MY FAVORITE RACECOURSES

 

RACECOURSE

NUMBER OF VISITS

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Cheltenham

54

plus a course walk (racing abandoned)

Kempton Park

35

 

Aintree

28

Newbury

25

including fixture with course walk and one abandonment

Ascot

17

including a visit to Royal Ascot (my 200th trip to the races!)

Sandown Park

17

 

Huntingdon

10

 

Stratford Upon Avon

10

 

Worcester

5

 

Towcester

4

 

Market Rasen

2

 

Fontwell Park

1

 

Plumpton

1

 

Uttoxeter

1

 

TOTAL VISITS

210

 

 

 

Luckily I’m not geographically challenged so, if I’m going to the races alone, my ‘Sat Nav’ is a list of road numbers written on a Post IT note stuck to the dashboard of my car!  Plus an old map book placed in the passenger foot-well just in case – although it’s not been needed yet. If a friend is coming with me to the races, then they can act as my navigator if required.

Cheltenham

Visits: 54 (plus course walk with Choc)

(54 – Festival) 15 March 2019; (53 – Festival) 14 March 2019; (52 – Festival) 13 March 2019; (51 – Festival) 12 March 2019; (50 – Festival) 16 March 2018; (49 – Festival) 15 March 2018; (48 – Festival) 14 March 2018; (47 – Festival) 13 March 2018; (46) 18 November 2017; (45 – Festival) 17 March 2017; (44 – Festival) 16 March 2017; (43 – Festival) 15 March 2017; (42 – Festival) 14 March 2017; (41 – Festival) 18 March 2016; (40 – Festival) 16 March 2016; (39 – Festival) 15 March 2016; (38 - Festival) 13 March 2015; (37 - Festival) 12 March 2015; (36 - Festival) 11 March 2015; (35 - Festival) 10 March 2015; (34) 24 January 2015; (33) 18 October 2014; (32 - Festival) 14 March 2014; (31 - Festival) 13 March 2014; (30 - Festival) 12 March 2014; (29 - Festival) 11 March 2014; (28) 19 October 2013; (27 - Festival) 15 March 2013; (26 - Festival) 14 March 2013; (25 - Festival) 13 March 2013; (24 - Festival) 12 March 2013; (23) 20 October 2012; (22 - Festival) 16 March 2012; (21 - Festival) 15 March 2012; (20 - Festival) 14 March 2012; (19 - Festival) 13 March 2012; (18) 28 January 2012; (17 - Festival) 18 March 2011; (16 - Festival) 17 March 2011; (15 - Festival) 16 March 2011; (14 - Festival) 15 March 2011; (13) 29 January 2011; (12 - Festival) 19 March 2010; (11 - Festival) 18 March 2010; (10 - Festival) 17 March 2010; (9 - Festival) 16 March 2010; (8) 12 December 2009; (7) 16 April 2009; (6 - Festival) 13 March 2009; (5 - Festival) 12 March 2009; (4- Festival) 11 March 2009; (3 - Festival) 10 March 2009; (2) 24 January 2009; (course walk only – racing abandoned) 13 December 2008; (1) 16 November 2008.

I’m going to put Cheltenham at the top of my league – despite only having seen Choc win here twice!  I enjoyed my first visit, although the weather was a little damp (we couldn’t see the top of Cleeve Hill through the mist for a while), and Choc was not permitted to ride due to a 1-day suspension. However Choc’s valet, Phil, kindly invited us to briefly visit the Weighing Room and I got to see the spot occupied by Choc, so I can now imagine him preparing and waiting to ride in all the ‘big’ races at the course. 

My second visit was on Saturday 13 December and, once again, I didn’t get to see Choc ride as this time racing was abandoned due to heavy rainfall overnight.  I have a feeling it’s not going to be my lucky track – oh dear ...  However I had the great privilege of walking the track with Choc on this day, and he was the most wonderful host and a really nice guy too.  My friend Lesley and I spent more time in the Weighing Room where we got to chat with Ruby Walsh’s valet and with Timmy Murphy too!

29 January 2011 – I’m now in two minds about Cheltenham being my favourite course, as it is beginning to feel a bit tired and run-down.  The viewing facilities around the Parade Ring are poor, and the steep steps around the Winners’ Enclosure are difficult to negotiate (and I’m fit and nimble!).  In addition, bottlenecks are frequently encountered between the Parade Ring and the course-side rails.  So I’ll give it 10/10 for the quality of its racing but only 5/10 for layout and facilities.

By 2015 the course had undergone redevelopment and facilities had improved greatly ... so it’s now 10/10 for everything once more!

Sandown Park

Visits: 17

(17) 27 April 2019; (16) 28 April 2018; (15) 29 April 2017; (14) 23 April 2016; (13) 25 April 2015; (12) 26 April 2014; (11) 07 December 2013; (10) 05 November 2011; (9) 05 February 2011; (8) 08 January 2011; (7) 13 March 2010; (6) 25 April 2009; (5) 07 March 2009; (4) 31 January 2009; (3) 06 December 2008; (2) 05 December 2008; (1) 26 April 2008

My first visit was on Bet365 Gold Cup day (or Whitbread Gold Cup day as was!), and it was the first time I’d seen Choc ‘in the flesh’.  As you would expect, Esher is a very smart area.  I did enjoy my day at one of the major racecourses, although I got a little sunburnt too.  I’ve since been back for, amongst other fixtures, both days of the Tingle Creek Festival in 2008 and really enjoyed that too.  The course is a little ‘grander’ than Kempton Park.  A right-handed course.

Aintree

Visits: 28

(28 – Grand National) 06 April 2019; (27) 05 April 2019; (26) 04 April 2019;

(25 – Grand National) 14 April 2018; (24) 13 April 2018; (23) 12 April 2018;

(22 – Grand National) 08 April 2017; (21) 07 April 2017; (20) 06 April 2017;

(19 – Grand National) 09 April 2016; (18) 08 April 2016; (17) 07 April 2016;

(16 – Grand National) 11 April 2015; (15) 10 April 2015; (14) 09 April 2015;

(13 – Grand National) 05 April 2014; (12) 04 April 2014; (11) 03 April 2014;

(10 – Grand National) 06 April 2013; (9) 05 April 2013;

(8 – Grand National) 14 April 2012; (7) 13 April 2012;

(6 – Grand National) 09 April 2011; (5) 08 April 2011;

(4 – Grand National) 10 April 2010; (3) 09 April 2009; 

(2 – Grand National) 04 April 2009; (1) 03 April 2009

I spent two days (Friday and Saturday) at the Aintree Grand National Festival 2009.  We bought tickets for the Earl of Derby Stand Terrace, which was some way past the winning post but we were able to stand against the course-side rails to watch the victorious runners return, and the unplaced horses unsaddle on course.  Although the walkway through under the new stands area is like a wind tunnel!  The stable lads also stand in this area, so we were almost deafened by screams for Schindlers Hunt by his handler during the Melling Steeplechase – I added my shouts of support for Choc and Voy Por Ustedes in return! 

I took the opportunity to walk around the Grand National course before racing on Saturday and Becher’s Brook is definitely a shadow of its former self, with the safety of the runners in mind.   

We parked centre course, which was easy to get in and out of despite the traffic warnings.  Security was extremely high profile, our car was searched, as were our suitcase contents!  A bus shuttle service takes you to and from the stands area. 

I returned for my second 2-day visit on the Friday and Saturday of the Grand National meeting in 2010; and my third 2-day visit on Friday and Saturday of the Grand National meeting in 2011.

Stratford

Visits: 10

(10) 08 September 2012; (9) 28 May 2011; (8) 13 June 2010; (7) 22 September 2009; (6) 13 August 2009; (5) 19 July 2009; (4) 12 July 2009; (3) 31 May 2009; (2) 13 July 2008; (1) 15 June 2008

Stratford is one of my favourite courses, but solely for sentimental reasons.  I first saw Choc dressed in his ‘civvies’ at Stratford on 15 June 08, and had the pleasure of speaking with him briefly when I presented a birthday card on 13 July 08.  It’s a left-handed track and a screen is provided to make viewing easy. The water jump is immediately in front of the stands, which is exciting when the horses jump it – but probably not an opinion shared by Ruby Walsh who accidently took the wrong course over the jump when fighting out a finish and received a ban for his trouble.

During my 4th visit to the course (12 July 2009), which was the day after Choc returned from his Stag-Do in Hamburg, there was a ‘shave-off’ when a number of jockeys (Sam Thomas, William Kennedy, and Choc) relinquished their goatee beards which they grew in preparation for their trip to Germany.  This was a charity fund raising event in aid of the Midlands Air Ambulance and the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.  It was reported that around £4,500 was raised during the fundraising period.  Despite probably nursing a hangover, Choc was on very good form before racing, and looked particularly gorgeous too!  I love Stratford!!!

Worcester

Visits: 5

(5) 06 July 2015; (4) 05 August 2011; (3) 06 August 2010; (2) 06 September 2009; (1) 08 June 2008

Worcester is prone to flooding, as it is situated on the floodplain next to the River Severn.  However, despite being put out of action during both 2007 and 2008, it has bounced back and is well worth a visit if you enjoy summer racing.  It’s a left-handed course, very flat – a ‘galloping’ course.

I’ve visited the course four times, the first time travelling down by train from Paddington, through Oxford, Moreton In Marsh, and Evesham. The weather was very hot that Sunday.  I drove down alone for my second visit, but it was well worth the trip, and I also stayed to watch the 2009 National Hunt Jockeys North vs. South football match, where Choc was also a spectator. 

Choc was on the injured list at the time of my third visit but he was riding on the occasion of my fourth visit when he again stayed to watch the jockeys’ football match ... and I stayed to watch Choc!!! 

I’m also going to give a gold star to Jenny, the Hospitality Manager at Worcester, for re-launching the Wayne Burton Fund auction (postponed from 07 September 2008) and for being so helpful in enabling me to fulfil a very special ‘Choc’ related wish of walking the course at Cheltenham with him. 

 

I met Jenny during my second visit and, having bid for and won Choc’s auction item for the second year running, I enjoyed a second course-walk with Choc at Newbury in March 2010.

 

Despite the course being more than a 200 mile round trip from my home, I love the drive to and from the racecourse which, depending on the route I choose, can take me through the beautiful counties of Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

Kempton Park

Visits: 35

(35) 26 December 2018; (34) 26 December 2016; (33) 27 December 2015; (32) 26 December 2015; (31) 26 December 2014; (30) 15 March 2014; (29) 22 February 2014; (28) 26 December 2013; (27) 25 November 2013; (26) 20 October 2013; (25) 23 February 2013; (24) 12 January 2013; (23) 26 December 2012; (22) 05 November 2012; (21) 21 October 2012; (20) 17 March 2012; (19) 25 February 2012; (18) 26 December 2011; (17) 31 October 2011; (16) 16 October 2011; (15) 28 February 2011; (14) 11 February 2011; (13) 15 January 2011; (12) 22 November 2010; (11) 01 November 2010; (10) 17 October 2010; (9) 27 February 2010; (8) 27 December 2009; (7) 26 December 2009; (6) 02 November 2009; (5) 21 February 2009; (4) 07 February 2009 (3) 26 December 2008; (2) 26 November 2008; (1) 19 October 2008

My nearest racecourse.  Easy to reach via road or rail. The whole course is visible from the viewing areas, and a screen is provided, but it gets very crowded on King George VI Steeplechase day (Boxing Day). The paddock is surprisingly small though. My first visit was on 19 October 2008, Choc had 6 rides, all for Alan King, including Katchit, and he won two races – the first on Saticon and the other aboard Nikos Extra.  A right-handed course.

Ascot

Visits: 17

(17 – Royal Ascot) 21 June 2018; (16) 31 October 2015; (15) 22 December 2012; (14) 18 February 2012; (13) 19 November 2011; (12) 29 October 2011; (11) 10 April 2011; (10) 22 January 2011; (9) 20 February 2010; (8) 21 November 2009: (7) 14 February 2009; (6) 17 January 2009; (5) 20 December 2008; (4) 19 December 2008; (3) 22 November 2008; (2) 21 November 2008; (1) 01 November 2008

Ascot is definitely the grandest course I’ve visited. The new parade ring has been designed as an amphitheatre, so everyone watching the horses pre or post races gets a very good view of proceedings. Choc thinks the course has ‘lost’ something since the new facilities have been built – probably tradition and atmosphere I guess. 

You can see the action across the entire course, although the NH course is on the inside of the flat track so you cannot get very close to the runners, although screens are provided. Unfortunately the first time I visited, it was raw cold weather, windy and wet too.  The grandstand has been built with ‘summer’ flat racing in mind, as when the wind is blowing during the autumn/winter months and the automatic doors to the concourse open to admit the punters it’s as cold on the lowest level inside the building as it is outside!  In fact it’s probably warmer on the leeward side of the building than inside. Latterly, a number of the doors on the Parade Ring side of the grandstand have been locked in order to keep the punters warm!  A right-handed course.

Newbury

Visits: 25 (including course walk with Choc; and an abandonment)

(25) 01 December 2018; (24) 02 December 2017; (23) 25 March 2017; (22) 26 November 2016; (21) 28 November 2015; (20) 27 November 2015; (19) 29 November 2014; (18) 22 March 2014; (17) 30 November 2013; (16) 02 March 2013; (15) 01 December 2012; (14) 29 November 2012; (13) 24 March 2012; (12) 03 March 2012; (11) 26 November 2011; (10) 26 March 2011; (9 – abandonment) 12 February 2011; (8) 27 November 2010; (7 – including course walk) 27 March 2010; (6) 13 February 2010; (5) 28 November 2009; (4) 21 March 2009; (3) 28 February 2009; (2) 29 December 2008; (1) 29 November 2008

I first visited Newbury on Hennessy Gold Cup Day 2008.  The journey to and from Newbury is simple from Hertfordshire, being mainly motorway based – 70 miles each way.  However, it was the biggest nightmare escaping from the racecourse vicinity at the end of the day, it must have taken around an hour, and on a couple of occasions the traffic was at a standstill for around 15 minutes at a time ... so it is even worse than Market Rasen, and that is saying something!  However, the racecourse facilities are fine, with paddock viewing good.  I like to view the action from the rails, and screens are provided too.   Being a very flat course, you can see the horses as they gallop around the circuit, but they are quite some distance away at times. A left-handed course.

BEWARE: One unsettling issue I have with Newbury is the didicoys who patrol the free car parking area on race-days, attempting to sell their ‘lucky charm’ heather to people stupid enough to be taken in by them.  As I usually visit the course alone, I find this threatening.  On one occasion a didicoy actually tried to open my door when I was sitting in the car; fortunately all my doors were locked and I told the woman in no uncertain terms to ‘go away’!   So, if you believe in that sort of thing, she probably put a curse on me!!!

Plumpton

Visits: 1

(1) 21 September 2008

I enjoyed my visit to Plumpton, a left-handed course. My first visit was on Ladies Day, 21 September 2008, the weather was beautiful, warm and sunny with a pleasant breeze. Distant views of the South Downs too. We travelled down from London by train, the station being at the bottom of the home straight, so it is really easy to get to. A screen makes viewing easy. A left-handed course.

Huntingdon

Visits: 10

(10) 31 August 2009; (9) 01 March 2009; (8) 19 February 2009; (7) 11 December 2008; (6) 05 November 2008; (5) 02 November 2008; (4) 29 October 2008; (3) 14 October 2008; (2) 05 October 2008; (1) 25 August 2008

Again, very easy for me to get to. It takes less than an hour to reach, straight up the A1. A right-handed course, with an open-ditch in front of the stands.  The entire course can be viewed easily from the stands, so a screen is not always provided.  A new stand is due to be built in 2009, and the Weighing Room will be relocated there. The downside is that it has always been windy, and often wet when I’ve visited the course!  And the drive to the car park is a nightmare – my car always needs cleaning afterwards!

Towcester

Visits: 4

(3)  28 March 2011; (3) 25 October 2009; (2) 18 January 2009;

(1) 08 October 2008

Towcester is easy to get to, either straight up the M1 or the A5.  The grandstand buildings are unusual, being of art deco style.  However, from the outside, the Weighing Room resembles a public toilet!  Entry is free, which is a bonus. The course is right-handed, but for much of the back straight, the track is not visible from the rails, thus a screen is provided. The gradients involved are not apparent when viewed on TV.  Not one of Choc’s favourite courses, as he’s usually out of luck here!   However, he rode his 1,000th career winner at the course, on Monday 28 March 2011.

Fontwell Park

Visits: 1

(1) 07 September 2008

I enjoyed the trip down to Fontwell Park.  Admittedly the first part of the journey around the M25 is not pretty, but the scenery certainly improves once rural Surrey and then Sussex are reached. The outward route took us down the A24 to Findon, then along the A27. We came back along the A29 via Pulborough. Fontwell Park is left-handed on the hurdles and figure of eight on the steeplechase track.

Market Rasen

(or

Melancholy Rasen)

Visits: 2

(2) 27 September 2008; (1) 03 August 2008

The trip to Market Rasen is a long one for me – around 140 miles each way.  However, it’s easy for me to find, straight up the A1, at Newark take the A46 towards Lincoln, around their bypass, continuing on the A46 heading towards Grimsby. Market Rasen is a quaint market town just off to the east, around 13 miles after Lincoln. The track is right-handed and, because you can see the entire track from the main viewing area, no screen is needed.

Unfortunately it’s a nightmare driving both in and out of Market Rasen on racedays due to traffic lights at a crossroads and a number of pelican crossings.  And, worse still, I get very melancholy when I’m driving back towards Lincoln, and I’ve got no explanation for it!  If I return, my trips to the racecourse will be limited to the April to September period.

Uttoxeter

Visits: 1

(1) 29 June 2008

I didn’t like Uttoxeter very much.  The journey was straightforward but tedious – head north up the M1 and west along the A50, around 120 miles each way.  The weather had been nice in the morning but turned thoroughly miserable by the time the first race started – we had two major downpours and it was misty and drizzly too, despite it being late June. Choc got very mud splattered, and also fell in the Summer National.  A left-handed course. 

 

 

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