Worcester Racecourse

Published: 08/10/2013

Located along the banks of the River Severn in the Worcester city centre, Worcester Racecourse is one of just a handful of U.K. venues that offers jumps racing throughout the summer months. Indeed, its left-handed oval-shaped circuit with nine easy fences measures 13 furlongs in length and is used exclusively for National Hunt racing, offering up to 21 meetings per year between April and October. Among the top events here are the Betfair Handicap Hurdle held in June and the Richard Davis Memorial Handicap Chase in October.

Nearly Three Centuries of Racing

Although there are the numerous racing venues in the West Midlands, the one at Worcester is distinctive, ranking among the oldest racecourses in the country. In fact, the current Worcester Racecourse on the River Severn was originally established in 1718. It was long referred to as the “Pitchcroft Racecourse,” owing to the site’s full name of Pitchcroft Ham or Pitchcroft Holme (the inner island), referring to its location on a major flood plain. The earliest meetings here were flat races, but by 1755 the course had converted to mixed use, with an annual four-day flat meeting in the Summer complemented by a separate jumps fixture in the Autumn.

The tree-lined course has undergone many changes during its time. One of the first major ones was a new course layout in 1880, which featured a figure-of-eight configuration. Several important races were also inaugurated at the course during the middle of the 19th century, including the Worcester Stakes and the Gold Cup. For several decades, flat racing continued to thrive at the racecourse, lasting until the practice was discontinued entirely in 1966.

Being on a flood plain beside a river can present certain challenges. In 1995, severe flooding caused the winter fixtures to be abandoned. In response, course management introduced summer jumping. But as popular as the decision was, it also ran into trouble in 2007, when the July and August fixtures had to be cancelled, due once again to flooding.

Scheduling adjustments notwithstanding, Arena Leisure (now known as Arena Racing Company) have done a fine job as the owner/operator of Worcester Racecourse since 2000. While they look after the day-to-day operations, the Worcester City Council retains control of the 100 acres of land occupied by the course and maintains the grass area in the centre of the racetrack. Trainers appreciate the opportunity to race when most National Hunt tracks are closed, and they have taken advantage of summer fixtures to introduce their better novice hurdlers and chasers.

Racing at Worcester Today

Worcester Racecourse provides a number of themed meetings throughout the season, such as Opening Day in April, Family Fun Days in May and June, the CrownGate Ladies Day in early June, and Closing Day in October. Ticket prices start at just £7 per adult for Centre Course admission and range from £12 to £16 for entry to the Grandstand and £18~£22 for the Premier Enclosure. Accompanied under 18s are admitted free to the enclosures.

The course’s premier dining venue is the Severn Restaurant, situated on the second floor of the Grandstand with excellent views of the track and the river for which it is named. A Dining Package here costs £57.50 and includes admission, a three-course choice menu with coffee, a racecard, a reserved table for the entire race meeting, afternoon tea as an optional extra and parking in the Centre Course. County Party Packs start at £18, including admission, a racecard voucher, two drinks vouchers to the value of £2.50 each, and a discounted Ladbrokes betting voucher for the first race of the day.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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