Beginner’s Guide to Flat Racing in Great Britain

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Horse racing is one of the most popular spectator sports in Great Britain and, unlike so many other sports, racing fans get to go to racetracks all year round.

National Hunt racing is the staple diet for winter racegoers but the summer months – more specifically April to October, are packed with top-class Flat action featuring some of the best-bred racehorses on the planet.

The sport of horse racing is inextricably linked to horse racing betting thanks to the Levy funding mechanism. More than £4 billion is bet on the sport annually in the UK alone.

Flat racing in Britain begins just as the Jumps season is drawing to a climax with big festivals at Aintree and Dublin.

The Lincoln Handicap, an extremely popular racing betting contest run at Doncaster Racecourse in early April, is traditionally the first feature race of the Flat season.

Doncaster betting is a lifeblood for racing fans because the Yorkshire track stages both Flat and Jumps racing, meaning it operates all-year round. It is also the home of the fifth and final Classic of the Flat season – the St Leger, which takes place in September.

The highest level of racing is Group 1 level and there are 36 top-level races throughout the Flat season. The first of which takes place at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse on the first Saturday in May, it is also the first of the British Classics.

The 2,000 Guineas is a one-mile contest for three-year-old colts, while the 1,000 Guineas is a one-mile contest for three-year-old fillies, usually run the day after.

Guineas betting can often be dominated by runners trained by Aidan O’Brien, who has dominated the British Classics this century.

The month of June brings with it the Oaks (for fillies) and the Derby (colts), with both races run over a mile-and-a-half at Epsom Racecourse . Oaks and Derby odds are available around 8-10 months in advance thanks to ante-post markets, which provide an opportunity for punters to get much bigger odds than they might nearer the day of the race.

June is a crackerjack month for Flat racing fans because just a couple of weeks after the two-day Epsom bonanza the eyes of the sporting world fall upon Royal Ascot , a five-day extravaganza that brings together not just the best of British-trained horses but also some of the top international performers.

Regarded by many as the Olympics of Flat racing, the star-studded festival is worth in excess of £5m in prize money and features seven Group 1 contests across the five days.

The showpiece event of Royal Ascot week and one of the focal points of Royal Ascot betting, is the Gold Cup, which takes place on Thursday.

The Irish Derby, run at the Curragh Racecourse , tends to take place almost a month later (end of June/early July), while the Irish Oaks tends to be run in mid July.

The best three-year-old’s around, often horses that have run well in a Guineas or a Derby, get their first chance to take on older horses in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Racecourse over ten furlongs.

Everyone has heard of Glorious Goodwood , right? Well the Flat racing bandwagon rolls onto the Sussex Downs in the second half of July.

Five fantastic days of top-quality racing staged against the most idyllic backdrop attract racegoers from far and wide – most of whom seem to be wearing Panama hats.

There are three Group 1 races run at Goodwood that week, the Nassau Stakes, the Sussex Stakes and the Goodwood Cup, which is often the next port of call for horses that ran well in the Gold Cup at Ascot.

York Racecourse’s August meeting provides the first opportunity for two-year-old’s to run in a Group 1 race (Nunthorpe Stakes), although not many take up the opportunity despite the tempter of a huge weight-for-age allowance.

The north of England remains in the spotlight the following month thanks to the St Leger Stakes at Doncaster, the final Classic of the Flat season.

Any horse that rocks up at Doncaster that has already won the Guineas and the Derby or Oaks is attempting to complete the Triple Crown but this hasn’t been achieved since Nijinsky in 1970.

The biggest two-year-old races take place at the backend of the season, notably the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. This seven-furlong contest nearly always throws up a major contender for the following season’s Classics so ante-post 2,000 Guineas betting and ante-post Derby betting are popular at this point, especially if the Dewhurst throws up an impressive winner.

Champions Day at Ascot is the big end-of-season showpiece, featuring four Group 1 races including the ten-furlong Champion Stakes, which was won by the mighty Frankel in 2012.

Here are the latest Horse Racing odds from Grosvenor Sport