While this article features (in our humble opinion) the best festivals to go to in 2017, we haven’t rated any as being the very best. They all offer something unique and we’ll hopefully avoid putting any noses out of joint, by simply putting them in date order! If you are able to visit them all, or even just one, you certainly won’t regret it. Let’s hope that 2017 can match 2016, in terms of fun and excitement!View Today’s Betting Markets Now!
The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest and most-important jumps meeting, in the world. It is hugely popular, with race fans descending on the Cotswold from Britain, Ireland and all over the world. The dates for your diary are Tuesday 14th March to Friday 17th March.
They don’t believe in starting things off slowly at Cheltenham and the first day’s racing features the Champion Hurdle. This is the most important hurdling event in the racing calendar. There are also six other great battles that will be unfolding, including the Mares Hurdle.
Day 2 is Ladies Day. As well as all of the stunning outfits, you will definitely have your eyes on the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Day 3 is St Patrick’s Thursday. This is always one of the most enjoyable days at Cheltenham and you can expect lots of great Irish-themed entertainment.
If you can only attend one day’s racing, at Cheltenham this year, we thoroughly recommend Gold Cup Day, which is on Friday. Nobody lucky enough to attend will want to miss the season’s premium chase. There is also the Triumph Hurdle, featuring the best juveniles and six other great races.
As with Royal Ascot, every Cheltenham Festival race is a major event…
- Tuesday Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Hurdles 2m 1/2f Grade 1
- Tuesday Arkle Challenge Trophy Fences 2m Grade 1 Racing Post
- Tuesday Festival Trophy Handicap Chase Fences 3m 1/2f Grade 3 Ultima Business Solutions
- Tuesday Champion Hurdle Hurdles 2m 1/2f Grade 1
- Tuesday David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle Hurdles 2m 4f Grade 1
- Tuesday National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup Fences 4m Listed
- Tuesday Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase Fences 2m 4 1/2f Listed
- Wednesday Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle Hurdles 2m 5f Grade 1
- Wednesday RSA Chase Fences 3m 1/2f Grade 1 RSA Insurance Group
- Wednesday Queen Mother Champion Chase Fences 2m Grade 1
- Wednesday Coral Cup Hurdles 2m 5f Grade 3
- Wednesday Cross Country Chase[A] Cross Country 3m 7f
- Wednesday Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Hurdles 2m 1/2f Grade 3
- Wednesday Champion Bumper NHF 2m 1/2f Grade 1
- Thursday JLT Novices’ Chase Fences 2m 4f Grade 1
- Thursday Pertemps Final Hurdles 3m Listed Pertemps
- Thursday Ryanair Chase Fences 2m 5f Grade 1 Ryanair
- Thursday World Hurdle Hurdles 3m Grade 1 Ryanair
- Thursday Mildmay of Flete Challenge Cup Fences 2m 5f Grade 3
- Thursday Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Fences 3m 1 1/2f
- Thursday Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Hurdle 2m 1f Grade 2 Trull House Stud
- Friday Triumph Hurdle Hurdles 2m 1f Grade 1 JCB
- Friday Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle Hurdles 2m 1f Grade 3 –
- Friday Spa Novices’ Hurdle Hurdles 3m Grade 1 Albert Bartlett
- Friday Cheltenham Gold Cup Fences 3m 2 1/2f Grade 1 Timico
- Friday Foxhunter Chase Fences 3m 2 1/2f Ungraded St James’s Place
- Friday Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Hurdles 2m 4 1/2f
- Friday Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Fences 2m 1/2f Grade 3
The Aintree Grand National Festival only lasts for 3 days and in 2017 it runs from Thursday 6th April until Saturday 8th April.
The racecourse is located in the suburb of Aintree, Merseyside, (England) and very close to the city of Liverpool. Nowadays, spectators can take advantage of Aintree Railway Station which is situated outside the racecourse.
The National is regarded as amongst the most difficult of all racecourses to successfully navigate, with sixteen daunting steeplechase fences including famous obstacles Valentine’s Brook, Canal Turn The Chair, Foinavon and Becher’s Brook.
These fences are both famous and infamous. Even the best jockeys know how difficult they are. There is no other race where the names of the fences are so ingrained into the consciousness of the racing public.
Almost all of the fences are covered with spruce – only The Water Jump does not have this covering. Covering the fences, in this way, is not typical of British chasing events. However, the National is not the only race to take place over these fences. The Topham Chase (formerly the John Hughes Trophy Chase) the Becher Chase, the Grand Sefton Handicap and the Fox Hunters’ Chase all use the Grand National fences, although none of these events are quite as big a test for the horses and jockeys.
The Grand National is run over a distance of four and a half miles. Often the ground can be very soft and this makes it an even more gruelling challenge. Typically, around forty horses will be taking part.
The major encounters are as follows…
- Thursday Injured Jockeys Fund Handicap Hurdle Hurdle Grade 3 3m 110y 4yo +
- Thursday Betfred Bowl Chase Grade 1 3m 1f 5yo +
- Thursday Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 2m 1f 4yo only
- Thursday Aintree Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 2m 4f 4yo +
- Thursday Red Rum Handicap Chase Chase Grade 3 2m 5yo +
- Thursday Manifesto Novices’ Chase Chase Grade 1 2m 4f 5yo +
- Friday Top Novices’ Hurdle Hurdle Grade 2 2m 110y 4yo +
- Friday Topham Chase Chase Grade 3 2m 5f 110y 5yo +
- Friday Sefton Novices’ Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 3m 110y 4yo +
- Friday Mildmay Novices’ Chase Chase Grade 1 3m 1f 5yo +
- Friday Melling Chase Chase Grade 1 2m 4f 5yo +
- Saturday Maghull Novices’ Chase Chase Grade 1 2m 5yo +
- Saturday Grand National Chase Grade 3 4m 2f 74y 7yo +
- Saturday Liverpool Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 3m 110y 4yo +
- Saturday Champion Standard Open NH Flat Race N H Flat Grade 2 2m 1f 4yo-6yo
- Saturday Mersey Novices’ Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 2m 4f 4yo +
The Punchestown Irish National Hunt Festival is Ireland’s Cheltenham, with races of very similar quality and stature. The 2017 Festival runs from Tuesday 25th April to Saturday 29th April.
The venue is located in Eadestown, very close to Naas in County Kildare. This is the home of Irish National Hunt racing. The track runs right-handed and undulates a great deal. The steeplechase course is two miles in length and there is also a one mile and six furlong hurdles course. In addition to these two tracks, there is also a cross-country course – the only one of it’s kind in the Irish Republic.
Punchestown Racecourse has grown to be a huge business concern. As well as top-class racing, you will also find big-ticket music events taking place here. Recent stars to have played at Punchestown include Eminem, Bon Jovi and AC/DC. The course is managed by Dick O’Sullivan, who has been in his post since 2003.
The Punchestown Festival lasts for a full five days and takes place in April. It begins on a Tuesday and the action is wrapped-up on the following Saturday. This is basically an Irish version of the Cheltenham Festival and it is regarded as being similarly important.
The biggest races at this event include the Champion Chase, the Ryanair Novice Chase, the Champion Hurdle, the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle, the Growise Champion Novice Chase, the World Series Hurdle, the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, the Champion INH Flat Race and the Punchestown Gold Cup.
However, Punchestown has not always been as popular as it is today. Back in 1868, the opening day of the meeting attracted just one spectator! It has certainly moved on from then, however. If you are planning a visit to Punchestown Races, be aware that the course and local area will get very busy when the major fixtures are taking place.
Here are the races, that every Irish racing fan will be eagerly anticipating…
- Tuesday Growise Champion Novice Chase Chase Grade 1 3m 1f 5yo +
- Tuesday Punchestown Champion Chase Chase Grade 1 2m 5yo +
- Tuesday Herald Champion Novice Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 2m 5yo +
- Wednesday Punchestown Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 3m 1f 5yo +
- Wednesday Champion INH Flat Race N H Flat Grade 1 2m 4yo-7yo
- Wednesday Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 3m 4yo +
- Thursday World Series Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 3m 4yo +
- Thursday Ryanair Novice Chase Chase Grade 1 2m 5yo +
- Friday Punchestown Champion Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 2m 4yo +
- Friday Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 2m 4f 4yo +
- Saturday Champion Four Year Old Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 2m 4yo only
The Derby Festival only lasts for 2 days and in 2017 these will be Friday 2nd June and Saturday 3rd June.
There are few racecourses that capture the spirit of English thoroughbred racing, quite like Epsom Downs. This quintessentially English venue hosts some of the biggest races in the world. The Epsom Oaks, the Epsom Derby and the Coronation Cup have been won by some of the greatest racehorses of all-time.
Races have been taking place on Epsom Downs since the 1660s and, possibly, even earlier. Records in a local burial office refer to a man named William Stanley falling from his mount and breaking his neck back in 1625.
The famous diarist, Samuel Pepys, made references to horse racing in 1663. King Charles II is also widely believed to have attended Epsom races. Before the turn of the Eighteenth-Century, Epsom already had a full-time clerk of the course. By 1730, there were at least two annual meetings at Epsom.
Towards the end of the Eighteenth -Century, the then Earl of Derby decided to organise a race so that he could compete against close friends. 3-year-old fillies were their choice of mounts. Derby chose the name of the race himself – the Oaks. The name came from the title of the estate owned by him.
The race was an instant hit, so much so that in the following year he created a second race. This was to be for colts and fillies of the same age. The Epsom Derby was born. The distance of the racecourse was lengthened and the famous Tattenham Corner was now a part of it. For the most part, the race is still run as it would have been all those years ago.
Epsom Downs is within a triangle comprised of Epsom, Tadworth, and Langley Vale. Many people are unaware that the Derby can be watched for free, as it is in a public area. For a long time, no other British sporting event was as well-attended as the Epsom Derby. The race represents the ultimate test for horses over a mile and a half. The winner needs huge reserves of stamina and a lightning turn of foot. The pace is relentless and the horses will be amongst the very-best 3-year-olds in the world.
These are the Epsom epics…
- Friday Princess Elizabeth Stakes Flat Group 3 1m 114y 3yo + f
- Friday The Oaks Flat Group 1 1m 4f 10y 3yo only f
- Friday Diomed Stakes Flat Group 3 1m 114y 3yo +
- Friday Surrey Stakes Flat Listed 7f 3yo
- Saturday Coronation Cup Flat Group 1 1m 4f 10y 4yo +
- Saturday Woodcote Stakes Flat Listed 6f 2yo only
- Saturday The Derby Flat Group 1 1m 4f 10y 3yo c + f
No festival captures the pageantry, glamour and sheer excitement of English flat racing, better than Royal Ascot. Get your glad-rags on, put plenty of money into your wallet and head for Berkshire! The 2017 Royal Ascot Festival runs from Tuesday June 20th to Saturday June 25th.
If you will be attending Royal Ascot, for the first time, here is a simple guide to viewing the action at various parts of the course.
The Pre-Parade Ring is a very good place to start. Here the horses have their saddles attached, before being led around the ring. This will be done by one of the lads or lasses from the stable.
This, obviously, takes place before the race. Get here about half an hour before the race is due to begin. This will give you time to get a good viewing spot. Horses will start to appear, about twenty-five minutes before each race.
The Parade Ring is another great place to size-up the runners. Horses will begin to be led around here approximately fifteen minutes before each race. It won’t be long before you hear the bell. This signifies that the jockeys have been weighed and will shortly be mounting their horses.
Now would be a good time to move to the Horsewalk. This is where the horses walk from the Parade Ring to the track, before going down. Premier and Grandstand Admission racegoers are allowed to stand at the tunnel exit to the track.
You can watch from the rails, if you want to feel the rush of excitement that can only be experienced when a cavalry of thoroughbreds whistles past your nose! Otherwise, you can take your seat in the stand, if you have the required ticket.
After each race has finished, you have two choices. You can either go to the Unsaddling Enclosure, where the unplaced horses will be licking their wounds, or watch the victor and placed horses strut around the Winners Enclosure. Here you can join in the applause, as the trophy is presented.
Every race at Royal Ascot is important and here is a complete list…
- Tuesday Queen Anne Stakes Group 1 1m 4yo +
- Tuesday Coventry Stakes Group 2 6f 2yo only
- Tuesday King’s Stand Stakes Group 1 5f 3yo +
- Tuesday St James’s Palace Stakes Group 1 1m 3yo C only
- Tuesday Ascot Stakes Handicap 2m 4f 4yo +
- Tuesday Windsor Castle Stakes Listed 5f 2yo only
- Wednesday Jersey Stakes Group 3 7f 3yo only
- Wednesday Queen Mary Stakes Group 2 5f 2yo F only
- Wednesday Duke of Cambridge Stakes Group 2 1m 4yo + FM
- Wednesday Prince of Wales’s Stakes Group 1 1m 2f 4yo +
- Wednesday Royal Hunt Cup Handicap 1m 3yo +
- Wednesday Sandringham Stakes Handicap 1m 3yo F only
- Thursday Norfolk Stakes Group 2 5f 2yo only
- Thursday Tercentenary Stakes Group 3 1m 2f 3yo only
- Thursday Ribblesdale Stakes Group 2 1m 4f 3yo F only
- Thursday Gold Cup Group 1 2m 4f 4yo +
- Thursday Britannia Stakes Handicap 1m 3yo CG only
- Thursday King George V Stakes Handicap 1m 4f 3yo only
- Friday Albany Stakes Group 3 6f 2yo F only
- Friday King Edward VII Stakes Group 2 1m 4f 3yo CG only
- Friday Commonwealth Cup Group 1 6f 3yo only
- Friday Coronation Stakes Group 1 1m 3yo F only
- Friday Duke of Edinburgh Stakes Handicap 1m 4f 3yo +
- Friday Queen’s Vase Listed 2m 3yo only
- Saturday Chesham Stakes Listed 7f 2yo only
- Saturday Wolferton Stakes Handicap 1m 2f 4yo +
- Saturday Hardwicke Stakes Group 2 1m 4f 4yo +
- Saturday Diamond Jubilee Stakes Group 1 6f 4yo +
- Saturday Wokingham Stakes Handicap 6f 3yo +
- Saturday Queen Alexandra Stakes Conditions 2m 5f 159y 4yo +
Galway Races Summer Festival is a marathon event, lasting a full 7 days. It always begins on the last Monday in July, so the days you can ring on your calendar are Monday July 31st to Sunday August 6th.
It’s at least as much about fun, as it is about genuine top-class action and only 2 of the races really stand out. They are the Galway Hurdle and the Galway Plate. That should not put anyone off attending though, as the atmosphere is unique and none of the many races that take place are of a poor standard.
In historical terms, the festival can be traced back to the late 1860s, when a 2-day event was launched. Extra days began being added in the 1950s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if this thing ended up lasting a fortnight, at some point in the future!
The busiest day is usually Thursday (Ladies Day), when Ireland really puts on the style. If you can’t attend for the whole week, this is when you will see the Summer Festival in its full pomp.
The big 2 at Ballybrit…
- Wednesday Galway Plate Chase Handicap 2m 6f 4yo +
- Thursday Galway Hurdle Hurdle Handicap 2m 4yo +
Goodwood (Glorious Goodwood)
This outstanding festival, held at the height of the English Summer, is always one of the highlights of the flat season. Tuesday 1st August to Saturday 5th August are your dates for 2017.
You will find Goodwood Race Course a few miles to the north of Chichester, which is in the English county of West Sussex. Goodwood is steeped in tradition. The course is very close to an old fort and the part of the fort’s grounds form a watching area, for the spectators.
There can be some visibility problems, on certain days. Goodwood is very close to the sea and a number of other environmental factors can encourage thick fog. This happens much less in the Summer months, and Glorious Goodwood is usually remembered for long, balmy Summer days, as well as superb horse racing.
Goodwood is a five-day festival and the horse racing is of the highest quality, throughout. Glorious Goodwood is known to attract the rich and powerful. It rivals Royal Ascot as one of the key fixtures of the social season.
There are countless stylish bars and restaurants, great live music and various other entertainment spectacles to enjoy, as well as the horse racing. There are various tickets on sale, including private boxes and corporate suites. The Richmond Enclosure is only made available for members and their guests, though.
The contests to leave the Pimms tent for, at Glorious Goodwood…
- Tuesday Molecomb Stakes Flat Group 3 5f 2yo only
- Tuesday Lennox Stakes Flat Group 2 7f 3yo +
- Wednesday Vintage Stakes Flat Group 2 7f 2yo only
- Wednesday Gordon Stakes Flat Group 3 1m 4f 3yo only
- Wednesday Sussex Stakes Flat Group 1 1m 3yo +
- Thursday Richmond Stakes Flat Group 2 6f 2yo only
- Thursday Lillie Langtry Stakes Flat Group 3 1m 6f 3yo + f
- Thursday Goodwood Cup Flat Group 2 2m 3yo +
- Friday Oak Tree Stakes Flat Group 3 7f 3yo + f
- Friday King George Stakes Flat Group 2 5f 3yo +
- Friday Thoroughbred Stakes Flat Group 3 1m 3yo only
- Friday Glorious Stakes Flat Group 3 1m 4f 4yo +
- Saturday Stewards’ Cup (Great Britain) Flat Handicap 6f 3yo +
- Saturday Nassau Stakes Flat Group 1 1m 1f 192y 3yo + f
Wednesday 23rd August to Saturday 26th August are the dates for the 2017 York Ebor Festival, which is the biggest flat racing meeting held in Northern England.
York is an extremely impressive horse racing venue. Over three hundred and fifty-thousand spectators make the trip here, over the course of one year. The course is on a piece of land that is to the south-west of the city, next to an old and disused chocolate factory. For hundreds of years, this area has been known as the Knavesmire. The outlaw, Dick Turpin, met his grizzly end here. He was executed, by hanging, in 1739.
Horse racing at York goes back to at least Roman times, There are many historians who would argue that there is clear evidence of racing taking place here before that – during the Neolithic period. Official support is known to have been given, by the city corporation, in 1530.
At the beginning of the Seventeenth-Century, the local river (the Ouse) froze over during one bitter Winter. When this happened, horse racing actually took place upon the frozen river!
It is widely believed that racing began at the current site around the year 1730. Before this time, events were being held at Clifton Ings. However, that area was very much prone to flooding and this led to the move to Knavesmire.
The first race to be held at York was the King’s Guineas, in 1731. Unfortunately specific details are not readily available about the early York meetings. Very little from that period was written down and historians are still arguing over the early history of this famous old course.
York is regarded as being amongst the most glamorous racecourses in Great Britain and certainly in the North of England. Admission prices will be more expensive than at other courses in Yorkshire, particularly when one of the big festivals is taking place. Most people choose to dress smartly, when making a day of it at this famous old course.
The cream of the York Ebor Festival races are as follows…
- Wednesday International Stakes Flat Group 1 1m 2f 88y 3yo +
- Wednesday Great Voltigeur Stakes Flat Group 2 1m 4f 3yo only
- Wednesday Acomb Stakes Flat Group 3 7f 2yo only
- Thursday Lowther Stakes Flat Group 2 6f 2yo only f
- Thursday Yorkshire Oaks Flat Group 1 1m 4f 3yo + f
- Friday Lonsdale Cup Flat Group 2 2m 88y 3yo +
- Friday Strensall Stakes Flat Group 3 1m 208y 3yo +
- Friday Nunthorpe Stakes Flat Group 1 5f 2yo +
- Saturday Gimcrack Stakes Flat Group 2 6f 2yo only
- Saturday Ebor Handicap Flat Handicap 1m 6f 3yo +
The Harvest Festival at Listowel (Sunday 10th September to Saturday 16th September) will be, to many of you, a surprise inclusion. It’s a 7-day spectacular, featuring both flat and National Hunt racing. Wednesday’s Kerry National is the highlight of the week. Gordon Elliott’s Wrath Of Titans won the 2016 renewal.
The Harvest Festival is about much more than just racing. There’s entertainment all over the course, with singing, dancing and plenty for young children to enjoy. When the sun goes down and the kids are tucked up in bed, the party continues in town, long into the night.
Listowel Harvest Festival is totally unique and everyone who has the opportunity should pay a visit.
The Harvest Festival showpiece…
- Wednesday Kerry National Chase Handicap 3m 4yo +
The St Leger Festival is another chance to sample Northern hospitality and you’ll find that they know how to party in Doncaster! Wednesday 13th September to Saturday 16th September are the 2017 dates.
The racecourse at Doncaster is one of the largest equine facilities in the North of England. It is also one of the oldest, dating back to the end of the Tudor reign and the Sixteenth-Century. In the early days, the local coronation wanted to stop racing at Doncaster. This is because of the unruly types that came along to watch – ruffians, as they were called at the time! Needless to say, they failed to stop the action and had to make do with marking out a more suitable track!
The first big and important race held here was the Doncaster Gold Cup. The initial venue was a place called Cantley Common. The Gold Cup is still run at Doncaster to this day. It is one of three races that form the Stayers’ Triple Crown. The other two are the Goodwood Cup and the Ascot Gold Cup.
In the year of 1776, a certain Colonel Anthony St Leger held a race in which there were five runners. The first ‘classic’ horse race was born. The St Leger still ranks as one of the most coveted race wins in British racing. During the First World War, the course was used by the army and replacement races were held at Newmarket Racecourse.
Doncaster has always been regarded as a pioneer of UK racing. Indeed, the first Sunday meeting took place here back in the early 1990s. Incredibly, over twenty-thousand spectators turned up for that historic day – even though betting on Sundays was still outlawed!
The top clashes at the St Leger Festival…
- Wednesday Scarbrough Stakes Flat Conditions 5f 2yo+
- Thursday Sceptre Stakes Flat Group 3 7f 3yo + f
- Thursday Park Hill Stakes Flat Group 2 1m 6f 132y 3yo + f
- Friday Flying Childers Stakes Flat Group 2 5f 2yo only
- Friday Doncaster Cup Flat Group 2 2m 2f 3yo +
- Friday May Hill Stakes Flat Group 2 1m 2yo only f
- Saturday St. Leger Stakes Flat Group 1 1m 6f 132y 3yo only
- Saturday Champagne Stakes Flat Group 2 7f 2yo only
- Saturday Portland Handicap Flat Handicap 5f 140y 3yo +
- Saturday Park Stakes Flat Group 2 7f 3yo +
Others That Are Well-Worth Making The Trip For
Some might raise their eyebrows over some of the big festivals that have not made our list of 10 that we think you should visit. None of the Newmarket meetings quite made it. Nor did any of the fantastic major meetings at Haydock, Kempton, Ayr, Chester, Leopardstown, Fairyhouse or the Curragh. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit those too, if you can!
We hope you have enjoyed reading this and feel inspired to visit at least one of these fantastic festivals. If you haven’t yet opened a RaceBets account, there has never been a better time to do so. We’ll match your first deposit with bonus cash (up to £/€50) and (after betting at least £/€10 with us) you’ll be able to play our daily Jackpot Freeroll.