Brighton Racecourse

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Just a mile to the northeast of the centre of Brighton, Sussex, Brighton Racecourse is situated on Whitehawk Hill at four hundred feet above sea level, on the edge of the South Downs about a mile from the windy coast. Like Epsom and Newmarket, the track is not a full circuit but an undulating, left-handed, horseshoe-shaped course; it measures one mile and four furlongs in length. Flat racing is hosted here from April until October in a schedule that contains some 21 fixtures, including the popular three-day August Festival of Racing, which features the John Smith’s Brighton Mile as well as Frosts Ladies Day

An Illustrious History

Although there are references to races taking place in the Brighton area before 1713, the first official race meeting on Whitehawk Hill was conducted in 1783. The Prince of Wales, who would later become King George IV, attended the following year’s edition, liked what he saw and returned with his entourage of high-living, big-betting aristocratic friends. The group raced their own horses on the track, which helped both the racecourse and the town to thrive.

In the early days, the course used to extend a further half mile towards Roedean across the golf course. It was possible to hold four-mile races by starting at the winning post and going “the wrong way” before taking a loop at the two-mile start and coming back in the conventional direction.

When the Prince of Wales ceased coming to Brighton, the course went into decline. It was saved by the coming of the railway around 1850, which allowed Londoners to come for racing more easily. A new stand was built and the Brighton Cup was inaugurated, thus attracting a high calibre horses. As a consequence, Brighton became an established part of Britain’s racing circuit. After World War Two, additional construction allowed grandstands to line both sides of the home straight. In the 1960s, the course staged a Derby Trial for six years. Then in 1998, the municipality sold 81% of the facilities to Northern Racing, who spent £4 million to refurbish and revive the course. Since the 2012 merger with Arena Leisure, Brighton Racecourse has been operated by Arena Racing Company with the Brighton & Hove City Council as a minority investor.

Of special note, the renowned racehorse owner, Sheikh Mohammed, had his first winner at Brighton racecourse in 1977, and the top American jockey, Steve Cauthen, won his 1,000th British race here in 1987. In recent years, former Champion Jockey and local rider Ryan Moore has favoured the course, along with Seb Sanders. Moore’s father, the trainer Gary Moore who is based nearby in Lower Beeding, enjoys bringing his horses to the horseshoe, too.

Racing at Brighton Today

Although Brighton has remained one of Britain’s smaller racecourses, as ranked by the quality of racing and prize money offered, meetings here have drawn crowds of up to 20,000 and the seasonal highlights include not only the three-day Festival in early August but also September’s Family Race Day and the grand Season Finale in October.

Brighton Racecourse has two types of admission ticket. Entry to the Grandstand and Paddock Enclosure starts at £10, if booked in advance, and allows access to grandstand seating, the Parade Ring, the Long Bar, Tote Betting facilities, trackside bookmakers, a picnic area and a wide range of food units. Tickets for the Premier Enclosure begin at £15, with access to all of the above, plus the Premier Bar, Silks Restaurant and the Parade Ring Lawn. Packages are also available from £20, including a drink voucher, raceday programme and a £2 tote betting voucher.

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