.
Perhaps the UK’s most popular course, Cheltenham never fails to attract the crowds, particularly at the world-renowned Cheltenham Festival in March. Punters never fail to flock to Gloucester in their bid to win big and with the latest racing results you can check out how your acca has gone for the day. Set among 350 acres at the heart of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham opened its doors in 1815 and has since grown into one of the largest racecourses in the country, attracting crowds of up to 68,000 on its busiest days. The aforementioned Cheltenham Festival is the main reason for its popularity and features 14 Grade 1 races over the course of four thrilling days of racing. It is the most popular National Hunt meeting in the world and the pinnacle of Jumps racing and with good reason. Both the Old Course and the New Course are very difficult with the New Course perhaps being the more difficult of the two with a slightly longer distance that features a tough downhill fence. Every owner, jockey and trainer worth their salt dreams of being a winner at Cheltenham.
Located in the outskirts of London, Sandown is a historic location for horse racing having been graced by some of the biggest names in the sport’s history over the years such as Arkle, Mill Reef and Desert Orchid over the years. The course hosted its first racing event in 1875 and has held the best thoroughbred racing in the UK ever since. The track also holds the honour of hosting two of the most important and highly contested steeplechasing events of the year in the Bet365 Gold Cup in April and the Tingle Creek in December. The famous grounds do not hold the same acclaim as the other three aforementioned venues on this list but it deserves recognition as one of the most historically significant race tracks across the UK.
The first ever race held at Kempton Park took place in 1878 and that long history was under threat in recent years when a housing project threatened to tear the racecourse down. The plans brought the racing world together to quash those efforts such was the popularity of the track and it is testament to its place on this list. The home of the King George VI Chase has been hosting the famous race since. The venue continues to be one of the most challenging National Hunt courses around which is undoubtedly part of the reason that led to the racing community’s uproar at news of the housing development plans. It is a fast course that also provides a tough jumping test, with the tight right hand turn proving a particularly difficult feature to navigate. The King George VI Chase is the premier event but in December there is also the Coral Welsh National to look forward to.