Chepstow Racecourse

Published: 03/08/2013
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Lauded as the “busiest racecourse in Wales,” Chepstow Racecourse is conveniently located in the Wye Valley in Monmouthshire between Bristol and Cardiff. The two-mile left-handed oval circuit with a mile straight features both flat and jump racing in an annual season offering 29 fixtures. The National Hunt highlight event of the year, of course, is the Welsh Grand National, which takes place each December just after Boxing Day.

A Centre for Racing Action

Ten South Wales entrepreneurs got together in the 1923 and purchased Chepstow’s picturesque Piercefield Park, with the intention of establishing a racecourse on its 370 undulating acres. For three years, 80 men toiled to sculpt a track out of the landscape, resulting in the opening of Chepstow Racecourse in 1926, inaugurated by a crowd of 20,000 eager racegoers. Of special note in those early days, jockey Gordon Richards rode into the record books at a two-day meeting in 1933 by piloting the winners of 11 consecutive races here.

Following World War Two, the Welsh Grand National (est. 1895) moved to Chepstow, and the initial 1949 running was won by Fighting Line, ridden by Dick Francis, the famous jockey turned author. Then, in 1959~61, ex-racehorse trainer and jockey David Nicholson made history by partnering three successive Welsh National winners. By the 1980s, high street bookmaker Coral had contracted for title sponsorship of the race, and it has remained the Coral Welsh National Handicap Chase to this day.

One after another, additional National Hunt events of importance were added to the Chepstow schedule, including the Grade 2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle. Conducted over two miles and four furlongs, it was named after the three-time winner of the Champion Hurdle, Persian War, who was trained near Chepstow. Another big race created for novice hurdlers was the Finale Juvenile Hurdle. Run over two miles and 110 yards, the Grade 1 event serves as the first juvenile hurdle test of the British jump racing season as part of the Welsh National meeting. Another key jumps race at this course is the Tote Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle in October.

Among flat races, the most noteworthy challenge ever conducted at Chepstow was the Group 3 Golden Daffodil Stakes for thoroughbred fillies and mares aged three years or older. It covered a distance of one mile, two furlongs and 36 yards, taking place each July from 1994 through 2005. The race was named after the national flower of Wales.

Numerous trainers have enjoyed great success at Chepstow, including the first woman to train a Grand National winner, Jenny Pittman, followed by Somerset’s Martin Pipe, who dominated Chepstow in the late 80s and early 90s. More recently, Paul Nicholls has been the trainer to beat. The most notable jockey here was four-time Welsh National winner Peter Scudamore, now retired.

Facilities at Chepstow

On race days, the best seating is in the Premier Enclosure, where the dress code policy is “Smart–Casual.” On the first floor is where Silks Restaurant is situated, providing extensive views over the racecourse and picturesque Wye Valley, while the Premier Bar offers a full range of draught and bottled beers, lagers, wines and spirits, plus hot and cold snack meals and freshly prepared sandwiches.

Standard seating is available in the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure. That’s where “The Grill” can be found for a tasty menu of hot and cold meals, while the Grandstand & Paddock Bar features a full selection of draught and bottled beers. Food outlets positioned around the main concourse also serve up drinks as well as hot and cold snacks, from traditional fish and chips and burger meals to hot carvery baguettes and rolls.

Premier Enclosure tickets are priced at £20 for standard events and £25 for feature events, such as Ladies Night and Caribbean Night in July. Those for the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure go for £15 and £20, respectively. Admission for under-18s is free when accompanied by an adult. Senior citizens are eligible for a £5 concession.

Published on: 03/08/2013

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