Those who love horse racing may well need little introduction to the well-known racecourses in England’s largest county, however for those who have never visited, now is as good a time as ever to visit some of the most picturesque racing venues in England.
Great Britain is home to no less than sixty racecourses with all-but-eight being situated in England. As the largest English county, it should come as no surprise to learn that Yorkshire is home to nine racing venues, six of these used exclusively for flat racing and the other three as dual purpose tracks. York and Doncaster vie for the title of Yorkshire’s most prestigious racecourse, the latter home of the St Leger which is the oldest Classic on the British racing calendar, while most are less well-known venues which tend to cater for smaller crowds. Nevertheless, each racecourse has something to offer, whether it be a major race meeting with huge crowds or a relaxing race day at one of the more remote venues.
In fairness, while many of the Yorkshire racecourses might be difficult to pinpoint on a map, they are all easily accessible by road from all directions. Redcar is the most northerly course, the home of the Zetland Gold Cup being located just to the east of the city of Middlesbrough. This is a Flat-only course, as are it’s close neighbours Ripon and Thirsk which are both located within a stones’ throw of the A1. Also close to the ‘Great North Road’, Catterick is a popular venue which hosts National Hunt racing such as the North Yorkshire Grand National which is held in January each year. The picturesque Beverley and Pontefract courses cater for Flat racing while Wetherby is now a dual-purpose venue.
York ranks as one of the top racing venues, not just in Yorkshire but throughout the UK. Indeed, this course hosted ‘Royal Ascot’ in 2005 when the Berkshire venue was undergoing refurbishment. The biggest race in York’s calendar is the Judmonte International Stakes which takes place during the Ebor Festival in late August and for those who like a free bet on the horses, all of the leading bookmakers provide punters with a range of promotional offers for this and many other races on York’s calendar.
Doncaster is the oldest established racecourse in the UK with a history stretching back at least as far as 1595 and it plays host to two of the oldest horse races in the world, namely the Doncaster Cup and the St Leger Stakes. The latter is the oldest Classic horse race on the UK racing calendar and it attracts huge crowds on each of the four days of the St Leger Festival every September. As with the Grand National 2024, all of the leading bookmakers focus heavily on the St Leger Festival with a range of enhanced places on each of the main races as well as some exclusive free bet bonuses throughout the meeting.
Wetherby Racecourse is another popular racecourse hosting Flat and National Hunt racing throughout the year. The current venue was first used for racing in 1891 and while for most of its history it focused purely on National Hunt jump races, in 2015 it introduced Flat racing in the summer months, something which has proven to be very popular. Situated right next to the A1 with excellent access roads, Wetherby is perfectly located and continues to be one of Yorkshire’s more popular racing venues.
The small cathedral city of Ripon is a popular destination for visitors to the Yorkshire Dales and its racecourse is also well frequented thanks to its proximity to the A1 which lies a couple of miles to the east. This venue has been named the best small racecourse in the north of England and many of the leading UK betting sites offer exclusive promotions for the racing here.
Despite its proximity to the A1 (M), Catterick Racecourse is a picturesque venue which continues to be one of the more relaxed tracks in the county. Also known as Catterick Bridge, this course has been hosting official horse racing meetings since 1783 and it is the home of the North Yorkshire Grand National. The venue may lack the prestige of other racecourses but it is one of the most relaxing places in the country to enjoy horse racing.
Thirsk Racecourse is another picturesquely situated venue in North Yorkshire, relatively close to the A1 (M) and alongside the main road into the market town of Thirsk. Racing has taken place here since 1923 and the course has been celebrating its centenary this year. The war-time St Leger race was held here in 1940 and the racecourse continues to play host to some popular races throughout the year, the most notable of these being the Thirsk Hunt Cup and the Summer Cup.
Redcar is the most northerly of Yorkshire’s nine racecourses but it is one of the more popular due to its situation close to the major conurbation of Middlesbrough and its excellent road connections. Here you will find what is reputed to be the only straight and level ‘Straight Mile’ in the country with some excellent Flat races throughout the season.
Pontefract Racecourse is one of the lesser known horse racing venues in the country, despite the fact that it lies close to the major West Yorkshire conurbations of Leeds and Bradford. Racing reputedly started at Pontefract in 1648 and while it isn’t one of the major tracks in Yorkshire, the meetings here tend to be very well attended.
This is quite simply one of the most charming racecourses in the country with the mediaeval towers of the famous Beverley Minster looming over the horizon. Situated close to the city of Hull, Beverley Racecourse has hosted race meetings for upwards of 300 years and its most prestigious races are the Beverley Bullet Sprint and the Hilary Needler Trophy.
While the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and Grand National attracts the attention of punters throughout the country, it’s fair to say that few will have heard of the Kiplingcotes Derby. Nevertheless, this is the oldest horse race in the country and while you won’t find any betting markets from the list of online bookmakers, it has been a part of the UK racing calendar since 1519. Held at the small hamlet of Kiplingcotes near Market Weighton in the East Riding of Yorkshire, the derby itself runs for 4.5 miles and it has reputedly been held every single year since its inception over 500 years ago.