Thirsk Racecourse

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Published: 28/08/2013

Situated on the west side the small North Yorkshire market town of Thirsk, between Carlton Miniott and the Town Centre on the A61 Thirsk/Ripon road, the Thirsk Racecourse features a left-handed oval track used exclusively for flat racing. It measures a mile and a quarter, with a three-furlong finishing straight and a six-furlong chute. The racing season runs from April to September, counting some 13~14 meetings per year on the calendar. Among the course’s most important races are the Classic Trial in April, the £25,000 Thirsk Hunt Cup in May, the European Breeders’ Fund Fillies’ Handicap in June and the £30,000 Thirsk Summer Cup in August.

A Grand History

In 1612, James I provided the prize of a Gold Cup for racing held in the Thirsk area at the nearby Hambleton Hills. Although meetings at Hambleton ended in 1775, the location remained a training centre for thoroughbreds, and in 1855 Squire Frederick Bell made available his Thirsk Hall Estate so that racing might resume. The land upon which the current Thirsk Racecourse is located has remained the Bell Family’s property to this day.

In 1879, an attention-grabbing 300 Guineas Stakes was introduced, attracting crowds of racegoers from further afield, along with southern-trained horses. Another highlight of the late 19th century was the legendary champion jockey Fred Archer racing at Thirsk and winning twice in 1884. Then, when the site welcomed the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) to its Autumn Meeting in 1895, a special grandstand was constructed—the Royal Pavilion—and it stood on the grounds for some thirty years.

In 1923, considerable renovation took place at Thirsk Racecourse, resulting in the track’s present configuration. When World War Two closed the Doncaster Racecourse in 1939, the St. Leger Stakes held there was cancelled; arrangements were made to hold the next meeting in November of the following year at Thirsk, thus turning the racecourse into a “Classic” venue. The 1940 renewal of “the world’s oldest classic race” was won by a horse named Turkhan, owned by His Highness Aga Khan III, instructed by eight-time British Champion Trainer Frank Butters and ridden by the War Era’s greatest jockey, Sir Gordon Richards.

Over the past half century, much investment has been made in the facilities of Thirsk Racecourse, enhancing its reputation as a prestigious venue for racing. It has often been called “one of the country’s most picturesque courses,” noted for its attractive architecture complemented by beautifully kept lawns and flowered gardens. Trainers Dandy Nicholls and Tim Easterby have been quite successful on Thirsk’s track in recent seasons, as have jockeys Phillip Makin and David Allan. Racing at Thirsk Today

In 2013, there were 14 days of racing scheduled at Thirsk Racecourse, including six Saturdays and three evening fixtures. Among the most highly anticipated fixtures are the traditional “Spring Saturdays” leading up to such high summer fixtures as Pirates Family Day and Super-Heroes Family Day. Other themed racedays include Mexican Evening, Glitz & Glamour Night, Irish Day, Singles’ Party Night and Ladies’ Day, with the season climaxing in September at the Finale Meeting.

Viewing is excellent from all three Thirsk Racecourse enclosures, from the Family Enclosure with its betting ring, Totepool betting windows and children’s playground to the Paddock Enclosure with grandstand seating and the Premier Enclosure closest to the finishing line. Dining is at its finest in the Hambleton Dining Room on the ground floor of the Hambleton Stand, which also houses the Champagne & Seafood Bar. Cafeteria-style meals, fast food and snacks, and bar facilities are also available throughout the racecourse, and patrons are welcome to bring a picnic to eat alongside the course.

One of the most popular raceday packages is the “Punter’s Pal” priced at £25.95. It includes free car or coach parking, Paddock Enclosure admission, a dish and a drink at the Saddle Room buffet restaurant, an official racecard/form guide, and a Totepool Betting Voucher to the value of £2.00. Other packages range from the “Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea” at £29.95 and the “Champagne & Seafood Package” for £43.95 to the Hambleton Dining Club at £79.95. For Ladies’ Day only, a “Lawn Marquee Premier Package” for £79.95 is also available.

Published on: 28/08/2013

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