With 60 registered flat and national hunt racecourses in the UK, it’s no surprise that we have one of the best horse racing industries in the world. Some of these courses are more challenging than others, so I’ve put together a list of some of the five most difficult courses, thinking about them from a racehorse trainer’s point of view:
Home of the famous Grand National, Aintree is renowned for being a tough course. Featuring some of the most notorious fences in the country, steeple chasing at this Liverpool-based racecourse certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted! From a trainer’s perspective, I’d want any horse that entered the National to be naturally built for jumping and going the distance. The horse would also need to be experienced at racing, with several jump races under its belt.
The Grand National is also notorious for having a real element of pot luck, with the favourite often not completing the course and the underdog being the winner! In fact, the biggest ever number of finishers was 23 out of 40 runners past the post in the 1984 race.
Royal Ascot, one of Europe’s most famous race meetings, tends to draw a rather tame and demure crowd, but the course itself is far from shy. This almost triangular, right handed course covers in excess of one mile, six furlongs. It is famed for being a difficult course, especially over fences. From the lowest point (Swinley Bottom) to the highest (Winning Post), horses must climb a total of 73 feet. It’s clear to see then why the prize money is so high – in 2013 it topped £5million.
Ask any horseracing fan what their favourite race event of the year is and you’re likely to hear the Cheltenham Festival as the answer. Taking place in March each year, the Festival features the best and the bravest horses and jockeys. Providing drama, excitement and sporting excellence, Cheltenham Racecourse has two separate courses that run alongside each other – the Old Course and the New Course. The New Course has a difficult downhill fence and a longer run-in for steeplechases than its older sibling. Hurdle races of over two miles take place on the new course, and most of the hurdles are jumped early on in the race, with only two hurdles jumped in the last seven furlongs. The course certainly requires the fittest horses and jockeys to manoeuvre its jumps and turns!
4. Epsom Downs:
Surrey based Epsom Downs is most famous for the annual Epsom Derby – the UK’s most famous thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies. With a course spanning over a mile and a half, horseracing at this track dates back to the 1700s. The course is in the rough shape of a horseshoe, which starts with a slight right-handed bend and a rise of around 134 feet, sweeping leftwards to the top of the hill. A left-hand descent of 34 feet around Tattenham Corner then feeds into a cambered straight with a 50 feet drop. At half a furlong out the ground level then rises again by 10 feet.
As my local track, Goodwood is a particular favourite of mine. Home to Glorious Goodwood, one of the highlights of the British flat racing calendar, the racecourse is unusual and complex, which makes it so exciting. It has a straight six furlongs, which is uphill for the first furlong and then downhill for the remainder. The course, used for flat racing only, also features a tight right-handed loop at the far end of the straight, on which there are starts for various longer distance courses.
Let me know what your favourite racecourse is – you can find me on Twitter @LukeDace