Carlisle Racecourse

Published: 11/08/2013

Conveniently located just off Junction 42 of the M6, Carlisle Racecourse is due south of Carlisle off Durdur Road in the idyllic village of Blackwell in Cumbria between the Borders and the Lake District. It occupies 250 acres of parkland, featuring a right handed, pear-shaped track of one mile and four furlongs in length that is used for both flat racing and National Hunt jumping. A total of 23 race days are scheduled annually, including such key races as the Cumberland Plate and Carlisle Bell as well as the Weatherby’s Graduation Chase Day.

A History of Firsts

One of the very earliest and most famous horseracing events in the U.K. was inaugurated in the Carlisle area during the reign of Elizabeth I in 1599. Called the Carlisle Bell, the name derives from two bells, the larger of which measured 2½ inches in diameter and was donated as a racing prize by Lady Dacre. The smaller one is believed to have been a gift of Henry Baines, Mayor of Carlisle. This historic mile-long flat horse race is still run today, and the bells, which are kept at the Carlisle Guildhall Museum, are reputedly the oldest horse racing prizes in Britain.

In 1763, King George III instigated his own “King’s Plate” series of three-mile heats for five-year-olds and a racecourse in the Carlisle vicinity was designated as one of the event sites. However, it was not until 1904 that the Carlisle Racecourse was moved to its current site from another location nearby.

One of the most noteworthy events in British racing occurred at Carlisle Racecourse in 1929. That’s when the newly formed Totalisator Board began operating their pool betting system and, for the very first time on a British racecourse, the so-called “Tote” became available to racegoers for betting.

Another feather in the hat of Carlisle Racecourse was its special association with Red Rum, the three-time winner of the Grand National. Before each of the horse’s April victories at Aintree in 1973, 1974 and 1977, he ran and won at Carlisle in the preceding September, making this track the ultimate predictor of National Hunt steeplechase success—at least during that incredible decade.

More recently, trainer Richard Fahey, who is based at Musley Bank, has been a dominant presence at this track, as has two-time Carlisle Bell winner G.A. Swinbank. The leading jockeys of late have been Paul Hanagan, Fergal Lynch and Andrew Elliott.

Racing at Carlisle Today

Of course, the most important fixture on the Carlisle Racecourse schedule each year is the annual running of the Carlisle Bell in June. That meeting day also features another big race, the Cumberland Plate. Among other themed racedays are August’s new Whitehaven RLFC Day, inaugurated in 2013 under the sponsorship of the noted rugby league, November’s Cumberland Chase Day and the Family Fun Day in mid-December.

For all fixtures, a single enclosure is operated with General Admission tickets priced from £12 and up providing access for all areas, including bars, cafés, fast food outlets and the “Swifts Restaurant” located on site. On most days, children under 16 years of age, accompanied by an adult, receive admission for free. For the Grandstand and Paddock areas, there is no specific dress code but sports shorts and denim shorts are not allowed.

There is a free public car park opposite the Main Grandstand and coach parking is free. There is also Trackside Car Parking available for £10.00 per vehicle (£5.00 on Family Days). Dogs are permitted on the Racecourse as long as they are kept on leads and under strict control at all times. Special events can be accommodated in the purpose-built 300-square-meter Bell Hall, which is located in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Grandstand.

Published on: 11/08/2013

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