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Friday 26 June 2020

The Racecourses Local to Bath

Bath is more than just a historic Roman spa town. It also lies in the middle of a horse racing hotbed with both British Flat and National Hunt courses within a 50-mile radius. If you love equine sport, then there is plenty of it in and around the Bath area. First and foremost is Bath Racecourse itself. 

Horses run left-handed on Lansdown Hill about three miles northeast of the city centre, making it the highest altitude track for Flat racing in the UK. The sport has almost 300 years of recorded history in Bath, but the first major meeting here dates to 1811 during the Napoleonic Wars. 

As jockey Hayley Turner highlighted in her MansionBet blog, Bath is the only racecourse in Britain not to have a watering system. This results in firm, fast and sometimes going that cannot be raced on during dry summers. 

There are two black type races held at Bath Racecourse: the Lansdown Fillies’ Stakes which is a sprint over about five furlongs in April, and the one-and-three-quarter miles Beckford Stakes also for fillies and mares in October.

Head 25 miles northwest of Bath, and you’ll be in South Wales at Chepstow Racecourse. This left-handed track hosts both Flat and National Hunt horse racing but is best known for the latter. 

Chepstow is synonymous with deep winter ground and the Welsh Grand National – a Grade 3 handicap chase run over about three-and-three-quarter miles just after Christmas. That card also contains a Grade 1 juvenile hurdle for four-year-old horses which is the only elite level race still held in Wales. 

During October, Chepstow is the site of the traditional first meeting of the National Hunt season which includes the Grade 2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle. This race over about two-and-a-half miles is always targeted by top jumps trainers. About 40 miles northeast of Bath, meanwhile, and you’ll come to Cheltenham Racecourse. This is seen as the spiritual home of National Hunt horse racing since 1898, because of the undulating nature of the course in the Cotswolds hills.

The Cheltenham Festival over four days in the middle of March is the biggest meeting in the jumps season. British racehorses compete with hordes of Irish raiders that come over to test themselves. 

Other than the Grand National at Aintree, the entire National Hunt campaign is geared around Cheltenham. Other meetings are staged here in October, November, December, New Year’s Day, late January, April, and a dedicated Hunter Chase evening in May. 

About 45 miles southeast of Bath is Salisbury Racecourse. This is a right-handed track for Flat horses just outside the cathedral city of Wiltshire where the races are either run down the straight or on a loop. 

There are five black-type races at Salisbury. These include the Cathedral Stakes – a six-furlong sprint in June – and Upavon Fillies’ Stakes over about a mile-and-a-quarter. 

With two Group 3 events in the Sovereign Stakes over a mile and the six-furlong Dick Poole Fillies’ Stakes for two-year-olds, and another juvenile contest in the Stonehenge Stakes, there is plenty of horse racing worth seeing over the summer months at Salisbury.