Those in Harrogate are lucky that they’re in one of the best places to live in the entire country. They’re just a short journey from the peace and tranquility of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but less than an hour’s drive east or south will get you to significant cities like Leeds and York.
Being slap bang between the east and west coasts of England also means you’re not too far from the sea if you want to spend a day at the beach, with many choosing to head to seaside towns like Scarborough and Blackpool.
Harrogate is also a great place to be if you’re a fan of horse racing, thanks to the fact that it’s surrounded by Yorkshire’s nine (yes, nine) racecourses. Of course, York is probably the most famous, but Doncaster has been around much longer, having operated since at least 1595.
If you’re planning to head to the races somewhere in the county this summer, here are your main options.
York Racecourse is the third biggest in the country when measured by total prize money offered over the season. It’s a huge boon to the city, attracting around 350,000 people each year from across the country to watch some of its many races.
Racing in the city can be traced back to at least as far as the Roman occupation, thanks to evidence unearthed by archaeologists, though it wasn’t at the site of the modern venue. Today, York’s horse racing can be found at York Racecourse, which is located to the south of the city.
Being one of the biggest venues in the UK, it should come as no surprise that York Racecourse attracts many horse racing fans that enjoy placing bets on its racing. While some of these will be seasoned bettors, others are casual racegoers who look to sites like oddschecker for insights on which horses to back.
Thankfully, all are welcome at York, with the owners putting a lot of effort into maximising the experience for all types of guests.
Many of York’s biggest races have already been run, but there are still a few great events on the calendar. These are:
- The Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival – Wednesday 18th – Saturday 21st August
- September Sunday 2021 – Sunday 5th September
- September Friday 2021 – Friday 24th September
- October Finales 2021 – Friday 8th and Saturday 9th October
Unlike York, which has most of its racing in the spring and the summer, Wetherby Racecourse’s season begins in October. Being just down the road from Harrogate, Wetherby is one of the closest horse racing venues, making it easy to get to.
The racecourse opened its doors in 1891 and has mostly hosted National Hunt events throughout its history, however it introduced flat racing to its fixtures in 2015.
Among its long list of fixtures, Wetherby Racecourse hosts six notable races throughout the year, and five of them are still yet to be run in 2021. These notable races are:
- The Wetherby Mares’ Hurdle
- The West Yorkshire Hurdle
- The Charlie Hall Chase
- The Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase
- The Castleford Chase
The first three will take place at the Saturday Racing event on 13th November, while the remaining two will take place at The William Hill Yorkshire Christmas Meeting on 26th and 27th December.
Other events you may want to consider are:
- The Opening Meeting – Wednesday 13th October
- Weekday Racing – Wednesday 24th November
- Saturday Racing – Saturday 4th December
Doncaster Racecourse is a little further away from Harrogate that the other eight venues, but it hosts one of the longest lists of events through the autumn. It’s also the largest racecourse in the country, meaning it offers great atmosphere that’s packed with tens of thousands of other jolly and jubilant racegoers.
Doncaster is one of the oldest racecourses, having hosted races before the end of the 16th century. No one is entirely sure when Doncaster Racecourse first opened as we don’t have records that go back that far, however, a map of the South Yorkshire town from 1595 shows that it already existed.
Today, Doncaster Racecourse offers fans a mix of flat and National Hunt racing throughout the year, though its biggest events take place in the autumn and winter months.
If a day out at the Doncaster races sounds like a good option, then you have plenty of opportunities:
- Kazoo St Leger Festival – Wednesday 8th to Saturday 11th September
- Vertum Futurity Trophy – Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd October
- November Handicap – Saturday 6th November
- Afternoon Racing – Friday 26th and Saturday 27th November
- Christmas Jumper Raceday – Friday 10th and Saturday 11th December
- Festival Raceday – Wednesday 29th December
Ripon Racecourse is just 20 or so minutes down the road from Harrogate, making it an easy option for fans that live in the town to get to. It’s often called “Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse” due to it being surrounded by greenspace.
Racing has been taking place in the city for more than 300 years and has played an important role in the sport’s history. In 1723, Ripon Racecourse hosted the UK’s first horse racing event for female jockeys, before then only men had been able to take part.
Where to Watch the Races in Yorkshire in the Rest of 2021
The racecourse also served as an airfield in the early 20th century, both for the RAF and civilian aircraft, though thankfully races aren’t interrupted by landing planes today.
Ripon contrasts sharply to Doncaster as it is one of the smallest racecourses in the country, though it still has many of the facilities you’d expect in the 21st century. These include a permanent giant screen, several enclosures, a range of hospitality suites, bars and restaurants, and disabled access. This has all helped it to be crowned the “Best Small Racecourse in Northern England”.
There are a handful of events left at Ripon Racecourse for the rest of the year, they are:
- Afternoon racing – Saturday 14th August
- Evening racing – Monday 23rd August
- Bank holiday racing – Monday 30th August
- Afternoon racing – Tuesday 31st August
- Saturday racing – Saturday 25th September
No matter whether you choose to stay local in Ripon or Wetherby, or you plan to head further afield to York or Doncaster, Yorkshire offers plenty of horse racing opportunities for fans in Harrogate.