7 Interesting Facts About England’s Racecourses

Horse racing in the UK stems back to medieval times, when horse sellers wanted to show off their horses’ speed and agility to potential buyers. In the late 12th century, reports state that the first prize for racing (£40) was offered by Richard the Lionheart. The race was a three-mile course and the jockeys were knights.

Without question, England’s racecourses and horse racing heritage goes back many, many years, yet today it remains one of the most popular sports in the UK, with several races happening on a daily basis.

Newmarket Received The First Royal Blessing

During the reign of King Charles II, Newmarket became known as the headquarters of English racing. The regal horse enthusiast was known as the ‘father of the English turf’ for his part in organising the King’s Plates races. The horses were aged six-years-old and rode with 168 pounds (76 kg) on their backs. King Charles II also created the first racing rules in history.

Chester Roodee Races Are The Oldest In History

The Mayor of Chester, Henry Gee created the world’s first racecourse in 1539. He even lent his name to the colloquial horse term ‘gee-gees’.

These first initial Roodee annual races went on for many years until the first grandstand was erected in 1817. The inauguration of the Chester Cup came not much later, in 1824.

Essex Has The Newest UK Racecourse

The Chelmsford racecourse in Essex brings racing closer to the Greater London crowd. It just opened its doors in 2015, a baby compared to the medieval Chester racecourse. This new racecourse has taken advantage of modern materials and its Polytrack surface means that it can be run all year round, whatever the weather. It is also one of only a few racecourses which are fully floodlit.

Aintree’s Biggest Race Is Watched By A Fair Few Worldwide

The main event in the horse-racing calendar each year is the Grand National, taking place at Aintree Racecourse. It regularly attracts more than half a billion viewers worldwide.

Running since 1839, the race initially began with one stone wall. However, the modern-day course features 16 fences made of flexible plastic and topped with 14 inches of spruce.

The 2019 Grand National Saw Red Rum’s Achievement Equalled

This year’s Grand National at Aintree was won by Tiger Roll for the second time in a row. It has been 45 years since that last happened. Perhaps the UK’s most famous racehorse, Red Rum, won the world-famous race two years in a row back in 1974. This year, history repeated itself and brought back fond memories of the household favourite.

This Year A National Treasure Was Returned To Cheltenham

Cheltenham’s original gold cup trophy was first awarded way back in 1924. However, since the 1970s, a private owner has kept the trophy hidden away in a bank vault.

Last year, Cheltenham was reunited with the nine-carat gold cup, which is plated in 18-carat gold. In 2019, the Gold Cup winner, Al Boum Photo’s trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Paul Townend, were delighted to be presented with this original piece of racing heritage.

Ian Renton, Cheltenham’s manager, said: “To bring the first-ever Cheltenham Gold Cup back to its rightful home and to use it as the perpetual trophy moving forwards really demonstrates the rich history and heritage of the race.”

Royal Ascot Is Celebrity Heaven

Each year, Royal Ascot draws tons of celebrities attracted by the racecourse’s prestige and strict dress code. Females must wear a hat and males a waistcoat, tie and top hat. Perfect for Instagramming and looking great on camera, there’s no wonder it appeals to a rich and famous clientele. It’s a chance to show off their style and hats to the media who’ll feast on their fashion sense, or lack of it.

To accommodate all of these well-to-do attendees, the racecourse provides the highest number of private boxes in any sporting stadium in Europe – 222. During the course of a year, this racecourse sees over 400 helicopters and a thousand limousines arrive at its grounds.