Chester Racecourse

Published: 11/08/2013

Affectionately referred to as “The Roodee,” Chester Racecourse is located in the heart of Chester, Cheshire, where it is supported by an extensive rail and road network, including the M53, M56, M6 and A483. Measuring just over a mile in length, the tight, left-handed track ranks among the shortest in England. It is used exclusively for flat racing, which includes half a dozen big name events at its annual three-day May Festival, not the least of which is the historic Chester Cup.

Britain’s Oldest Racecourse

In Roman times, the 65 acres now occupied by Chester Racecourse were submerged in a tidal pool of the River Dee. The City of Chester was a major maritime port throughout the medieval period, but silting caused the water level of its harbour to fall until land was exposed and became known as the “Roodee Fields.” It was there in 1539 that the first recorded horse race was conducted under the reign of Henry the Eighth and with the consent of Chester’s Lord Mayor.

An annual Shrove Tuesday race was held on the Roodee each February until 1609, when the event was moved to St. George’s Day in April. As a prize, the Chester Goldsmith Company supplied a silver bell, which was replaced in 1744 by a gold cup awarded annually by the Grosvenor family.

Then, in 1766 the May Festival was introduced, leading to the inaugural edition of the Chester Cup (first known as the Tradesmen’s Cup) in 1824. It was won by Doge of Venice at a distance of just over two miles and two furlongs. Among the Cup’s many famous winners thereafter were Learnington (1857/59), Brown Jack (1931) and Sea Pigeon (1977/78), to name a few. A second major race was added to the May Festival racecard in 1813—the Dee Stakes, named after the river and covering a distance of a mile and a half. One of the most dominant jockeys at both events was Lester Piggott, riding nine winners between 1954 and 1982.

The first grandstand at Chester Racecourse was completed in 1817, rebuilt in 1900 and rebuilt once more in 1988 after it was razed by fire three years earlier. Big races add to the May Festival included the £65,000 Chester Vase (1907), £75,000 Ormonde Stakes (1936), £40,000 Cheshire Oaks (1950) and £60,000 Huxley Stakes (1999). The course has also hosted many other spectacles over the years, from the 1903 Buffalo Bill and Geronimo Wild West Show to circuses, military reviews and Lord Mayor`s Parades, antique sales, November firework displays and Roman festivals.

Racing at Chester Today

For three days each May, Chester Racecourse basks in Britain’s racing spotlight. The May Festival with its prestigious events achieves unparalleled acclaim throughout Cup Day, Ladies Day and City Day. However, that’s just the start of the local flat race season, which includes at least eleven more fixtures running up to the Chester Finale in September. Other key races include the Totepool City Plate and Chester Stakes, both of which are part of the Totesport Summer Festival in August. Tickets and badges range in price from £8 to £48, depending on the fixture and Enclosure selected.

Because the course is a natural amphitheatre that allows close proximity of the spectators to the action, each viewing area evokes a truly unique atmosphere. The Tattersalls Stand offers a tiered, covered terrace with ground floor standing room and access to the Paddock area, betting facilities, bars and food outlets. The Leverhulme Stand has private boxes upstairs and the County Bar at ground level. The County Stand is Chester’s Premier Enclosure overlooking the final furlong and the winning post; it allows access to the parade ring and winners’ enclosure, too, and gentlemen are required to wear suit jacket, trousers, collar and tie, while ladies must wear smart dress.

Other facilities at Chester Racecourse include the County Long Room with access to an unallocated seating area, the County Concourse and its Turf Restaurant for fine dining, and the Dee Stand Enclosure, which has an additional viewing area and plays host to many bookies. There is also the Restaurant 1539 adjacent to the Tattersalls Enclosure and opened in April 2008, offering glass-fronted panoramic views and contemporary British cooking at its best.

Published on: 11/08/2013

Go To bet365
Open Account Offer
Up to £100 in Bet Credits for new customers at bet365.
Min deposit £5 and 1x settled bet requirement to release Bet Credits. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.
Comment on this article
Your Name:
Your Email:
What is  + 7