Everyone knows the Grand National is a massive race, and most have heard of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and one or two others. But read on for a selection of the biggest flat and National Hunt races in the horse racing calendar in the UK and Ireland.

Victor Chandler Chase (Ascot) – mid-January

One of the more recent additions to the Grade 1 National Hunt calendar, the Victor Chandler chase has become a rare highlight in the weeks leading up to the Cheltenham festival.

Often used by trainers and owners to test their horses in advance of the Queen Mother Champion Chase (see below), the field is jam-packed with the best two-mile chasers which makes for a great spectacle at the fine Ascot course.

Champion Hurdle (Cheltenham) – March

After something of a lull in February as runners are fine-tuned for Cheltenham, day one of the Festival has the Champion Hurdle as its feature race. It is quite simply the most prestigious of all the hurdling events in the calendar, and with just eight hurdles to skip over and a distance of two miles 110 yards, the horses shift it round the Old Course at this famous venue.

Recent winners include Rock On Ruby (2012) and Hurricane Fly (2011), with Hardy Eustace the last horse to win in consecutive years (2004 and 2005).

Queen Mother Champion Chase (Cheltenham) – March

The feature race on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, this Grade 1 two-miler is the premier chase in the calendar over the minimum distance.

Given its current title in 1980 to commemorate the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday, it is a race that is exciting as any at the festival for the sheer power on display.

World Hurdle (Cheltenham) – March

It is testament to the significance of the Cheltenham Festival that each day contains a world-class feature race, with day three’s being the World Hurdle. With 12 hurdles to jump over a distance of three miles, it was formerly known as the Stayers’ Hurdle and it certainly takes stamina to earn victory.

The race has been the domain of the Paul Nicholls-trained French gelding, Big Buck’s, who has won four times in succession from 2009 to 2012. But he was unable to make it five in a row after being sidelined through injury in 2013.

Cheltenham Gold Cup (Cheltenham) – March

The race that tops them all at the Festival, the Gold Cup sits at the pinnacle of jump racing, both in terms of prestige and prize money – it is the most valuable non- handicap chase in the UK.

Looking through the horses that have been victorious on multiple occasions is like reading a who’s who of racing legends: Golden Miller, Arkle, L’Escargot, Best Mate and Kauto Star are certainly some acts to follow.

Grand National (Aintree) – April

The big one. This is the race that prompts usually gambling-averse folk to dip into their pockets for small each-way punts, or for the office sweepstake at least. Run over a monster distance of almost four miles and four furlongs, with 30 fences to jump as the large field attempts to makes its way round the National Course at Aintree… twice.

Inevitably there are fallers, and bets – and sometimes horses’ lives – are lost. But the race has been running at Aintree since 1839 (except during the World Wars) and shows no sign of losing its place in the hearts and minds of the British public.

It is the most valuable National Hunt event in the British calendar and is viewed as the ultimate test for horses and jockeys alike… not to mention tipsters and punters: it is notoriously hard to pick the winner in this eventful and action-packed phenomenon that is the National.

2,000 Guineas Stakes (Newmarket) – late April / early May

The first of the five Classics of the flat racing season, and also the first leg of the Triple Crown (along with the Derby and St Leger – see below), the 2,000 Guineas was first run way back in 1809 and has been won by some of the greats, including Frankel in 2011.

1,000 Guineas Stakes (Newmarket) – late April / early May

While the 2,000 Guineas is open to three-year-old colts and fillies, this race is for fillies only. The second of the Classics, it doesn’t play second fiddle to its slightly older sibling, in fact the fastest winning time for this one (1:34.22 ran by Ghanaati) is almost a second quicker than that of the 2,000. Take that, boys!

Epsom Oaks (Epsom Downs) - Early June

The Oaks is the third of the Classics and – like the 1,000 Guineas – open to three- year-old thoroughbred fillies only. First run in 1779 – a year before the first Derby – this race has serious history and prestige.

Epsom Derby (Epsom Downs) – first Saturday in June

Known simply as The Derby, this is Britain’s richest horse race (with a total purse of £1,325,000 in 2012) and the most highly regarded of the five Classics of the flat season and is the middle leg of the Triple Crown.

Open to three-year-old colts and fillies, it is raced over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and 10 yards, this is the original Derby (inaugurated in 1780), though the name pops up from Kentucky to Singapore to Bangalore for races of particular note.

Gold Cup (Ascot) – June

Not to be confused with the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Ascot version is a flat race aimed at ‘stayers’, hence the distance of two miles and four furlongs – which is long for a flat race. Part of the Royal Ascot meeting, the great jockey Lester Piggott rode 11 winners here between 1957 (Zarathustra) and 1982 (Andross).

St. Leger Stakes (Doncaster) – September

The oldest of the five Classics, the St. Leger was inaugurated in 1776 – the same year as the United States issued the Declaration of Independence.

The first horse to do the Derby-St. Leger double was in 1800 and was aptly named Champion. While there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner for years, in 2012 Camelot came close after winning the 2,000 Guineas and Derby, only to finish second here by less than a length to Encke – a 25/1 shot from the USA.

King George VI Chase (Kempton Park) – Boxing Day

Run over about three miles with 18 fences to jump, the King George is classed as the second most prestigious chase in Britain, after the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

A race that catches the imagination of the racing fraternity and betting public alike, it has a knack of producing popular results (for punters, not bookies!) such as Desert Orchid winning four times and the inimitable Kauto Star notching five victories in six years.