There are few major sports in the world that would have felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic more than racing. Both horse racing and the dogs have their financial struggles in the United Kingdom, and events taking place behind closed doors for the best part of 18 months or so certainly didn’t do them any favours.
That’s why when racegoers returned to tracks up and down the country last May, organisers breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was the perfect timing for both sports as well, as the flat racing season was just getting underway, while the likes of the English Greyhound Derby and other major dog races were still on the agenda for the year.
The turn of the new year and the threat of the Omicron variant bringing with it fresh restrictions in England quickly dwindling, racing has the chance to start over and welcome back its loyal fanbase for a full year of thrilling action for the first time since 2019!
That said, read on as we take a look at some of the biggest meetings to look forward to in both horse and greyhound racing over the next few months…
Greyhound racing: Golden Jacket
Set to be held at Crayford on February 19th, the Golden Jacket is the fourth Category One of the 2022 season, but with a £17,500-winning prize purse is one of the biggest races of the year. Sure to attract a lot of interest with those looking for a greyhound bet, Brighton & Hove-based dogs are usually worth keeping an eye out for in the 714m race — which was inaugurated at Harringay Stadium in London back in 1975. Punk Rock Mutley caused an upset behind closed doors last year, winning the jackpot for Stuart Maplesden from 33/1 — making him the longest-priced winner in the prestigious Category One’s history.
Horse Racing: The Cheltenham Festival
The pinnacle of National Hunt racing meetings in the UK and Ireland, horse racing fans will already be counting down the days to the four-day Cheltenham Festival in March. Starved of the top-class action at Prestbury Park since the meeting last went ahead, somewhat controversially, with spectators in 2020, the iconic Cheltenham Roar is going to be louder than ever this year. Running from March 15th-18th, the stands at Prestbury Park are going to be packed for each of the four days.
Greyhound Racing: Midland Puppy Derby
Not to be confused with the Puppy Derby, which is due to take place at Towcester on Boxing Day, the Midland Puppy Derby at Monmore Green is still one of the biggest races for young greyhounds. Inaugurated in 1943, the race is contested over 480m at the Wolverhampton racetrack and there is a tasty £12,500 up for grabs. Jaguar Macie landed Graham Rankin his biggest yet as a trainer last year. The Midland Puppy Derby will take place at Monmore on March 19th.
Horse Racing: The Grand National Festival
More often than not, the focus at Aintree racecourse in early April is only on the Grand National. However, while the marathon race is arguably the biggest in the world, the meeting itself has a lot more to offer. Taking place over three action-packed days in Merseyside (7-9 April), the Grand National Festival features nine Grade One races, including the Bowl Chase and the Liverpool Hurdle, before the great steeplechase rounds things off on the final day!