About seven hundred years ago, Windsor Great Park was known as a royal hunting field, and it is quite easy to conjure up the kings of England and high profile noblemen planning racing contests between each other’s well-trained horses. Racing events occurred there and at Datchet Mead during the rule of Henry VIII. Horseracing at Datchet Ferry was first documented in 1682 during the rule of Charles II, who was such an enthusiastic racing adherent that he put up his royal court at Newmarket. In the mid 18th century, Windsor’s major claim to fame in the horse sporting world was a popular base for those coming to the Royal Ascot gathering each June. While it had its own racing calendar from time to time, the great assembly at Egham was of more historical importance.
The development of steeplechasing occasions in the mid-19th century motivated the running of progressively more regular military gatherings, which were wide patronised with royal and other aristocratic spectators. Flat racing events started on Ray's Meadow, the present site, in 1866. It was set up by John Frail, who graduated from little beginnings as a little-known barber to running Disraeli’s political campaigns in the densely populated Midlands. He and his notable family members proceeded on to own and manage a number of racing facilities in England. In terms of quality, Windsor racing occasions did not even attempt to out-compete Ascot but provided good opportunities to horse owners of less gifted animals in an appealing background not far away from London. After a short time, long jump racing championships was launched here, too.
In late 1923, Windsor Racecourse was the prime scene of a spectacular triple dead heat. Racecourses of the time did not have the advantage of photo-finish facilities, but one cameraman who was always available managed to immortalise the unique images of three horses jumping over the finishing line together.
As Home Secretary, Winston Spencer Churchill launched a novel Betting Tax in 1926, to near worldwide displeasure. On its very first racing day, bookmakers at the Windsor race assembly went on strike, famously refusing to take bets from the attending punters. The infamous tax was done away a few years later – much to the widespread joy of Windsor fans. Churchill was pardoned by the time he showed an interest in racing events and purchased a few racehorses. His most admired horse, Colonist II, registered a colorful win at Windsor in 1949.
Windsor was among the very few racecourses authorized to convene race meetings during the two global wars. On one unfortunate occasion, a flying bomb landed on the field during racing, but no fatalities were reported. This manifested the admirable resilience of Windsor Racecourse that has seen it soar through the ranks to become one of the most highly regarded racing sports in the whole of the United Kingdom.
In the 1960s, the usual Monday evening gatherings were started, which presently stretch from spring up to the end of the summer. National Hunt racing’s biggest supporter, Her Majesty The Queen Mother, was always dedicated to looking in if a fixtures coincided with her stay at the royal castle, mostly if one of her horses was participating in an event at Windsor Racecourse.
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Contact Details: Royal Windsor Racecourse, Maidenhead Road, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 5JJ
Tel: 01753 498400