Our UK Classic Horse Races Guide 2018

The Cheltenham Festival, the British Classic race meeting that marks the start of the horse racing season, may have drawn to a close for yet another year, but the latest figures indicate that a record number of transactions were processed over the four-day event.

Most famous for its Gold Cup race, the festival in full can often see total wager in excess of £250m (just under $356m). This year the OpenBet platform processed more than 39 million bets, an increase of nearly 10% on the previous year, peaking at 15,800 per minute.

On the day of the Gold Cup, won by Native River, more than 10.9 million bets were placed, an increase of 2.3 million since 2017.

So with the bookies jumping for joy, what other UK race days are set to be popular this year? Here at Vegas Slots Online News, we take you through the big four.

The Grand National

Certainly the UK’s most popular race, the Grand National pits 40 runners against the daunting obstacles of Aintree’s 30 fences over a course of four and a half miles. With 150,000 racegoers over the three days of races, it’s the most significant event of the racing year.

Aintree Racecourse, approximately six miles from Liverpool, has played host to the race since 1839. The event takes place at 5:15 pm on Saturday, April 14, although the final runners are yet to be selected.

Last year, One for Arthur, ridden by Derek Fox, romped home to finish first and win the £1m prize.

He was one of 110 horses initially entered, although in previous years there have been more. Between now and race-day, owners and trainers will have the chance to withdraw their entry, leaving the final field to be decided just days before the race.

The top choices so far include Blaklion, Total Recall, Definitely Red, Minella Rocco, and Native River, who won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham Festival.

The UK loves this race for its unexpectedness and sheer luck, as jockeys find themselves unseated, horses run wild, and punters bet on name or color. With only 15% of favorites actually winning the race, it really is anyone’s game. Up to a quarter of Brits are expected to bet on the National, while up to 63% of the final 40 horses will not finish.

With jumps and fences that could turn a favorite into a flop, here are some of the ones to watch:

Becher’s Brook: The sixth and 22nd fence in the race may not be the biggest but, with the landing side 10 inches lower than take-off, it certainly proves tricky. The jump takes its name from Captain Martin Becher, a jockey who fell at this stage and hid in the brook to avoid injury.

The Chair: The tallest fence on the course at five foot three inches.

Foinavon: A smaller fence but interesting as it is named after the 100/1 shot who avoided a disastrous pile-up here in 1967 and went on to win.

Canal Turn: Contestants must make a sharp left turn immediately after jumping this five-foot fence.

1,000 Guineas stakes

The second race to watch, and one of the UK’s five Classics, is the 1,000 Guineas Day, held the day after the 2,000 Guineas. A one-mile championship race for three-year-old colts and fillies, it acts as the first leg of the fillies’ triple-crown, followed by the Oaks and St Leger. The original title of the race comes from the initial prize money that was first offered in 1814.

This year it will take place on Saturday, May 5, at Newmarket’s famous Rowley Mile, arguably the most prominent center of racing on the planet.

Many of the most celebrated names in the history of the turf have triumphed in these historic races, including in the modern era: Nijinsky, Brigadier Gerard, Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Oh So Sharp, Pebbles, Miesque, Sea the Stars, and Frankel.

Newmarket trains over 2,500 racehorses a day on its busy heath, and the town boasts more than 70 licensed trainers who work on the world’s most extensive training ground of 2,500 acres.

Newmarket is famous as the breeding ground of champions. The Newmarket area is dotted with more than 60 stud farms. The town itself is also home to several venerable racing establishments and institutions including the Jockey Club Rooms, the National Horseracing Museum, the National Stud, the British Racing School, Tattersalls sales ring, the Animal Health Trust, and the headquarters of numerous racing and breeding organizations.

Think of Newmarket to the races as you would Lord’s to cricket, Twickenham to rugby union, or Wembley to football.

Last year’s winner was Winter, a 3-year-old who went on to win in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Epsom Derby

The Epsom Derby is one of the most famous flat horse races in the world, seen as unique and incredibly challenging. With many an undulation and turn, Epsom is a real test of the best for middle distance three-year-olds.

Taking place on the first Saturday of every June, it is considered one of the most prestigious and toughest races in the world.

Since the Epsom Derby — known officially today as the Investec Derby — began in 1780, colts, fillies, jockeys, and trainers have traveled from all over the globe to compete on the mile-and-a-half track for the Derby Stakes grand prize, which is £1.5m (USD $2.13m) today. The two-day affair hosts even more than your fair share of racing, filled with hopeful and plentiful payouts, dapper morning suits, and bottles of Champagne.

The event earned its name from a simple coin toss between the 12th Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury, according to official Derby historian Michael Church. Lord Derby won, which not only resulted in an annual horse race branded with his name, but the term “derby” is now widely used as a trademark for thoroughbred flat track sport racing all over the world.

The Epsom Derby attracts crowds of over 125,000 people a year (a huge amount for this small island compared to the Kentucky Derby’s 150,000). Horse race fanatics,  foodies, and history buffs rub shoulders with A-list celebrities and the British royal family, as people come to celebrate Derby Day in the place where it all started.

The 2018 Epsom Derby will be the 239th annual running of the Derby horse race, taking place at Epsom Downs Racecourse on June 2,  2018. The race will be worth at least £1.5m (USD $2.13m) and will continue to be sponsored by Investec

St Leger

The final Classic of the season and the longest, the St Leger is run in South Yorkshire at Doncaster in September over a trip of one mile, six furlongs, and 132 yards. An old saying states: “The fastest horse wins the Guineas; the luckiest the Derby – and the best horse wins the St Leger.”

First run in 1776, it is the oldest of the Classic races and takes its name from the gentleman who founded it, one Anthony St Leger.

Ever since its foundation in 1776, the St Leger stakes has been the most significant event in Doncaster’s social calendar. Over time, the four days of races have expanded into a 10-day festival, celebrating 2,000 years of Doncaster’s history and culture across the town each September

The St Leger Legends Day starts with jockeys dusting off their saddles to compete in the charity race – The Leger Legends, a contest run on the straight mile. This important race helps raise money for the Northern Racing College and Jack Berry House, a rehabilitation facility for injured jockeys.

Then it’s time for the world’s oldest Classic, the St Leger Stakes. The race came to national prominence in 1800 when a horse called Champion registered the first Derby–St Leger double. Its length was cut to one mile, six furlongs and 193 yards in 1813, and despite some minor alterations has remained much the same ever since.

It even had a royal winner when Diamond Jubilee won the 1900 St Leger for HRH Prince of Wales.

First place in recent history has gone to characters such as Capri (2017), Leading Light (2013) and the Masked Marvel (2011). The Leger’s popularity even made it into the Agatha Christie novel The ABC Murders, which had the St. Leger as a plot point near the end.

This year the William Hill St Leger Festival kicks off on Wednesday, September 12, with St Leger day on Saturday, September 15, with £700,000 ($995,393) up for grabs to the winning horse.


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