Bath Racecourse

Published: 08/10/2013

Overlooking the Roman spa town of Bath, Somerset, from Lansdown Hill, at an elevation of 780 feet (238 metres) above sea level, Bath Racecourse has the distinction of being Britain’s highest flat racing venue. Indeed, only the jumps courses at Hexham and Exeter are higher. The sharp left-handed oval track covers a distance of one mile, four furlongs and 25 yards, with a run-in of about half-a-mile and a tough uphill finish. Some 19~20 fixtures are scheduled here each year between April and October, including the Lansdown Fillies’ Stakes in April and the Dick Hern Fillies’ Stakes in August.

Nearly Three Centuries of Racing History

Records of racing in the vicinity of Bath date back to 1728, when a contest was reportedly held at nearby Claverton Down. Meetings were held intermittently through the 1770s, and then a few races were conducted on Lansdown Hill until all events in the area were suspended in 1796. A 15-year gap in racing activities ensued before a meeting was held on the current Lansdown site in 1811, courtesy of the Blathwayt family, local landowners who made Dyrham Park available.

The original Lansdown course was closer to the site of Beckford’s Tower than the present one. In the 1840s, annual steeplechases were also held in the area, while Bath Racecourse hosted just one two-day flat race meeting throughout most of the 19th century, the week before the Epsom Derby in May. For a time, contenders for the Derby would run in the Somersetshire Stakes, which became Bath’s biggest race.

In 1903, Bath Racecourse was officially declared the highest of its kind in all of England. The Blathwayt family sold the course to a syndicate who owned Newbury racecourse after the conclusion of World War One, and during World War Two it was used by the Royal Air Force as a landing field called “RAF North Stoke.” An infamous moment in Bath Racecourse history came in 1954—the so-called “Francasal Scandal”—involving switched horses, a £1 million gamble and cut telephone cables.

Meetings continued regularly throughout the 20th century at Bath, with the Somersetshire Stakes as the principal race of the year. In time, the course came under the ownership of Arena Racing Company (ARC), who have seen to improvements of facilities and increasing use of the course for non-racing activities such as conferences, events and weddings. In 2011, the 200th year of racing at Lansdown was celebrated, climaxing at a glamorous Ladies Day in August.

Racing at Bath Today

The racing calendar at Bath Racecourse includes numerous featured meetings, such as the Season Opening Racenight with its “Miss Bath” competition in April, the Big Bank Holiday Fun Day in May, Summer Party Racenights in June and July, the Big Festival Weekend in September, and the Oktoberfest Season Finale in October. Among the many facilities available are two full-service restaurants—Silks and Beau Nosh—as well as fast food outlets, two bars in the Grandstand Enclosure, and the Champagne Lawn with its Gourmet Barbeque available at selected meetings across the season.

Two basic types of tickets are offered on racedays. The Grandstand Enclosure ticket afford superb viewing from the Premier Grandstand plus full access to all public areas, while the Centre Course Picnic Enclosure ticket offers acres of picnic space and the option of parking within the enclosure, along with a close up view of the racing action with bar, snack and betting facilities. Prices range from £13 to £22 per person, depending on the fixture and enclosure selected.

Packages with food and drink included can also be arranged. They range from “Fancy a Flutter” with a burger meal, welcome drink and £2 Tote voucher priced at £25 per person on standard racedays to the Restaurant Plus Package, which goes for £75 and includes a three-course meal with coffee, complimentary racecard, reserved table for the entire race meeting and closed circuit television along with afternoon tea featuring a selection of cakes, scones, teas, clotted cream and preservers for afternoon diners or a glass of champagne and nibble on arrival for evening diners.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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