Horse Racing In the UK – Types of Events, Popularity and History

Horse racing in the UK is loved by many fans – and its popularity doesn’t stop there. A lot of people around the globe tune in and have a great time whenever there’s a horse racing event.

The Basics of Horse Racing

horse racing competition
If you don’t know too much about horse racing in the UK, it may seem quite complex at first glance. The good news is that it’s really nothing too complicated. Now let’s have a look at the basic of horse racing.

What Types of Races Are There?

In the UK and Ireland, the races are typically split into two branches. The first one is flat racing and the second one is the National Hunt. Flat racing is simple – the horses run on a straight or curved track until they reach the finish line. The National Hunt, however, is often considered to be the more complicated option of the two. There are many obstacles that the horse and jockey have to overcome fitted across the track.

What Do the Different Classifications Mean?

Both forms of races have tiers (or classifications) that indicate the quality of horses involved in the race, its prestige and the prize for winners. Grade 1 races in the National Hunt are essentially the top tier, which goes down to Grade 2, Grade 3, listed, handicaps and bumpers.

Can You Place Bets on Horse Racing Events?

For many fans of the sport, placing a wager on a favourite horse can be an exciting part of the overall experience. In fact, it’s often considered a fundamental element of the game for most people.
For many, it is just as popular a pastime as enjoying the sport itself. If you’re hoping to give betting a try, you’ll be glad to hear that most of the best online horse racing betting sites available in the UK offer many diverse options in this regard. All you’ll need to do is get an idea of the odds and how they work, and pick your racer.

The History of Horse Racing in the UK

As a professional sport, its history can be traced back to the 12th century, after English knights returned from the crusades. They brought Arabian horses back home, which they bred with their own to create Thoroughbreds – a breed that’s still used in UK horse racing today.

The 16th Century

The evidence does suggest that these sporting activities go as far back as the Roman era and even the Middle Ages. So let’s start with the 16th Century. We have substantial records that Henry VIII passed a number of laws on horse breeding and imported many stallions and mares purely for breeding purposes. Formal races began to be instigated and it’s believed that the first trophy to be awarded to a horse race winner was in 1512.

The 17th-18th Century

 Jumping ahead in time, Oliver Cromwell banned horse racing in 1654. Many of the horses were requisitioned, but he did keep one for himself. Not long after, in 1664, it was reinstated by Charles II and the king introduced some new rules of his own.
During the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714), races began to involve several more horses. It fastly became common practice for spectators to put money on who they thought would win. It soon grew into a professional sport and racecourses were built across the country. One of them is Royal Ascot, which was founded by Queen Anne herself in 1711.
In 1750, the Jockey Club was formed at Newmarket to oversee and control the events, creating a set of rules for the racing itself, as well as other aspects of the sport. For example, steps were eventually taken to regulate the breeding of racehorses. From the work of James Weatherby, we have a far better understanding of the pedigree of every foal born into the niche.
The Jockey Club still regulates the industry in Britain today, although the British Horseracing Board became the governing authority in 1993.

The 19th Century

Quite a few things happened during this time period. Steeplechasing was first organised in the early 1830s and Sandown Park became the first racecourse to open a separate member’s enclosure in 1875. On top of it all, the Grand National was established by the end of this decade, too.
Later on, in 1947, Hamilton hosted the first evening race meeting in the UK. These types of races are much more common today, with Wolverhampton Racecourse holding nearly 50 a year.

How Popular Is Horse Racing in Britain Today?

If you look into the statistics, you’ll find that horse racing is the UK’s second-most popular spectator sport – coming second only to football. According to surveys, around 6 million people attend events every year in England alone.
A good example of this is the Grand National. It has an estimated 500 to 600 million viewers in over 140 countries.

Other interesting facts:

  • ⋅ The sport contributes quite a lot to the UK’s economy, generating over 3.7 billion pounds at events like the Grand National and Cheltenham Festival.
  • Flat racing, despite being the simpler of the two options, tends to yield the biggest prizes and some of the most prestigious races are held in this niche.
  • There are 60 licensed racecourses located across Great Britain, with the oldest one being Chester Racecourse which dates back to the early 16th century.
  • ⋅ There are many major horse racing festivals in the UK, with several events occurring in most months of the year excluding only January and February.
  • Horse racing isn’t just popular among Brits. People in the United States, France, Canada and many more places also adore the sport. In Japan, some fans will even sleep in the queues to secure a place to see the big events
With all these facts in mind, It’s not hard to see why horse racing in the UK is the second most popular sport, generating just as much revenue as it draws in the crowds.

Newsletter Subscriptions



12 Years a Slave is a 2013 British-American historical drama filmand an adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery.