Are you a self-declared hippophile? Don’t worry, it’s not some kind of unsavoury label; a hippophile are someone who is passionate about horses.
A hippophile is someone who will follow all the racing news, keep up to date with the progress of certain horses and of course, attend horse-racing events.
In the UK, there are a number of high-profile horse-racing festivals which take place throughout the year. Here’s a guide to what to expect at each.
Taking place in March each year, Cheltenham Festival is spread over four days and will welcome around 250,000-260,000 race-goers. The racecourse includes a redeveloped £45 million grandstand and is often referred to as the Home of Jump Racing. The entire complex is enormous and when there’s no racing on, it plays host to a number of other musical and comedy shows.
The March festival is extremely popular with Cheltenham bets totalling more than £600 million. The jewel in the crown of the four-day event is the Gold Cup, held on the final day. The Gold Cup offers a total purse of £625,000 but it’s one of the most difficult races to win, requiring both stamina and speed.
Al Boum Photo was a back-to-back winner of the Gold Cup in 2019 and 2020, ridden by Paul Townend both times. Now 9 years old, can this beautiful horse notch up a spectacular third win in a row in 2021?
Grand National Festival
Held at Aintree, the Grand National is one of the most popular horse-races in the UK. Watched by more than 11 million people on TV, it attracts those who don’t bet on horse-racing at any other time of the year.
Taking place in April annually, the Grand National Steeplechase is the headline race from the three-day event. Run on the Saturday, the Steeplechase is the single biggest betting event in the UK. As the longest National Hunt race in the UK at 4 miles and 4 furlongs, it’s seen as the next step for horses that do well at the Gold Cup.
The total purse for the Grand National is more than £1 million and can be contested by up to 40 horses who must be at least seven years old.
The Epsom Derby Festival is held in Epsom, Surrey over two days every June. Unlike the Gold Cup and the Grand National, Epsom is a flat racecourse with the Derby widely regarded as the best flat race in the world.
The Oaks is the main event on the first day, a race with a total purse of £500,000 which is only open to three-year-old fillies. The bigger race is held on the second day, The Derby. With a total prize fund of £1,500,000 it’s the richest race in Britain.
The Derby is limited to 20 runners; both fillies and colts can enter but it’s limited to those who are three years old.
A prestigious event with an attendance of more than 300,000 Royal Ascot is held in June. Spread over five days, race-goers include many famous faces and celebrities, including the Queen who attends every day.
Unlike other festivals, there’s not one single big race at Royal Ascot. Instead, there’s one headline race every day. Total Ascot bets over the five days exceed £3 million.
St Leger Festival
The oldest flat race in the world, the St Leger Festival is held in Doncaster in September. The four-day event finishes with a flourish with the St Leger Stakes, the final race of the “Triple Crown” of the season.
A total purse of £700,000 is on offer for the St Leger Stakes. It’s another race which is only open to three-year-olds, both colts and fillies. Almost 200,000 race-goers attend the festival which is considered to be the official close to the racing summer.