Wolverhampton Racecourse

Published: 06/08/2013

Situated on 22 acres of beautiful parkland in the West Midlands, just north of Wolverhampton city centre off the A449 dual carriageway, Wolverhampton Racecourse has the distinction of being Britain’s first floodlit horse racing track. That, plus its all-weather surface, has allowed the venue to grow into the U.K.’s busiest racetrack, hosting the thrills of racing day and night for over 100 fixtures a year. In many respects, the tight, left-hand oval, which is just over 7 furlongs in circumference, resembles racetracks found in the United States more than others in the U.K.

Leading the Way

The very first racecourse at Wolverhampton was established in 1825 in what is now known as the West Park, where Park Road follows the line of the current track. Sale of the racecourse to the Corporation in 1878 allowed reconstruction to begin, and nine years later Wolverhampton Racecourse was inaugurated anew at its present location at Dunstall Park. From 1887 to 1999, the course operated under private ownership, offering primarily flat racing events and just a couple of jump fixtures a year.

One of the major races launched here was the Lady Wulfruna Stakes, a Listed event run by four-year-olds and up over a distance of seven furlongs and 32 yards. The race commemorates one of the region’s greatest historic figures, Lady Wulfruna (935~1005), the granddaughter of King Ethelred I and Queen Aethelflaed (daughter of King Alfred the Great). In 994, Lady Wulfruna gave land for the endowment of a church at a place called Heantune, which thereafter became known as Wulfruna’s Heantune and eventually Wolverhampton in 1894, acknowledging the famous matriarch as the city’s founder.

In December 1993, Wolverhampton Racecourse was thoroughly renovated. The floodlights were added, along with a new all-weather Fibresand track that ran alongside the existing turf track. At the same time, a hotel, new grandstand, restaurant and executive boxes were built, too. Six years later, the course was purchased by Arena Leisure (now Arena Racing Company), who refurbished the hotel and conference facilities in 2004 and replaced the two tracks with a single Polytrack surface.

Since then only flat all-weather races have been held. In 2006, Wolverhampton hosted a record 110 fixtures. Noted trainers like to frequent the course, such as Mark Johnston and David Evans, in addition to top jockeys, including Neil Callan and Jamie Spencer.

Racing at Wolverhampton Today

Wolverhampton hosts both afternoon and evening racing all year round, and it has become quite famous for its Saturday evening race meetings, which are followed by entertainment for restaurant diners. The running of the Lady Wulfruna Stakes in March is accompanied by another key race, the Lincoln Trial Handicap, making the course’s one-and-only Saturday afternoon fixture the most important raceday of the season. Other featured days include Free Race Day in January, Family Fun Day in August and Ladies Night in September with its competition for Best Dressed Lady, Best Hat and Best Shoes.

The Grandstand Enclosure offers great views of the winning post plus access to the Grandstand and most ground floor areas, except the Ringside Restaurant. There are numerous bars and eating areas to choose from. The Premier Enclosure has access to all public areas, along with the Premier Bar and Restaurant in the Sunbeam Suite. All enclosures feature TOTE and Ladbrokes betting facilities, while boards and rails bookmakers are located outside in front of the track.

Most recently, the Wolverhampton City Council has granted planning permission for a £26 million project to expand the on-site Holiday Inn Hotel from 54 to 170 guestrooms. The plan also calls for the addition of a casino to the racecourse facilities, which would create the very first racino in the U.K.

Published on: 06/08/2013

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