Below is a list of the top racecourses in the U.K. and Ireland where horse racing action takes place throughout the year. Britain’s horse racing industry is estimated at £10 billion and the best runners compete in these tracks.
Ascot Racecourse is one of the best known racecourses in the world and is located in Berkshire. As one of the leading racecourses in the United Kingdom, the track hosts 9 of the UK's 32 annual Group 1 races. The course was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne and is situated about six miles from Windsor Castle. Ascot stages twenty-six days of flat racing over the course of the year. The most prestigious of these races is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes which takes place in the month of July.
Newmarket Racecourse is located in the town of Newmarket, in Suffolk, England, and is regarded as the headquarters of British horseracing. The area is home to some of the best collection of training yards and stud farms in Europe. Newmarket comprises two courses for flat racing including the Rowley Mile Course and the July Course. Both are wide, galloping tracks used for Flat racing only. Newmarket hosts 8 of the nation’s 32 annual Group 1 races.
York Racecourse is one of the biggest tracks in Europe and is located in North Yorkshire, England. The grandstand has a spectator capacity of 60,000 which is larger than most football stadiums. The most popular meeting is the annual Ebor Handicap which takes place in the month of August. York stages 3 of the UK’s 31 Group 1 races including the International Stakes, the Nunthorpe Stakes and the Yorkshire Oaks. The track won the Racecourse of the Year title in 2003.
Sandown Park first opened in 1875 and is both a horse racing course and a leisure venue in Esher, Surrey, England. The track hosts one Group 1 flat race, the Coral-Eclipse Stakes which features some of the best runners in Europe. Given its location near London, visitors to Sandown Park enjoy scenic views over Heathrow Airport, Wembley Stadium, The Gherkin, Canary Wharf and the London Eye.
Aintree Racecourse is located in Aintree, Merseyside, England and hosts the world-famous Grand National steeplechase each year. Steeplechasing at Aintree was introduced in 1839 and is regarded as the most difficult of all courses to complete. There are 16 steeplechase fences designed to intimidate jockeys such as The Chair, Foinavon, Valentine's Brook, Canal Turn and Becher's Brook.
Doncaster Racecourse is located in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England and hosts two of Great Britain's 31 Group 1 flat races. These are the St Leger Stakes and the Racing Post Trophy. Doncaster is one of the oldest horse racing centres in the world with recorded meetings dating back to the 16th Century. The Doncaster Cup and the St Leger Stakes are also considered as two of the world’s oldest horse races.
Epsom Downs is a Grade 1 racecourse in Surrey, England known for hosting the Epsom Derby. The meeting is widely regarded as the nation’s premier thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies and runs over a mile and a half in distance. The first recorded race at Epsom Downs took place in 1661. Epsom Downs houses the third largest racehorse training facility in the United Kingdom.
The Curragh Racecourse is Ireland's most popular thoroughbred race track and is located near Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland. The first recorded race on the plain took place in 1727. The track now boasts the highest purses and the best level competition of flat racing in Ireland. About 10 of Ireland's 12 Group 1 races are held at the Curragh. All 5 Irish classics are run at the track including the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the Irish Derby, the Irish Oaks, and the Irish St. Leger.
Leopardstown Racecourse is located about five miles south of Dublin, Ireland and hosts both National Hunt and Flat racing. The course has a storied tradition having been built by Captain George Quin in 1888. The site plays host to about 22 races throughout the year. The Irish Champion stakes is the most important race at the course and one of the World Series of Racing. The meeting takes place every September and attracts the best thoroughbreds in Europe.
Fairyhouse Racecourse is considered one of Ireland’s premier horse racing venues and is perched in the parish of Ratoath in County Meath. Fairyhouse first held its race meet in 1848 and hosts the Irish Grand National. Its track has a distance of one mile and 6.5 furlongs of right-handed circuit, with a 2.5 furlong straight and a slight uphill finish.