Kempton Park Racecourse

Published: 03/08/2013

Just 16 miles from the centre of London and served by its own railway station, Kempton Park Racecourse is located in Surrey’s Spelthorne district, a western suburb of the capital’s commuter belt. Its all-weather track has an 8-furlong inner bend and a 10-furlong outer bend, featuring synthetic polytrack surfaces suitable for both jumps and flat course racing. Among its best known National Hunt fixtures is the King George VI Chase conducted annually on Boxing Day.

Racing over a Century and a Half

It had long been the dream of Henry Hyde to build a racecourse near Sunbury-on-Thames, and he set his plan in motion by purchasing the 210-acre Kempton Manor and Park in the area in 1872. Kempton Park Racecourse opened and hosted its first race on 18 July 1878, and by 1889 a Royal Box had been constructed to accommodate a visit from the Prince of Wales.

The racecourse suffered greatly in the next century. During World War One, the park was converted into a transit depot for military vehicles, causing fixtures to be abandoned or transferred to the facilities at Gatwick, Hurst Park and Sandown. Although racing resumed in 1919, thirteen years later a fire caused major damage to the grandstand, restaurant, member’s stand and tattersalls bar.

The inauguration of the three-mile King George VI Chase for horses aged four years or older in 1937 raised hopes of an ongoing major event. However, the race was conducted only twice before suspension in 1939~46. During World War Two, the racecourse became a temporary camp for prisoners of war. So ruined were the Kempton Park facilities by the event of the time that a major reparation project was required before racing could re-commence in 1947.

Grade 1 National Hunt contests added at Kempton Park thereafter included the Christmas Hurdle (since 1969) and the Feltham Novices` Chase since 1982. Flat racing began to get serious attention, too, with the launch in 1974 of the six-furlong Sirenia Stakes for two-year-olds, a listed event that has climbed to Group 3 status. In 1979, it was joined by the September Stakes, now also a Group 3 race, covering one mile and four furlongs for three-year-olds and up.

After some redevelopment work, the present grandstand was completed in 1997. The racecourse was closed for eleven months beginning in May 2005 for multi-million pound installation of the current all-weather floodlit course—the only right handed all weather track in the United Kingdom. Now racing is possible at all light levels and all but the most severe bad weather.

Enjoying Kempton Park Today

Fixtures at Kempton Park Racecourse are now scheduled in every month of the year. January alone has a dozen racedays, and even as the National Hunt season ends in April, the flat racing continues straight through summer to the resumption of jumps in October. The two-day William Hill Winter Festival in December is the biggest event on the calendar, followed by Ladies Day in September, but also popular is the afternoon and twilight flat racing in September~June along with night flat racing under the lights in May~September.

For most of fixtures, Kempton Park offers excellent value-added “Winner” and “Winner Plus” packages, ranging from £14 to £23 in price, which includes admission, a racecard, a drink, a £2 tote bet and a discounted return visit voucher. The Winner Plus package also includes a food voucher. Restaurants on the grounds range from the “Best of British” fish and chips shop and the Trattoria Pizzeria to the glass-fronted, full-service Panoramic Restaurant set over three tiers on the top floor of the Grandstand.

In addition to racing, Kempton Park also hosts business meetings, antique markets, weddings, dog shows, fireworks displays, live music concerts, Thursday outdoor markets and hospitality functions, from hen and stag parties to Reindeer Racing Christmas events. Located on the first floor of the Grandstand, the Premier Suite is a popular option for conferences of up to 500 delegates.

Published on: 03/08/2013

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