Biggest Flat Races in the UK
2,000 Guineas Stakes
The first of the British Classics, the 2,000 Guineas takes place in early May of each year and is held at the headquarters of flat racing, Newmarket. The race is run over the straight mile of the Rowley Mile course and is open to thoroughbred three-year-old colts and fillies. Whilst fillies do occasionally enter it has been won by a colt every year since 1944. Along with The Derby and St Leger the race makes up the British triple-crown.
1,000 Guineas Stakes
The second of the British classics, the 1,000 Guineas is held the day after the 2,000 Guineas over the same course and distance. This is the mile championship race for three-year-old fillies and acts as the first leg of the fillies’ triple-crown, followed by the Oaks and St Leger. The antiquated title of the race comes from the original prize fund of the race’s inaugural running in 1814.
First run in 1779 and named after the estate of the 12th Earl of Derby, who devised the race, The Oaks is the second of the British Classics which is restricted to three-year-old fillies. Run over the Derby course and a distance of a shade over a mile and a half, the race offers a prestigious prize and adds significant breeding value to the winner.
One of the most famous flat horse races in the world, The Derby is run at one of the most unique and challenging courses the UK has to offer. The undulations and turns of Epsom provide a thorough test of the best middle distance three-year-olds. Six fillies have won the race but none since 1914 and they are rarely entered these days. All the top breeders, trainers and owners target this race which is, for many, the jewel in the crown of the British flat racing season.
The final Classic of the season, the St Leger is run in South Yorkshire at Doncaster in September over a trip of one mile, six furlongs and 132 yards. An old saying states “The fastest horse wins the Guineas; the luckiest the Derby – and the best horse wins the St Leger.” Whether you agree with this or not the race is nevertheless a thrilling spectacle and one of the highlights of the late flat season. First run in 1776, it is the oldest of the Classic races and takes its name from the gentleman who founded it, one Anthony St Leger.
Ascot Gold Cup
From the shortest flat race on this list to the longest. The Ascot Gold Cup is run over the marathon trip of two miles and four furlongs and is open to all horses aged four or older. Run on the third day of the Royal Ascot meeting it effectively determines the champion flat stayer of the season. Aiden O’Briens’ Yeats is one of the races most famous winners, achieving an amazing four consecutive victories from 2006-2009.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes
One of the richest and most prestigious mile and a half contests of the racing calendar comes at Ascot in July. The list of previous winners in the King George VI is littered with all-time greats; Nijinsky, Brigadier Gerard and Montjeu to name just a few. Open to horses three-years-old and upwards it regularly attracts the very best horses from British and Irish soils as well as raiders from further afield.
Another high class race at Ascot comes in the twilight of the flat racing season each year. October sees Champions Day arrive at the Berkshire track. Highlight of the day is this event over a trip of one mile and two furlongs. The Champion Stakes is always an intriguing contest as it allows us the opportunity to see the best of the Classic generation locking horns with their elders.