Highlights of the 2024 jumps and Flat season

Horses racing out of the start box

Randox Grand National

Once again, the Cheltenham Festival served up some thrilling racing over the four days of the meeting; however, with the action from Prestbury Park at an end, thoughts turn towards the tail end of the jumps season and the start of the Flat racing. Indeed, there’s still much jump action to look forward to in the coming weeks, and the main event on the horizon is the Randox Grand National, which takes place on Saturday, 13th April, the third day of the three-day Aintree festival. This year’s Grand National will see a few changes being introduced, most notably a reduction in the number of runners taking part in the steeplechase.

Most famous of steeplechases

In the past, a maximum of forty runners have taken part in the Grand National, but in the interests of safety, this number has been reduced to no more than 34. As well as a reduction in the number of horses, some of the fences have been reduced in height while the start time of the race has been brought forward from its usual slot of 5.15 pm to 4 pm in order to increase the chances of there being good ground throughout the distance. These changes will almost certainly do nothing to affect the excitement of this most famous of steeplechase, and over 65,000 will once again pack the stands at the iconic Aintree racecourse to see the latest renewal of the contest, 2023 winner Corach Rambler current favourite to repeat his success of twelve months ago at a best price of 12/1 (at the time of writing). 

Enticing offers

The Grand National is the race on which everyone likes to place a bet, whether it be with the bookmakers or in a sweepstake at work or amongst family. Indeed, this is an event that brings the country together in a big way and the leading betting sites always offer some enticing free bets and other promotions such as enhanced places and price boosts which can be used exclusively on the Grand National itself as well as many other key races at the Aintree meeting. 

Most successful trainers

The most successful trainers in the UK and Ireland always play a big hand in contesting the Grand National and at the time of writing, Irish handler Gordon Elliott has no less than 23 runners aimed at the steeplechase. Clearly this number will reduce at each declaration stage, but the likelihood is that Elliott will be the foremost trainer at this year’s renewal. Fellow Irish trainer Willie Mullins also has high hopes for success at Aintree this year and he also has multiple entries aimed at the contest, his current total of thirteen horses also set to be reduced at the next declaration stage. 


North of the border

With the Aintree marathon out of the way, the Scottish Grand National will take centre stage. Traditionally held the weekend after the Randox Grand National, the Scottish version will take place this year on Saturday, 20th April at its usual venue of Ayr Racecourse. This is Scotland’s richest and most popular jumps race with thirty horses taking their place over a course consisting of 30 fences, this contest also a focus for the main UK and Irish betting sites.

Guineas Stakes

The Scottish National effectively marks the end of the jumps season in the UK and the next big event in the racing calendar takes place at Newmarket Racecourse which hosts the 1000 Guineas and 2000 Guineas in late April or early May. Run over the Rowley Mile at the famous East Anglian racecourse, these are the first two Classics in the Flat season calendar and are without a doubt two of the most prestigious races in the world. Open to three-year-old Thoroughbreds (fillies in the 1000 Guineas and colts in the 2000 Guineas), the 2024 renewals take place on Saturday, 4th May (2000 Guineas) and Sunday, 5th May (1000 Guineas) with a prize fund of over £500,000 for each race. 

Royal Ascot

The next big Flat event on the BHA racing calendar is Royal Ascot which must rank as the most famous and prestigious race meeting in the world. This is one of the highlights of the season and consists of some extremely high-quality Group 1 contests such as the Gold Cup, Coronation Stakes, Coronation Cup, Queen Anne Stakes and the Derby Stakes. This year’s meeting runs over five days from Tuesday, 18th June to Saturday, 22nd June. 

Epsom Derby

Hot on the heels of Royal Ascot is the Epsom meeting in early June and this event includes two Classics, namely the Oaks and the Derby, two of the most popular races in the country. Regarded as the most prestigious of the five Classics, the Epsom Derby is referred to as the ‘Blue Riband’ of the turf and is open to three-year-old fillies and colts who take their place over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and 10 yards. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, 1st June and the early favourite for the contest is Aiden O’Brien’s City Of Troy, the trainer also entering the likes of Diego Velazquez and Henry Longfellow into the race. 

Glorious Goodwood

The Flat season continues with the ever-popular Glorious Goodwood, the most quintessential of English race meetings. Held at the picturesque Goodwood Racecourse in late July and early August, this five-day meeting includes two Group 1 contests, namely the Nassau Stakes and the Sussex Stakes and the 2024 event takes place from Tuesday, 30th July to Saturday, 3rd August. 

Oldest Classic

Doncaster Racecourse is one of the premier racing venues in the north of England and each September it plays host to the oldest Classic on the UK racing calendar, the St Leger Stakes. Open to three-year-olds and run over a distance of one mile, six furlongs and 115 yards, this contest is the highlight of the four-day St Leger Festival and one of the most popular races in the Flat calendar. This year’s festival takes place from Thursday, 12th September to Sunday, 15th September.

There are many Flat race meetings throughout the season across the UK, and these provide racegoers with an abundance of thrilling races, the aforementioned being just a few of the more prestigious meetings taking place between April and October. 

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