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Famous Horse Races - Where is the best horse racing in the world?

National Hunt is for me the best horse racing in the world, but some of the best horse races are on the flat not over jumps. The beauty of this sport is there’s always something going on. National Hunt largely takes place during late autumn, winter and early spring, yet continues into the summer months albeit then taking a back seat to flat racing.

Names of famous horse races are drawn from a variety of sources. They can relate to the racecourse or general location they’re run at such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup or Ebor Handicap at York, with Ebor being the Roman name for the city. Great racehorses of the past like Arkle often have races named in their honour. Horse racing’s connections with royalty, particularly with races at Royal Ascot, are also behind names, while great figures in the sport’s past including Martin Pipe, Fulke Walwyn and Sir Peter O’Sullevan also have events called after them.

Some of the best horse racing tracks stage both National Hunt and flat racing in the UK. Ascot on the edge of London in Berkshire and Haydock on Merseyside are great examples of this, but the sternest tests for horses over jumps are widely accepted to be Cheltenham and Aintree. The latter is the home of the Grand National held annually every April, which is the most valuable steeplechase in racing. Although the race is a handicap, it still attracts some of the best horse racing in the world because the 30 spruce covered fences and marathon distance of 4m 2f remains the ultimate test for seven-year-old horses and up bred for endurance.

Cheltenham racecourse hosts a four-day Festival every March which attracts the very best National Hunt horses from Great Britain and Ireland to compete in five championship races, other age and sex limited contests, plus handicap contests of varying distances and even cross country and hunter chasing specialists. The Cheltenham Festival contains seven races every day, so that’s 28 in total. The Triumph Hurdle, for example, is only open to horses regarded as juveniles, i.e. four-year-olds, under National Hunt rules. Only female horses, fillies or mares, can enter the Dawn Run or Mares’ Hurdle contests and the former is for novices only.

While the Grand National caters for stamina, flat racing provides the opposite with speed the name of the game in sprint contests like the Haydock Sprint Cup ran over just 6f. Some flat races are over and done with in less than a minute. Some find the flying 5f dashes the best horse racing for the adrenaline rush it gives you. That being said there are also tests of stamina on the flat, notably the Ascot Gold Cup which has a trip of almost 2m 4f, but perhaps the hardest races on the level to win at the Classics. These are five Group 1 races for three-year-old thoroughbreds. Firstly, the 1000 and 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, with both over the Rowley Mile and the former for fillies only. There’s also the Oaks and Derby over 1m 4f at Epsom each June, only the Oaks is restricted to fillies. And finally the extended 1m 6f St Leger at Doncaster in September. Whatever type of racing appeals to you, there’s famous horse races to go with it.

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