Your Guide to the Flat Racing Season – 2019

Flat Horse RacingSo, Brexit could be delayed until October….good to see Theresa May acting on the ‘will of the people’ there!

Perhaps she is hoping that if we wait around long enough people will just forget about the whole thing….a more plausible strategy than most she has deployed in this whole debacle so far.

Something that won’t be delayed – the show must always go on – is the flat racing season in the UK and Ireland, which will start to dominate the calendar now that spring has sprung.

While arguably not quite as captivating as racing over fences, the flat campaign is still well worth getting stuck into with opportunities for punters to enjoy some handy paydays.

The 2019 season looks set to be as competitive and engaging as ever, and the main question is can anyone knock Stradivarius – the winner of last season’s ‘Stayers’ Million’ bonus of a cool £1 million for his connections – from this throne?

Here’s a guide to the key races and meetings to make a note of in your diary.

The Guineas Festival (4th-5th May)

The first major meeting of the campaign takes place early in May at the world-famous Newmarket course in Suffolk.

There’s a total prize fund of £1,000,000 up for grabs, with two days of high quality racing headlined by the 1000 and 2000 Guineas.

The 2000 version is up first on the Saturday, run as ever over 8f on the Rowley Mile. It is the first of the British Classic races in the calendar year, and anyone hoping to take the spoils might just have to find a way past Aidan O’Brien.

The Irish trainer, backed by his Smith, Magnier and Tabor ownership team, has won three of the last four editions of the 2000 Guineas, with defending champion Saxon Warrior just getting the better of 50/1 outsider Tip Two Win by a length in last year’s edition.

Last year’s 1000 Guineas served up an almighty shock when 66/1 chance Billesdon Brook – the longest odds winner in the history of the race – overcame the more fancied Happily and Laurens to land Richard Hannon Jr and his connections a whopping £283,000 payday.

Again run on Newmarket’s Rowley Mile, it is the perfect end to a fantastic weekend of racing.

Epsom Derby Festival (31st May-1st June)

This cracking meeting from Epsom culminates with the Derby, widely regarded as the premier flat race in UK and Irish racing.

It’s certainly the most lucrative, with £850,000 up for grabs for the winner, and so it’s little wonder that the great and good of world racing will be in town.

Run over 1m 4f, this is the meat in the sandwich of the so-called ‘triple crown’, with the 2000 Guineas earlier in the year and the St Leger coming latterly.

Former winners include the famous Nijinsky, Shergar and Lammtarra, while the defending champion is Masar, who bested the likes of Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion on softer ground than usual. Aidan O’Brien’s wait for a Derby winner, which dates back to 2014, goes on.

Aside from the main event, there’s also the Coronation Cup and the Oaks on what is a fantastic racecard for punters and armchair spectators alike.

Royal Ascot (18th-22nd June)

Dust off your Sunday best for Royal Ascot, a five-day flat racing meeting that has blue blooded links.

The festival was founded by Queen Anne way back in the 1700s, and every year Queen Elizabeth II and assorted other members of the royal family head to Greater London to enjoy festivities.

And why not, because there’s a Group One outing every day, and sometimes two; the world’s best horses are battling it out for more than £7 million in prize money.

The arguable highlight comes on Thursday, which is Ladies Day, with the Ascot Gold Cup. This race was won in stunning fashion by the almighty Stradivarius 12 months ago.

Eclipse Summer Festival (5th-6th July)

A two-day meeting at the picturesque Sandown Park is headlined by the Eclipse Stakes, known as the Coral-Eclipse for sponsorship reasons.

In its origins the Eclipse was the richest race in Britain back in the 1800s, and even today the total prize fund of £750,000 is not to be sniffed at.

The 2018 champion was Roaring Lion, the phenomenal Josh Gosden trained horse who would also go on to win the Dante Stakes, International Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in a staggeringly good season.

St Leger Festival (11th-14th September)

The oldest of the five British Classics and the last leg of the triple crown, the St Leger, is the eponymous headliner of this meeting at Doncaster.

More than 25,000 fans will cram into the racecourse to see who prevails in the 1m 6f classic, with the jockey-trainer team of Ryan Moore and Aidan O’Brien looking to make it a hat-trick in 2019.

Also, be sure to check out Leger Legends Day, where the best jockeys of yesteryear slip into their silks one last time to wow the crowds.

British Champions Day (19th October)

In many ways, all roads lead to the British Champions Day at Ascot, where the best horses in each of the five ‘divisions’ go head to head for more than £4 million in prize money.

The very best stayers, sprinters, fillies and mares, one milers and middle-distance runners will take to the track in an outstanding way to bring the curtain down on the flat racing season.

The crowd of 32,000 that cheered home Frankel in the Champion Stakes of 2012 is still the largest attendance in UK flat racing history.