Cartmel Racecourse

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Set within a wooded parkland in Cumbria, the picturesque village of Cartmel is home to the Cartmel Racecourse. It features a left-handed oval that measures just over a mile and one furlong, but its primary attribute is a four-furlong run, which is the longest in all of England. Seven National Hunt meetings are conducted here each year, including a Saturday/Monday Bank Holiday combinations in May and August, which have been known to offer a total prize purse of up to £125,000.

A Small but Mighty Course

Racing at Cartmel can be traced back through written accounts to 1856, and it is believed that the monks of a nearby priory organised racing on mules here as early as the mid-15th century. Early meetings were conducted on the flat, upon land owned by the Holker Estate. By the start of the 20th century, the course switched codes to become a jumps-only venue, with the key annual meeting being held on Whit Monday.

Racing was suspended for the war years, with some fear that it might not resume at all. But local landowners—and the family of Colonel Davy Pain, in particular—saw to it that the course was not abandoned. Saturday racing was added in 1947, and during the 1960s the August meeting was introduced, attracting a higher calibre of professional jockeys. Carmel Racecourse grew from a small holiday fun track to a standard bearer for National Hunt racing.

User-friendly facilities were expanded, and a fun fair and trade stalls were established in the centre of the course. Soon aggregate attendances began to reach 20,000 to 25,000, rivaling those of Cheltenham and Aintree. Of special interest, in 1980 a made-for-TV movie called “Murphy’s Stroke” was made about the infamous “Gay Future” incident, when an Irish betting syndicate switched horses before a race here in 1974; the Thames Television production starred Pierce Brosnan in his film-acting début.

In 1998, Lord Hugh Cavendish bought out the previous management team, intent upon expanding and professionalising the Cartmel programme even further. An extra Wednesday meeting was added in May along with a additional Thursday in August. In 2004, the old Grandstand was demolished and replaced with a new one, providing first-class facilities for all the jockeys and officials as well as a new restaurant and hospitality facilities. A new irrigation system has been installed, too.

Racing at Cartmel Today

The most anticipated fixtures on the Cartmel Racecourse schedule are the May Bank Day with its seven races worth £54,500 and the Totepool Cartmel Cup Day in August. Other special racedays on the annual calendar are Picnic Day in May and two events in July—the £80,000 Cumbria Crystal Hurdle Day followed by Barbecue Monday.

Cartmel Racecourse features two types of tickets: Paddock Enclosure and Course Enclosure. The former contains the Grandstand and Paddock, Parade Ring/Winners Enclosure, Marquee Village and two restaurants—Chasers and Louis Roederer—as well as the main racecourse office. The latter is situated on the opposite side of the finishing straight from the Paddock and features the fairground, trade stands and market stalls. Holders of Paddock Enclosure tickets can move freely over to the Course Enclosure at the track crossing point when horses are not on the course.

Ticket prices vary according to the enclosure and fixture from £11 on weekdays to £21 on weekends. A variety of supplemental amenities are available, too, from BBQ Packs for four persons costing £24 and Champagne Vouchers going for £45 a bottle to Totepool Betting Books with 5 x £2.00 bets for £10. There are also Fairground Vouchers that, if purchased in advance, provide £15 worth of rides for just £10. Food and drinks are also sold at public bars in both enclosures plus Furness Fish & Game, Local Heros Food Court and the Winster Valley Brewery Real Ale Tent.

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