Stratford Racecourse

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Situated in the heart of Shakespeare country, the Stratford-on-Avon Racecourse, also known as simply Stratford Racecourse, hosts National Hunt races on its left handed triangle-shaped track in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire. Despite being rather small, it is one of the most popular country tracks, with 16 race meetings scheduled each year between March and October. The Champion Hunter Chase is the highlight of the season, held during the two-day W+S Stratford Foxhunters’ Meeting in June.

An Illustrious History

Racing was first conducted here in 1769, on Shottery Meadow, as part of the three-day Garrick’s Great Shakespearean Jubilee. That event featured the inaugural running of the Jubilee Cup, and 200 years later, in 1969, the Garrick Jubilee Challenge Cup was introduced, a two-mile hurdle race to commemorate that auspicious first run.

All events were suspended from 1778 to 1836. Then, in 1839 the famed Grand National Champion Lottery won the four-mile chase at Stratford and then repeated the following year. Another hiatus occurred in 1843-49, but annual events were scheduled annually thereafter, including such noteworthy inaugurals as the Avon Steeple Chase in 1867, the Diamond Jubilee Cup in 1897 and the Warwickshire Hunt Coronation Cup in 1902.

Throughout the 20th century, numerous improvements took place on the track. Bends were banked, the water jump was moved in front of the stands, a photo-finish camera was installed, two fields were acquired in 1969 to enlarge the circuit and eliminate two sharp bends. Such actions helped the racecourse institute a number of important jumps races, such as the Roddy Baker Gold Cup, the John Corbet Cup for the champion novice hunter’s chase, the Ladbroke Hurdle, and the Horse and Hound Cup, which is the final champion hunters steeplechase of the season

The course also attracts some of Britain’s top jockeys. In particular, A.P. McCoy and Richard Johnson have done well at this course over several seasons. Gloucester-based trainers Jonjo O’Neill and Nigel Twiston-Davies have met with considerable success at Stratford in recent years, too.

Racing at Stratford Today

Special meetings at Stratford include Irish Day to kick off the race season, Avon Estates Day in May and Family Day in July, which features the Birmingham Post Handicap Chase (aka Stratford Summer Cup). Also in July is the annual Ladies Day, which features a best-dressed competition with prizes, but otherwise, unlike Ascot or Epsom racecourses, Stratford follows a relaxed dress code, with considerably more casual attire in vogue.

The racecourse has three enclosures: the Club Enclosure, Tattersalls Enclosure and the Centre Course. Food and drink are available at the Chaser Room with its new hot buffet menu/carvery, the Gallery Restaurant open to Club Enclosure patrons and Annual Members only, and the Paddock Pavilion, a brand-new facility with totepool betting on hand. Also on site are Alice’s Noodle Bar for Chinese cuisine, Main Event Catering with locally produced burgers, hot pork baps and more, and the Bridge Bar Carvery serving excellent Hot Beef Rolls.

Other facilities at the Stratford Racecourse include Private Boxes, a special Disabled Viewing Area, both free and paid (£3) parking areas, and a snack bar in the Centre Course/Picnic Area Enclosure. Accompanied children under 18 are admitted free to all race meetings, and advance booking packages are available for £8 to £16. Prices at the gate range from £10 to £20.

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