Sandown Park Racecourse

Published: 08/10/2013

Located in Londonís outer suburbs, in the Surrey town of Esher, Sandown Park Racecourse plays host to both flat and National Hunt racing as one of the premier dual purpose venues in the United Kingdom. The right-handed oval track measures one mile and five furlongs in circumference with a four-furlong uphill run in. The jumps season occupies November through April with flat racing during the months in between for a total of 26~29 fixtures each year. Among the courseís major events are the Bet365 Gold Cup in April, the £500,000 Group One Eclipse Stakes in July and the Tingle Creek Chase in December.

Home of Legendary Contests

Sandown Park Racecourse ranks among the best known venues in horse racing, said to have been the late Queen Motherís favourite. It was designed in 1870 as one of Britainís first purpose-built racecourses and the first to be enclosed. Despite torrential rain, champion jockey Fred Archer rode a winner at the inaugural meeting in 1875, setting the pace for a tradition of great racing to come. That fixture included the Grand National Hunt Chase, which is now staged at Cheltenham.

In 1886, the first Eclipse Stakes was run here with £10,000 prize for the winneróan unheard of amount in those days; it was won by jockey Tom Cannon, Sr. aboard a horse named Bendigo. The great Lester Piggott would later dominate this event, riding seven winners to victory between 1951 and 1977, and among the most memorable horses to win the Eclipse Stakes would be Mill Reef in 1971, Mtoto in 1987 and 1988, and Halling in 1995 and 1996.

Indeed, many of the greatest moments in horse racing history have occurred at Sandown Park. The Whitbread Gold Cup, established in 1957, saw tremendous competition during its inaugural decade, when 1965 winner Arkle and 1967 winner Mill House owned this event, now known as the Bet365 Gold Cup. In 1988, Desert Orchid won this race, too, as one of eight major Sandown Park victories, including the Tingle Creek Chase that same year.

A major redevelopment took place in 1972, expanding the capacity of the grandstand to 7,600. An even bigger redevelopment was completed in 2002 at a cost of £23 million, completely refitting the grandstand area and adding the new Eclipse Pavilion. Thereís little wonder why, starting in the late 1990s, the venue won the South East Racecourse of the Year award an amazing ten years in a row.

Racing at Sandown Park Today

Sandown Parkís top event is the two-day bet365 Ultimate Celebration, which takes place at the end of April. It features mixed races, including the bet365 Gold Cup over jumps and the bet365 Classic Trial on the flat. It is the only meeting on the British racing calendar that showcases such a high-class mixed card. In July, there is the two-day Coral-Eclipse Summer Festival with its Ladies Day on Friday, and in December the highlight is the two-day Tingle Creek Christmas Festival. Ticket prices are higher for such featured fixtures, but the usual cost of Grandstand Admission is £15, while entry to the Premier Enclosures costs £22.

Sandown Park offers a wide variety of dining options. They range from sandwiches and hot meals in the family-friendly Food Hall to the Equus Restaurant with its full ŗ la carte menu in a fine dining atmosphere. The recently refurbished Brasserie in the Premier Enclosure offers a modern menu focusing on seasonal dishes and local produce, while Greenís Champagne Bar now features a fish restaurant and oyster bar. A host of bars are open every raceday, too, serving a selection of beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks plus wine by the bottle or glass from £3.70.

A number of hospitality packages are available, including entrance badge, a racecard, a car park pass, and private table for the day, food options such as a two course buffet, an in-suite bar and betting facilities. Prices range from £65 to £105. Other facilities at Sandown Park Racecourse include an 18-hole golf course and a dry ski slope. The venue also hosts concerts, with performance from Westlife, Boyzone and Madness, to name a few.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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