Chelmsford City Racecourse

chelmsford cityChelmsford City Racecourse, set in Great Leighs, Essex, is one of the ‘new kids on the block’ in terms of UK racecourses. Opened in April 2008 it lacks some of the history of courses that go back centuries, but was seen as a chance to bring racing to a new geographical audience, on account of the lack of race tracks in the area. The brainchild of entrepreneur John Holmes, after a series of postponements the first meeting was held on 20th April 2008. Unfortunately attendence was low and facilities criticised. In January of the next year the course went into administration. It wasn’t until 2015, after several deals fell through, that it resumed once again after Fred Done (Betfred Owner) bought the track.

Fast forward to now and the venue was a new lease of life. In addition to the televised races (on the 8.5 furlong oval – which has a 2-furlong home straight) the course hosts private events, music and events (Ministry of Sound, Fireworks Night, Ladies Day featuring Beverley Knight to name a few) as well as Christmas parties and bespoke packages. Membership of the course – which comes with exclusive benefits – is available too.

Cheltenham is home to some must-see races on its polytrack, such as April’s Cardinal Stakes flat race, as well as listed races such as May’s Chelmer Fillies Stakes, and June’s Queen Charlotte Fillies’ Stakes. The official Cheltenham City Racecourse website is as modern as any racecourse site I’ve seen and you can search through and book events and race days directly with them. It’s great to see the course go from struggling to thriving, and for those looking to watch competitive all-weather racing in the South of England to have a top class course to go to. Casual and serious horse racing fans alike would benefit from checking it out.

 

Leopardstown Racecourse

leopardstown racecourseLeopardstown Racecourse, also known to some as Ballinlore, is in Leopardstown just a few miles away from Dublin City Centre. Home to both flat and national hunt racing, there is something on the racing calendar for all fans of the sport.  It hosts a significant number of noteworthy races including the Irish Champion Stakes and the Dublin Racing Festival. All in all 23 fixtures.  Others include the Ballylinch Stud Classic Trials, the Irish Champions Weekend and the Christmas Festival. There’s even a popular Student Race Day aimed at getting young people interested in horse racing. These events fit hand in glove with the course and bring the very best of racing to the watching public, both on course and at home.

The racecourse’s facilities and entertainment offerings tick every box too. Designed to cater to all from the racing purist to families looking to have a fun day out, there really is something for everyone. The likes of the vibrant Carnival de Leop and live music at Bulmbers Live add a new and welcome dimension to a day at the races. Upcoming events can be viewed on the official website here.

On top of this there’s the usual hospitality, as well as dining options in the 1888 Restaurant, The Pavilion and The Panoramic, which offers stunning balcony views of the racing action.

Being so close to Dublin City center makes it a convenient destination for race goers. There are plenty of public transport options to get you there, and ample parking for those driving to the venue. The dual purpose track itself is a left handed galloping track of 1m 6f. From home turn to finishing post is a short 2 and a half furlongs. As a chase course there are ten hurdles. If you happen to be in the area, or intend to travel to Leopardstown racecourse you’re unlikely to be disappointed!

The Brocklesby Stakes

 

If you enjoy two-year-old horse racing then you must have heard of the Brocklesby Stakes. Predominantly it has been the first juvenile race of the Flat season. I say predominantly because there have been a few years where one or two races took place on the all-weather, which I found irritating because it undermined the whole tradition of the Brocklesby. It has been and should be the starting point of two-year-old horse racing season. To me, that is important and something to be protected.

Too many traditions have been eroded by someone with a ‘good’ idea.

I remember the Cherry Hinton. A race established in 1947. A Group 3 race upgraded to Group 2 status in 1996. And then in 2013 renamed to the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes (in honour of Catherine Dutchess of Cambridge). I can’t tell you how irritated that name change made me feel. I know I’m not alone with that thought. I wonder who had the ‘bright idea’ for change?

Anyway, enough of me being, still, annoyed how the Brocklesby could have been usurped.

I don’t think that will be happening again!

Good news, the Brocklesby Stakes 2024 will be taking place on the 23rd March at 13.50.

A sprint (5f) at Doncaster Racecourse on the same card as The Lincoln Handicap.

The first race on the card.

The Brocklesby Stakes has been won by many exceptional horses. In fact, in recent years (2022), we saw the Richard-Hannon trained Persian Force cruise to an ‘impressive’ four-and-three-quarter length victory. He went on to win the July Stakes (Group 2), runner-up in the Prix Morny (Group 1), placed in the Middle Park Stakes (Group 1). His season and racing career finishing when fourth place in the Keeneland Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Total prize winnings £289,012. This son of Mehmas, racing in the familiar silks of Amo Racing Ltd, raced just 8 times. He now stands as a stallion (8,000 Euros) at Tally Ho Stud, Ireland.

Over the years a number of classy two-year-old colts and fillies have won this race.

Some of my favourites include Jack Berry’s Mind Games (1994), Hearts Of Fire (2009) trained by Pat Eddery, who took the Group 1 Gran Criterium at San Siro (Italy). Every inch a mudlark, he was a great talent and probably one of the best horses trained by the former high-profile jockey. Other legends include the outstanding Provideo (1984), trained by Bill O’Gorman. He set a British record winning 16 of his 24 races as a two-year-old. To think his journey started by winning the Brocklesby. Bill Turner, who for so many years won this great race, has struggled to capture those glory days. The likes of The Lord, Spoof Master & Mick’s Yer Man are all reminders of why the Brocklesby is so special for trainers big and small. Other horses I remember with joy are the ill-fated Santry (2017). We can only imagine what he could have achieved. The Last Lion (2016) trained by Mark Johnston who went on to win the Middle Park Stakes (Group 1).

I wonder which Brocklesby winners are your favourites?

I love the Brocklesby Stakes. It’s a starting point. The beginning of a journey. A story that will be carved in stone. The winner will follow in the hoof prints of famous thoroughbred racehorses. Perhaps, even, pattern-class winners.

For many, this race will come and go without reflection. Horse racing is, for me, more than the next race. Horse breeder, Nellie Cox, said: ‘There’s a story behind every horse’ and that is worth considering. For me, it helps add to the understanding of something special. Each and every life is important and we are lesser people if ignoring this fact.

This year we have even more reason to look forward to the Brocklesby Stakes. The British Stallions Stud (EBF) is increasing the total prize money to £40,000 which means the winner should receive a prize of £20,000+. This will help bolster the standard of the Brocklesby Stakes as it’s sure to be in the minds of trainers looking to start their season with a bang.

The Brocklesby Stakes is a Class 2 race. It has seen good and bad years with differing levels of talent.

Back in 1996 Indian Spark won the Brocklesby Stakes by four lengths for horse trainer Bill Turner. Little did they realise it would be the first of 143 race career.

 

Galway

galway racecourseGalway Racecourse, also known as Ballybrit Race Track, is one of the jewels in the crown of Irish racing. Set on the outskirts of Galway city, Ireland, it hosts the seven day ‘Galway Races’ annual event in late July and early August. This has become a staple in the Irish racing calendar, attracting visitors from across the country and beyond, as well as eager viewers at home. The Summer Festival consists of the Opening Day, Galway Plate Day, Ladies Day (where fashion is first!) and there’s even a Mad Hatters Competition for the kids!

The highlight of the week, the Galway Plate is a showcase of horse racing talent demonstrating the courses ability to host top national hunt racing events. The course itself offers panoramic views of the action and offers the perfect day out for race goers. It has two stands – the Main Stand and Millennium Stand and is a right-handed course (one mile and three furlongs).

If you want to take your experience of Galway racecourse a step further, you can become a Club Member which offers a whole host of benefits such as access to the club members bar, and unique experiences like “a behind the scenes tour of Coolmore Stud in Fethard County Tipperary”. This would surely be a memerable experience for most racing fans.

Galway Racecourse is definitely a worthwhile stop off for racing fans. Whether you’re there for the on course action, or just a day out with friends or family, Galway Racecourse has it all. Its combination of top-quality racing is an attractive setting ensures that a visit to the Racecourse is a great day out that remains long in the memory!

Ayr

arAyr Racecourse is located on the west coast of Scotland and is home to both flat and jump racing throughout the yearly racing calendar. Of the big races it hosts, the Scottish Grand National and Ayr Gold Cup stand out as must see events on course (or in front of your TV if you can’t make it!). Both races draw in the best of the best in terms of trainers, horses and jockeys, and they most certainly draw in the crowds to this prestigious venue too.

The racecourse has been in use since the 16th century (the first documented racing in Ayr goes back to 1576 – and the course itself opened in 1907), so is steeped in history, but also has everything you might want from a modern racecourse. As such it’s no surprise its coined ‘Scotland’s Premier Racecourse’. It offers numerous dining and hospitality packages and hosts exciting events such as ‘Summer Raceday’ where top music acts like Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet, perform after the races have taken place. This mix of sport and entertainment is perfect for a family day out, and bring horse racing to a brand new audience at a time where there’s no shortage of sports and enterainment options for the masses.

The track itself hosts races over several distances over the flat, from 5 furlongs to 2 miles 1 furlong 105 yards and is a left handed track of 12 furlongs in distance. Known for its long straight, it’s a wide course and with a 210 yards run in. Over the jumps (the course has 9 fences), races range from 2 miles 1 furlong to 3 miles 3 furlongs 110 yards (with Chases from 2 miles to 4 miles 110 yards –  the latter being being the Scottish National. The racecourse is routinely voted as the best in Scotlandand and it’s easy to undsterstand why. Perhaps you’ll one day pay it a visit?

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