Which is the oldest racecourse in Britain?

The oldest racecourse in Britain is Chester Racecourse, a.k.a. the ‘Roodee’, or ‘Roodeye’, which stands on the banks of the River Dee in Cheshire, North West England. Chester Racecourse was founded in 1539, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, by the so-called ‘Reforming Mayor of Chester’, Henry Gee, and staged its first recorded meeting in February that year. Gee subsequently decreed that horse racing should be staged annually on Shrove Tuesday and, 480 years later, Chester was officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the ‘oldest racecourse still in operation’, not just in Britain, but anywhere in the world.

‘Roodeye’ is derived from the Saxon word ‘rood’ meaning ‘cross’ and the Norse word ‘eye’, hence ‘Island of the Cross’. Chester was established as a harbour by the Romans but, by Saxon times, silt built up in the River Dee to create a small island, which once bore a stone cross. The remnants of the cross can still be seen in the middle of the modern racecourse. Racing at Chester has been interrupted by major events, including the English Civil War, World War I and World War II, but otherwise has been staged almost continuously since the first half of the sixteenth century.

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Tokyo Racecourse

Tokyo Racecourse is situated in Fuchu City, a suburb of the Tokyo-Yokohama Metropolitan Area, on the island of Honshu, Japan. The racecourse was built in 1933 and today, under the auspices of the Japanese Racing Association, is famous as the home of the Japanese Derby, the Japanese Oaks and the Japan Cup, which is run over 2, 400 metres, or approximately 1½ miles, on the last Sunday in November each year. In terms of prestige, the Japan Cup, worth ¥521 million, or £3.27 million, in total prize money, ranks alongside the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Melbourne Cup.

 

Course Characteristics

The turf course at Tokyo is a left-handed oval, a little over 10 furlongs in circumference with wide, sweeping turns and a home straight just over 2½ furlongs in length. The course features undulations throughout, but the home straight is notably uphill before levelling out for the last furlong or so. The dirt course, which runs inside the turf course, has a circumference of just under 9½ furlongs.

 

Track Facts

The highest one-day attendance at Tokyo racecourse was 196,517 on May 27, 1990.

The last Japan Cup winner trained outside Japan was Alkaased, trained by Luca Cumani and ridden by Frankie Dettori, in 2005.

No horse has won the Japan Cup more than once.

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Sha Tin Racecourse

Sha Tin Racecourse occupies 70 hectares of reclaimed land to the northeast of Sha Tin town centre in the New Territories region of Hong Kong. The racecourse was originally opened in 1978, but underwent a series of major improvements, including the world’s first retractable roof above the parade ring, in 2004. Sha Tin Racecourse stages a total of 51 fixtures between September and June, generally on Saturday, but occasionally on Sunday and public holidays. Today, Sha Tin Racecourse is famous as the home of four Group 1 races, the Hong Kong Cup, the Hong Kong Mile, the Hong Kong Vase and the Hong Kong Sprint, all of which are run on the same day in December.

 

Course Characteristics

The turf track at Sha Tin is a right-handed, galloping oval, just under 9½ furlongs in circumference, with a 2-furlong home straight. The dirt track, which runs inside the turf track, is 7¾ furlongs in circumference with a home straight just under 2 furlongs in length. Both tracks have a safety limit of 14 runners.

 

Track Facts

The Hong Kong Cup, inaugurated in 1988, was Hong Kong’s first international race.

The Diamond Vision screen at Sha Tin is the longest television display in the world.

The Chinese New Year meeting at Sha Tin, usually held on the third day of the Chinese New Year, is the most popular horse racing event of the year in Hong Kong.

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Five Australian Racecourses You Have To Visit

Australia is home to more than 360 racecourses spanning the length and breadth of the country. They range from magnificent venues that host some of the world’s most prestigious races to small dirt tracks with rickety old grandstands. The country’s best racetracks are concentrated in Melbourne and Sydney, and they can easily rival the most famous venues in England, France, the United States and Japan. These are the five bucket list Australian racecourses that you simply have to visit:

Flemington

Flemington Racecourse is most famous for hosting the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November each year. More than 90,000 people pack into the famous racecourse to watch the race that stops a nation, including a whole host of A-list celebrities. The Melbourne Cup is beamed out to a global audience of around 750 million people, making it one of the most important races in the world.

The Melbourne Cup 2020 horses will be listed at Punters and you can see how talented the field is. It is the richest two-mile handicap in the world, with $8 million in prize money up for grabs, so it attracts the finest stayers from Ireland, the UK, UAE, Japan and other major race nations. They slog it out over 3200m and the winner goes down in history and a certifiable legend.

Flemington was opened all the way back in 1840. It sits on 1.27 square kilometres of Crown land, and it has a capacity of more than 120,000, with three large grandstands, making it one of the top five largest racecourses in the world.

The record attendance came in 2003, when 122,736 people attended Melbourne Cup Day. Flemington also hosts 12 other Group 1 races, including the Victoria Derby, the Oaks, the VRC Sprint Classic, the Turnbull Stakes and the Mackinnon Stakes.

Caulfield

Some of Australia’s most famous, prestigious and historic races are held at Caulfield each year. The racecourse is located 16 kilometres south of Flemington, on the other side of Melbourne, and it has a capacity of around 47,000.

It is another key destination in the Spring Racing Carnival. If you find yourself in Melbourne during the spring, you can visit both Flemington and Caulfield, thus ticking two iconic racetracks off your bucket list.

The most important race held here each year is the $5 million Caulfield Cup. This Group 1 race takes place over a distance of 2400m and it also attracts an international crowd of elite runners. You will also find 11 more Group 1 races at Caulfield each year, including the Caulfield Guineas, Blue Diamond Stakes and C F Orr Stakes.

The racecourse is unique for its triangular track, the 4-6% banking on turns and the really tight final turn. Many trainers use Caulfield as the starting point for young horses, so you can witness the stars of the future in action on some race days.

Royal Randwick

Randwick is the home of racing in Sydney. It has hosted racing since 1833, making it one of the world’s oldest surviving courses. The track hosts an unrivalled 20 different Group 1 races each year, including the Australian Derby, Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Doncaster Handicap.

Royal Randwick also hit headlines around the world when it hosted The Everest in 2017. The race had prize money of $10 million, making it the richest race in Australia and the richest turf race in the world. Prize money has since increased to $14 million, which allowed Yes Yes Yes to clinch record prize money of $4.8 million for winning the race in 2019.

The Everest is not quite the richest race in the world, but it is not far behind the likes of the Dubai World Cup. It has certainly put Sydney on the map, and it could be enough to swing the balance of power away from Melbourne.

Randwick has also hosted a two-day season ending meeting called The Championships each April since 2014. Prize money has gone past the $20 million mark for the event, so you cannot fault the organisers in New South Wales for ambition.

Rosehill

Rosehill is the other leading racecourse in Sydney, located 24 kilometres west of Randwick, on the banks of the Parramatta River. It was opened in 1885 and it has served up many glorious meetings in the ensuing years.

The main event of the year at Rosehill is the Golden Slipper Stakes. This is the world’s richest race for two-year-old thoroughbreds, with prize money of $3.5 million. It has unearthed many future superstars.

There are a further eight Group 1 races held at Rosehill each year, including the George Ryder Stakes, Golden Rose Stakes and the Tancred Stakes. The track has a circumference of 2,048 metres, with a home straight of 408 metres, and it has hosted some exhilarating battles in the past few years.

Moonee Valley

Moonee Valley is known to have the best atmosphere of any Australian racecourse. It can hold around 38,000 rowdy racegoers, and they are generally in a boisterous mood as they watch the action unravel.

Every year, the racetrack hosts a two-day carnival featuring a number of important events. The most important race is the $5 million Cox Plate, the leading race of the year for middle-distance runners in Australia.

The legendary Winx made the Cox Plate even more famous when she won the race four times in a row between 2015 and 2018. She has now retired, but her legacy will endure and Moonee Valley was the scene of her greatest triumphs.

The racecourse also hosts the Group 1 Manikato Stakes and the Moonee Valley Gold Cup each year, making it another key ground in the Spring Racing Carnival.

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