Hexham Racecourse

Horse racing has taken place at Hexham Racecourse in High Yarridge, Northumberland since 1793, but the first official National Hunt meeting was staged in 1890. The racecourse enjoys a prestigious location, 800 feet above sea level on the ridge line to the south of Hexham, and is set in a natural amphitheatre. The course has undergone a series of improvements in recent years, including an irrigation system and a new members’ stand, and hosts 14 National Hunt fixtures throughout the season.

 

Course Characteristics

Hexham Racecourse is a left-handed, undulating, testing oval, approximately a mile and a half around, with a run-in of a furlong. On the steeplechase course, there are ten easy fences per circuit, the last of which is on a finishing spur and on the hurdle course there are six flights of hurdles. The downhill back straight is compensated for by the uphill home straight, which places the emphasis very much on stamina.

 

Track Facts

The Heart of All England Maiden Hunters’ Chase at Hexham is one of the highlights of the season for steeplechasers from the point-to-point field in the north of England.

The late Campbell Gillies rode the first and last of his 131 winners in a tragically short career at Hexham. The stable staff accommodation at the racecourse now bears his name.

Jockey Ryan Mania, who won the 2013 Grand National on Auroras Encore, suffered neck and back injuries after a fall at Hexham the day after winning the National.

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Hereford Racecourse

Hereford Racecourse, which caters solely for National Hunt racing, occupies a prestigious location on the outskirts of Hereford, just two miles from the city centre. The racecourse is leased and operated by Arena Racing Company (ARC) under the auspices of Herefordshire Council. Despite its controversial closure in December, 2012 – when it was deemed “not financially viable” – Hereford Racecourse reopened for business in October, 2016.

 

Course Characteristics

 

Hereford Racecourse consists of a right-handed, almost square circuit, measuring approximately a mile-and-a-half around. There are nine, moderately stiff, fences per circuit, including two open ditches, and a relatively short, 300-yard run-in. The course is largely flat and, with the exception of the home turn, which is fairly sharp, the bends are easy. On the whole, Hereford is considered a fair, galloping track, which places an emphasis on speed, rather than stamina. Horses not travelling well before the home turn may find themselves left behind on the downhill run into the straight.

 

Track Facts

 

Hereford is a grass roots National Hunt track that is a popular “schooling ground” for horses from West Country and Lambourn stables still learning their trade. Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Silver Buck and Bregawn, to name but two, were winners at Hereford earlier in their careers.

The first recorded race meeting at Hereford was held in August 1771, but National Hunt racing wasn’t introduced until 1840.

When Hereford Racecourse reopened in October, 2016, the first meeting was attended by 5,000 racegoers and Hereford city centre was gridlocked an hour before the first race.

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Haydock Racecourse

Haydock Racecourse is situated on Merseyside, halfway between Manchester and Liverpool. The course was originally established on Golborne Heath in Newton-le-Willows in 1752, but was transferred to its current location, three miles further north, in 1898. Today, the dual-purpose course stages 33 Flat and National Hunt meetings all year round.

 

Course Characteristics

The round course at Haydock is a left-handed, galloping oval, just over a mile and a half around. The six-furlong start, which is on a chute at the top of the home straight, is the lowest point on the course, such that the straight course, and the last half mile or so of the round course, rises steadily all the way to the winning post. On the steeplechase course, there are nine stiff fences per circuit and a run-in of 440 yards. On the hurdle course, which is inside, and appreciably sharper than, the steeplechase course, there are five flights of hurdles per circuit.

 

Track Facts

The longest standing race at Haydock, The Old Newton Cup, is the last surviving link between the current racecourse and the Old Golborne Heath Course, home of the so-called Newton Races.

In the 2006/07 season, Kauto Star won a £1 million bonus, known as the Betfair Million, for winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The most valuable and prestigious race run at Haydock, the Sprint Cup, was upgraded to Group 1 status in 1988 and, today, forms part of the British Champion Series.

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Hamilton Racecourse

Hamilton Racecourse was established in its current location, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1926. The Hamilton Park Racecourse Company Ltd. has recently invested heavily in improvements to the course, including extensive drainage work, after bad weather forced the abandonment of four fixtures in 2012. Hamilton stages 18 Flat fixtures between May and September each year.

 

 

Course Characteristics

The round course at Hamilton consists of a six furlong straight, which joins a right-handed loop at about halfway along its length. The 1 mile 5 furlong and 9 yard is actually beyond the winning post and runners proceed the “wrong” way up the home straight, around the loop and back towards the winning post. The distinct undulations tend to favour horses that race on, or close to, the pace, but the final three furlongs are uphill all the way to the winning post, so Hamilton presents a stiff test of stamina.

 

Track Facts

The Lanark Silver Bell, formerly run at Lanark racecourse, was resurrected at Hamilton in 2008. The original Silver Bell is believed to have been presented to the Royal Burgh of Lanark by King William I of Scotland in 1165.

The fact that Hamilton racecourse exists, at all, is due to the late Bill McHarg, often referred to as “Mr. Scottish Racing”. McHarg became managing director of Hamilton in 1973 and personally bought many of the shares in the course to rescue it from financial trouble.

In 1947, Hamilton was the first racecourse in Britain to stage an evening fixture.

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