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Yorkshire loves horse racing, quite possible more than any part of the UK does. The region has nine different racetracks, including the famous Catterick and Doncaster, and hosts more than 170 race meetings, including some of the oldest horse races in the world. People will attend horse racing events for several reasons. Some want to bet on the horses and end the day a few pounds richer. Others just want to dress up smart and enjoy a good day out with their friends — if they come away a little richer, it’s a bonus — which a visit to the races provides with all its excitement and sophistication. This article looks at some of the best racing experiences in Yorkshire. After reading, you can then find the track nearest to you.
York is one of Britain’s flagship heritage destinations and part of its attraction is the racecourse, one which many refer to as the ‘Ascot of the north’. That’s not far from the truth at all in this city that has hosted horse racing events since Roman times. York racecourse, known commonly as the ‘Knavesmire’, came into its own in 2005 when it hosted the Royal Ascot festival while the famous racetrack down south underwent redevelopment.
The Knavesmire offers a particularly memorable day out for ladies. Each year, the track hosts a Ladies Day, in August, a social highlight which coincides with the Darley Yorkshire Oaks flat race. The jockeys and their steeds run the race over 1 mile 4 furlongs (2 400 metres). This is all part of the wider Yorkshire Ebor Festival, a major event in the racecourse’ calendar. This festival features four days of racing, including the oldest race at the course, the Ebor, which takes place on the final day.
You’ll find Beverley racecourse in East Riding of Yorkshire and is just 10 miles from the town of Beverley. Racing has been taking place at this venue since 1690 and it’s one of the most charming venues on the racing circuit. In fact, it’s been branded as one of the best in the country. Beverley racecourse open its arms to all, whether you’re a family looking for a family day out or a serious punter looking to lay down a few pounds on the horse at a glamorous evening meeting.
Like York, the racecourse also holds a Ladies Day, but one of the biggest events at the racecourse is its ‘Big Saturday’. The organisers put on a fabulous day of racing, with races from 5 furlongs through to 1 mile 2 furlongs, but transform the day into a show with live music and more. Of note is the fact that this an excellent day to cheer on local horses and riders.
Catterick hosts 27 race meetings a year, which makes it just second to Doncaster as the course that puts on the most meetings. If you’re a fan of racing, you’ll love Catterick, which wastes no time in getting meetings underway, by starting as early as New Year’s Day. The course offers flat racing and National Hunt racing (in which horses jump fences or ditches).
Notable events at the racecourse include the Yorkshire Beer Festival Race Day, for anyone looking to try some of the local ales and ciders while they cheer their horses on, and the Catterick Dash. The dash takes place in October and is the richest race at the racecourse. Another event you might not want to follow is the Flat Finale, which is the final meeting of Catterick’s flat season and goes ahead towards the end of October.
You could say Doncaster racecourse is somewhat legendary as a horse racing venue. This southern Yorkshire racecourse, at which you can catch flat racing and National Hunt events, hosts two of the world’s oldest horse races.
The Doncaster Cup is the world’s oldest continuously run race and is raced over 2 miles and 2 furlongs (3 600 metres). Initially, this was a gruelling 4 mile race, the same length as the Grand National, and has been run since 1766. Of all people, Queen Elizabeth II has had an impressive five winners in the race during her involvement with horse racing.
The other race, the St Leger Stakes, is the oldest of the five ‘classics — the others being the Derby, the Oaks, One Thousand Guineas and the Two Thousand Guineas. The day brings the four day St Legers Festival — which include St Legers Legends Day, Ladies Day and Gentlemen’s Day — to a dramatic close.
With racecourses such as the Knavesmire and Doncaster, Yorkshire’s love of horse racing stretches back several centuries. Fans of the sport elsewhere in the country can visit one of the region’s courses and know they’re in for an amazing experience. The region is home to some important race meetings in the calendar and you never know when you might witness a piece of sporting history.