You might imagine that Britain’s biggest racing punters like a nice, easy 6-runner race with an obvious favourite who will win and give us a guaranteed profit, wouldn’t you? Not so. In fact, Britain’s biggest betting events tend to be those with 20, 30 or even 40 runners and are often described as being on the impossible side of difficult to solve!
We just love that battle between us and the bookmaker. Betting in the biggest races means getting great perceived value for money as even the favourite, with an outstanding chance, may go off at 7/1 or bigger. Here are ten of the biggest races, generating huge turnover on course and in the betting shops:
Triumph Hurdle: Cheltenham, March
A hurdle race open only to 4-year-olds (very young by National Hunt standards), these horses have not yet shown us what they are capable of and are trained to peak at the Cheltenham Festival. As such, results can be unpredictable and generate large interest within the betting community.
Champion Hurdle: Cheltenham, March
Another festival race, this time where the best two-mile hurdler will be crowned. Despite the huge quality of the runners, this is often a competitive field and again one that get the punter’s juices flowing. The size of the field is not always the biggest, sometimes only 10 or so runners may take part, but the competition is fierce and this is what gets punters reaching for their wallets.
Cheltenham Gold Cup: Cheltenham, March
The biggest race at the annual festival. Gold Cup day is huge in the betting ring and at home, with the main event itself drawing an opinion out of just about every racing fan around. Naturally, most of those people want to put their money where their mouth is and so the Gold Cup attracts tens of millions in bets across the UK.
The Gold Cup is typical in that, when a punter backs the winner you will definitely hear all about it, however when they don’t they will be conspicuous by their silence!
Grand National: Aintree, April
The daddy of them all in terms of betting. The Grand National, as well as being for pro punters, even gets the grannies to part with their 50p each-way every year. As well as being a major TV event, the fact that there are 40 runners meaning even those in with a great chance can go off at prices such as 25/1 or bigger attracts the casual gambler wishing to bet in small stakes.
Bookmakers now expect an overall spend of £250million – £300million in bets across the country on this race alone, making it Britain’s biggest betting event by far.
Scottish Grand National: Ayr, April
Hot on the heels of the English version, Scotland’s Grand National is run every year at Ayr Racecourse and once again has the general public scrambling to the local bookie. The race is similar in make up to the one at Liverpool and again attracts a large field, though the S.P’s of the winners has traditionally been a little lower on average.
This, along with the Gold Cup in September at the same venue, is one of Scotland’s very biggest races and appropriately turns over many millions of pounds online and in the shops.
The Derby: Epsom, June
In terms of the quality of the runners themselves this arguably the best race on the list. Open only to the 3-year-olds, known as the classic generation, this race is indeed Britain’s second classic of the season for the male horses and forms the middle leg of the triple crown (though trainers very seldom even aim to win all three now).
The racecourse itself can host up to 130,000 people on Derby day making it one of Britain’s biggest public events, meaning on course alone millions will be bet on the big race. Around the country in the shops and online, that can turn into many tens of millions in bets placed as we all hope to be the one who correctly predicted the top 3yo colt while making a few pounds into the bargain.
Wokingham Stakes: Ascot, June
Being part of the famous Royal Ascot festival in the last week of June each year, the Wokingham is not one of the highest quality races on the card but is definitely the most competitive. 30 runners can line-up for what is a furiously fast 6-furlong sprint.
Given the conditions of the race, there are never any certainties in this race and as such the longer odds on offer generate serious interest among the betting public.
Northumberland Plate: Newcastle, June
Newcastle’s biggest race, often referred to as the Pitmen’s Derby, is run on the last Saturday in June or the first Saturday in July each year. Once the richest handicap race in Europe, and still one of the biggest today, the 20-runner field goes hell for leather round two miles of Gosforth Park and millions is bet on the outcome every year.
This race day is a huge social event on Tyneside and so even those who would not normally attend the races and would not usually bet will come out in force.
The Ebor: York, August
Similar to the Northumberland Plate and the Wokingham, the Ebor is a busy handicap race and in betting terms manages to outshine the classier races on Ebor week. Again known as one of the richest handicap races in Europe, the Ebor is this particular Saturday’s biggest racing event.
Group One events such as the International Stakes and the Nunthorpe are run this week but do not attract the same sort of betting interest as this race.
King George VI Chase: Kempton Park, December
Run every Boxing Day, the ‘King George’ is the big mid-season chase race on the National Hunt calendar and features horses which intend to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following March. Given its timing, run on a public holiday, the race attracts some large bets from every corner of the country and stands as one of Britain’s biggest betting events of the year.