It goes without saying that the longest races around are all in the National Hunt genre, with the jumps code only beginning at two miles and stretching right up to the Grand National’s 4¼ miles.
However, everything is relative. On the flat, the pace is naturally much quicker and so asking horses to go over two miles plus makes them a confirmed ‘stayer’. These are the top long-distance races run over both codes in the UK.
Grand National – 4 miles, 2½ furlongs
The most iconic race on the calendar, regardless of the trip. While the fences used to be stiffer and the race distance was at one time four-and-a-half miles, this race still ranks as physically the toughest test of the National Hunt horse.
The Grand National is staged at Aintree every year in early April, attracting 40 runners and being staged as a handicap chase which makes it incredibly difficult for punters to work out. Given the nature of the race, only those aged 8 and over and having run over certain trips are allowed to even enter the National.
Eider Chase – 4 miles, 1 furlong
The Eider Chase is one of Newcastle’s flagship jumps races of the season. Run each February, the Eider is a big betting handicap which usually draws in large fields and can be used as something of a trial by trainers one day intending their horses to go for the Grand National.
Scottish Grand National – 4 miles
Running only a week (or occasionally two) after the Grand National at Aintree is the Scottish equivalent. The Scottish Grand National is run at Ayr, where the track isn’t too demanding and the fences aren’t as severe as they are at Aintree.
That said, the four-mile trip alone makes this an incredibly difficult race while, like the Grand National itself, it is a tough Grade 3 handicap chase and remains extremely competitive.
Welsh Grand National – 3 miles, 6½ furlongs
Another ‘National’, the Welsh Grand National on December 27th is preceded by a Trial race, both run at Chepstow. Along with the Scottish Grand National, it doesn’t quite rank as highly in the racing public consciousness as the Grand National at Aintree but in its own right is a very tough, valuable Grade 3 handicap and a big betting race.
Gold Cup – 2 miles, 4 furlongs
The Gold Cup at Ascot is the longest Group 1 race on the calendar. Staged during the royal meeting in June, the Gold Cup for many is considered to be the feature race of the week. It has been won in the past by racing greats Sagaro, Royal Rebel, Yeats and Stradivarius.
Ascot Stakes – 2 miles, 4 furlongs
Run at the same meeting and over the same course and distance as the Gold Cup is the Ascot Stakes, although this time rather than a fancy Group 1 the event is a major betting handicap at Class 2 level.
Chester Cup – 2 miles, 2½ furlongs
Chester’s flagship race at their May meeting, despite the track also hosting a number of key Derby and Oaks trials at the same time. The Chester Cup is a handicap race and one of the major betting events of the turf flat season.
Doncaster Cup – 2 miles, 2 furlongs
The Doncaster Cup is a Group 2, but fits into the top ‘staying race’ category and is competed for by the top long-distance horses in the country. It is run on St Leger weekend in September.
Cesarewitch Handicap – 2 miles, 2 furlongs
Just as the Lincoln and the Grand National form the Spring Double for betting purposes, Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire Handicap and this race make up the Autumn Double. Famous for being farmed by National Hunt Trainers, the Cesarewitch is like a marathon to flat horses and is run in October.
Goodwood Cup – 2 miles
Another Group 1 race, the Goodwood Cup will very often attract the same top contenders which challenged for the Gold Cup and comes up just over a month later during Goodwood’s Glorious meeting.
Lonsdale Cup – 2 miles
Along with the 1m6f Yorkshire Cup in May, August’s Lonsdale Cup in August is one of two major staying races staged at York every year, this one being a Group 2 event.
Northumberland Plate – 2 miles
Newcastle’s Northumberland Plate was once the richest handicap race in Europe and still attracts some very competitive fields to this day. Once more it is thought of as a major betting race, run these days on the synthetic Tapeta track in late June during the three-day Plate Festival.
St Leger Stakes – 1 mile, 6½ furlongs
There are many races longer than this, but the St Leger is the longest classic on the calendar. While the Guineas races are run over a mile and the Derby and Oaks are staged over the mile-and-a-half trip, the St Leger really does require stamina given that it is exclusively for three-year-olds. The race is run at Doncaster in September.