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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Seven ways to help yourself to a memorable summer

Goodwood: usually quite glorious
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Get yourself down to the Derby

Not for nothing is the winning post of the Investec-sponsored Epsom Derby the most important "piece of wood" in the sport. Others have more money, some have more pizzazz, but none has the same level of tradition and prestige: this is the world's premier Classic, and a day at Epsom – from the posh enclosures to the double-decker buses lining the straight down to the funfair at Tattenham Corner– has an atmosphere unlike any other.

Revel in the differences

Everyone talks about the infinite variety of British racing, and that's just as true on the Flat as over jumps. From the wide open spaces of Newmarket and its historic Cesarewitch – the race that starts in Cambridgeshire and ends in Suffolk – to historic Chester's famously tight oval (and fabulous May festival), Windsor's figure-of-eight or Brighton's idiosyncratic undulations, there is something for everyone. And every horse.

Book Royal Ascot week off work

Without allowing itself to become bloated, and with no dilution whatsoever to any existing races, Royal Ascot is a five-day festival full of quality from start to finish. It would be hard to imagine a more spectacular beginning than Tuesday's opening salvo with three Group 1s plus the Coventry Stakes in the first four races, and you certainly won't want to miss the return of US star Lady Aurelia in the King's Stand. However, given the embarrassment of riches all week long – Group 1s every day alongside a plethora of high-class big-field massive handicaps - you might as well just go the whole hog and take the whole week off.

Royal Ascot: the vast grandstand was opened in 2006

Find out how just how glorious Goodwood can be

Set against the magnificent backdrop of rolling Sussex countryside, Goodwood is often cited as Britain's most picturesque racecourse. The action's not bad either – especially now the track's summer festival is backed by Qatar and the Sussex Stakes is worth £1 million and the Goodwood Cup has been upgraded to Group 1 level for the first time. Twisting and turning over the Downs, the  track is certainly unique, and so is the convivially Pimms-drenched Panama-hatted atmosphere. York's Ebor meeting ain't too shabby either.

Follow the jockeys

Artificially truncated as it is, the jockeys' title race could nevertheless provide a compelling strand to the season played out from Carlisle to Chepstow via Nottingham and Newbury. Defending champion Jim Crowley sees no reason why his retainer with Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum should preclude a spirited defence of his crown, but nothing would please Silvestre de Sousa than to regain the championship. The same could also be said of dual champion Paul Hanagan, replaced by Crowley for Sheikh Hamdan and now fully returned to the Fahey fold. With such ammunition, he won the title in 2010 and 2011. De Sousa is the bookies' favourite but it promises to be a ding-dong struggle.

Enjoy the best of the best . . .

We're lucky in Europe, where according to global rankings we have the world leaders among both jockeys and trainers in the shape of Ryan Moore and Aidan O'Brien. Okay, Arrogate and Winx are elsewhere, but generally speaking we also have the world's best horses, thanks to the Irish-based Coolmore bloodstock organisation and its all-conquering offshoot Ballydoyle, while influential owners like the Maktoums, Khalid Abdullah, the Qatari sheikhs and the Aga Khan all prefer to race in Europe. In a related issue, the long-term rivalry between Ballydoyle and Godolphin is a thread running through the sport from breeding shed to sales ring and beyond onto the turf.

. . . but don't be a Little Englander

Don't ignore what's happening beyond our own shores: to do so would be to miss out on some of racing's most thrilling occasions, from the Dubai World Cup in March to the Hong Kong International meeting in December. Arc weekend is almost an annual pilgrimage for Brit racegoers –  historic Chantilly again this year – while Deauville has a charm all of its own. America has a plethora of great races at wonderful venues, such as the Kentucky Derby, held beneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, and the two-day Breeders' Cup held for the first time this year at seaside venue Del Mar near San Diego, where Arrogate will bid to repeat last year's Classic success. As well as the Melbourne Cup, Australia has the new Everest, set to become the world's richest turf race at Randwick in Sydney, and Winx bidding for a place in history with a hat-trick in the Cox Plate.

We're lucky in Europe where we have the world leaders among both jockeys and trainers in the shape of Ryan Moore and Aidan O'Brien

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