With the advent of racing on artificial surfaces there is flat racing of varying qualities all year around. Even in the depths of winter punters can now bet on flat horses racing on artificial surfaces at the five all weather race tracks. There are always potential winning opportunities for intrepid punters!
The turf racing season traditionally opens with the Lincoln meeting that takes place at the beginning of April. Daring punters are known to take on the “Spring Double” which is doubling both the winners of the Lincoln and Grand National, not an easy task, but one that invariably rewards punters with odds in excess of 50/1. The last leading race of the year is the November Handicap also at Doncaster.
Major Flat Racing Meetings
Lincoln Meeting, Doncaster. The highlight of this meeting is the Lincoln Handicap which runs over one mile and is the traditional curtain opener for the turf season.
Guineas Meeting, Newmarket. The first of the two Classics, restricted to the “Classic Generation” of three years. The 1000 Guineas is only for fillies, whilst the 2000 Guineas is also open to fillies (receiving 3lb’s), though like the Derby few fillies chose to contest it.
Lockinge Stages Meeting, Newbury. The Lockinge became a Group 1 in 1995, and is eligible for four year olds and above. Many winners take the route of thereafter going for the Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1 since 1993) at Royal Ascot.
Irish Guineas Meeting, Curragh (Ireland). The Irish running of the Guineas, takes place three weeks after the English version, and horses from Newmarket’s running often contest this race also. Fifteen horses have done the Epsom/Irish Derby double.
Derby Meeting, Epsom. The Derby is still the flat horse race that every owner dreams about winning. Like the 2000 Guineas it is open to fillies, though few choose to take on the colts. The Oaks is for fillies exclusively. Both races take place over 1m4f, and the undulations and camber of Epsom proves a true test of a horse.
The winner of either of the big races will be very sought after by stud farms. As well as the two Classics the Coronation Stakes provides a superb addition to this racing treat. On Derby day, Epsom’s downs are filled with fairground rides, picnickers and open top buses, whilst the Royal Stand restricts race goers to a dress code of top hat and tails!
Royal Ascot, Ascot. Royal Ascot has a mixture of glamour, style, drunkenness and also a host of leading Group 1 races like the St James Palace Stakes, Gold Cup and Prince of Wales Stakes. Supporting races include big field “cavalry charges” like the Wokingham Handicap. Royal Ascot is now stretched over five days. Before the change the fifth day on Saturday had traditionally not had the “Royal” prefix and was instead called the “Heath Day”.
Eclipse Stakes, Sandown. Eclipse was an unbeaten horse that raced from the late 1760’s, so good was the horse that it was unbeaten in its career, and it proceeded to have an excellent record as a sire. The Eclipse Stakes is raced each July at Sandown, and the Group 1 is over a trip of 1m2f’s.
The July Festival, Newmarket. Named as it is there should be no confusion about which date the meeting takes place on. Three days of top quality racing, in beautiful leafy surrounds is capped off by the July Cup.
King George Day, Ascot. The King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes was for many years sponsored by De Beers but most recently has been promoted by Betfair. A massively popular race that sees the best of the classic generation pitted against their older peers, the difference in weights being 12lbs between young and old.
Glorious Goodwood, Goodwood. The party moves to the Sussex downs, and the main races are the Sussex and Nassau Stakes.
Irish Derby/Oaks Meeting, Curragh (Ireland). Taking place three weeks after Epsom’s race the meeting comprises of three days of top class racing with the highlight being the Irish Classics.
Ebor Festival, York. The North is treated to a four day racing feast, including the Ebor Handicap, Lowther Stakes, Nunthorpe and Juddmonte International.
Sprint Cup, Haydock. Quality Group 1 sprint, 6 furlongs, open to 3yo+ with weight for age allowance.
St Leger, Doncaster. The last Classic, raced over a trip of 1m6f’s. Horses who have won all three Classics are said to have won the Triple Crown. The last such animal being the amazing Nijinsky under Lester Piggot. Today few Derby winners are aimed at the St Leger, so the triple crown is less of a typical focus in the minds of connections.
Irish Champion Stakes, Leopardstown (Ireland). Leopardstown hosts the Irish Champion Stakes, the winner of this prestigious Group 1 automatically gains a place in the Breeders Cup Turf.
St Leger, Curragh (Ireland). The Irish version of the race is over 1m6f, and is open to horses from three years upwards. Winners often follow a route of going for the Melbourne Cup.
Cambridgeshire Meeting, Newmarket. The big field Cambridgeshire Handicap is a highlight of a meeting that also includes the Group 1 Sun Chariot, Fillies Mile and Cheveley Park Stakes.
Future Champions Day, Newmarket. In the past the Cesarewitch meeting used to include the Champions Stakes and several other leading races. However as of 2011 the Champion Stakes is relocated to Ascot, but several Group 1’s still pepper a superb meeting.
British Champion’s Day, Ascot. In 2011 Ascot is launching the Champion’s day, billed as the “richest days racing ever”. The Champions Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes are the big draws. Ascot is staking a claim to host the Breeders Cup, one suspects in the next few years it could happen.
Racing Post Trophy Meeting, Doncaster. The feature race is the Racing Post Trophy 1m Grp1 for 2 year olds. In recent years four Derby winners have been produced from this race, notably Motivator, High Chaparral and Authorized.
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Meeting, Longchamp (France). The “Arc” is one of the biggest races in the World and every year a large party of British racing fans make the trip over the channel. Famous winners include Ribot, Sea Bird, in recent times Sea the Stars, and perhaps everyone’s favourite: Dancing Brave.
The Arc is traditionally run on the Sunday, and forms the highlight of a top class meeting. As of 2011 the race is the second highest turf race in terms of prize money, behind only the Japan Cup.
Breeders Cup, Various Tracks (US). Since 1984 The Breeders Cup has been one of the highlights of international flat racing, with championship races on both turf and dirt surfaces. As of 2006 it became a two-day event. The venue rotates between a series of leading tracks in the US, though there is speculation that one day it could take place in Europe, with Ascot seeing itself as the likely host track.
Group Ones: These include the five Classics and other top class races of International acclaim
Group Twos: Group 2’s fall just beneath Group 1’s in terms of prominence, though in many cases can progress to become Group 1’s if prize money increases sufficiently.
Group Threes: Group 3 races are primarily contested by domestic horses.
Listed Races: Listed races are the lowest of the “black type” races, but are important contests nonetheless.
Handicaps: Handicaps see horses graded on their respective ability, and carrying varied amounts of weight accordingly.
All Weather Racing
The four all-weather tracks are Wolverhampton, Lingfield, Southwell and Kempton. Gradually all-weather racing has grown in acceptance and the quality of runners is starting to creep up.
Surfaces have improved since the first race in October 1989, and now all tracks bar Wolverhampton have a Polytrack material that has a going similar to good-firm with minimal kick back. Wolverhamption’s all-weather course is laid with fibredsand, a substance that is slower and also produces kick back onto the following horses, this meaning that it’s harder to come off the pace at that venue.
The initial all-weather races were focused on hurdle jumps races, but after a string of early injuries A/W became flat only. The most prestigious event on this material is the Winter Derby, and this event is the show case of a two day meeting. The race is a Group3 open to four year olds and above, and races over a mile and 2 furlongs.
All-Weather as a name has often been viewed as somewhat of a misnomer, as meetings are not-infrequently called off for things such as fog, and ice getting into the surface.