Sedgefield Racecourse

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Published: 08/10/2013

Sedgefield Racecourse is situated in the peaceful County Durham countryside near the small town of Sedgefield in Stockton-On Tees. Used only for National Hunt events, it features a tight left-handed track covering 10 furlongs with sharp bends and a three-furlong finishing straight that descends quickly before climbing steeply at the very end. Some 18~20 fixtures are scheduled each year, covering ever month but July. The Durham National Handicap Chase in April is the course’s most noteworthy steeplechase.

A Tradition of Jumps Racing

Racing has taken place at Sedgefield since around 1732, and in 1804 Ralph Lambton formed a club based at the Hardwicke Arms, making Sedgefield the headquarters of the Ralph Lambton Hunt. In those days, meetings took place at Lambton Park. It was not until the 19th century that a course was established on the Sands Hall Estate, home of the Ord family and known as the “Melton of the North.” The earliest recorded meetings at the current Sedgefield Racecourse date back to 1846.

Around the turn of the century, a two-day fixture was established in March. Sedgefield was then described as “one of the very finest of good, sound thickly herbaged turf, never known to become deep or heavy in the worst of weather. The surface of the gallop is smooth and as regular as a garden lawn. The fences are beautifully built of birch and not difficult to negotiate.”

Although racing was abandoned in 1915 for World War One, it soon resumed in 1920. By the mid-1920s, three meetings were being organised annually, including a Boxing Day fixture. The formation of the current Racecourse Company occurred in 1927, and since then the number of racedays has increased gradually to twenty in spite of three separate periods of financial turmoil that almost caused suspension of operations.

In the 1970s, a gradual upgrading of facilities began, scrapping the course’s original “tin huts” and replacing them with new bars and eating areas. Stable facilities were improved, too, and top-class venues for corporate entertaining were added. In 1991, the Sedgefield Pavilion opened with its public bar, Tote facilities, restaurant and seven private entertaining suites. The Theakston Suite opened in 1995, followed by a re-furbishing of the Parade Ring/Winners Enclosure, a new Betting Ring, and a state-of-the art Weighing Room Complex by 1998. Northern Racing’s purchase of the course was completed in 2001, and an additional £600,000 was invested, including the opening of the Foster’s Stand Public Bar with its eating area and two private suites.

Racing a Sedgefield Today

Among Sedgefield’s big race meetings are the Cheltenham Festival Race Day in March, the Durham National in April, Ladies Night in August and the very popular Boxing Day meeting in December. There are two enclosures to choose from: the Grandstand Enclosure and the Course Enclosure. The Grandstand Enclosure offers prime viewing on the winning line and has the most comprehensive facilities, while the Course Enclosure is in the centre of the course. Ticket prices start at just £10.

Packages are available on racedays, of course, such as the Hoops Bistro Package priced from £56. It includes a hospitality admission ticket, a three-course meal and coffee, a raceday programme, a reserved table for the duration of the race meeting, Tote table-side betting service and a bar facility. For £76, the Silks Restaurant Package offers a Royal Banquet menu and seating directly in front of the winning post with views overlooking the racecourse.

Other dining options on the grounds include the Collins Seafoods Diner with its hot meals and full bar service, the Durham Edition Bar located opposite the entrance turnstiles, and fast food from mobile catering units situated around the Grandstand & Paddock area. There is also an area for family picnics, an outdoor play area and seasonal free children’s entertainment.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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