Are all racecourses essentially the same?

Are all racecourses essentially the same? At a superficial level, it can be argued that all pay-at-the-gate enclosed racecourses are fundamentally the same. They all consist of a long, wide track, surrounded by rails, which define the racing surface, with various starting points and a winning post, which marks the finishing point of each race.

However, Britain is blessed with 60 racecourses catering for horse racing on the flat, over jumps, or both and, while some of them are similar in certain respects, they all have their own unique characteristics. Most flat races, and all jump races, are run on turf, but six British racecourses – Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton – cater for flat racing on synthetic, or ‘all-weather’ surfaces, known as Fibresand, Polytrack and Tapeta.

Even on turf courses, the overall shape and topology of the racing surface, the direction in which the horses run – that is, left-handed, or clockwise, or right-handed, or anti-clockwise – the length of the home straight and other characteristics often determine the type of horse that is most effective on the course. Some racecourses are completely flat, while others have pronounced undulations, uphill and downhill, and/or adverse cambers to throw horses off balance. Similarly, some racecourses have broad, sweeping turns, while others have tighter bends, or are constantly on the turn, favouring the agile, nimble type of horse. Of course, in jump racing, especially steeplechasing, the ‘stiffness’ of the fences – governed by the density of the birch cuttings from which they are made – is something else to consider.

How many racecourses are there in Scotland?

How many racecourses are there in Scotland? Scotland is home to a total of five racecourses, one of which caters exclusively for Flat racing, two of which cater exclusively for National Hunt racing and two of which are dual-purpose.

Starting with the furthest north – indeed, the northernmost in Britain – Perth Racecourse is a National Hunt-only venue situated in Scone Palace Park, less than 4 miles north of the city of Perth in central Scotland and less than 50 miles north of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Founded in 1908, Perth stages 14 National Hunt fixtures annually and the seasonal highlight is the City of Perth Gold Cup, a handicap chase run over 3 miles in June.

Moving further south, 60 miles or so, into East Lothian in the Central Lowlands of Scotland, Musselburgh Racecourse – formerly Edinburgh Racecourse – is a dual-purpose venue situated approximately 7 miles east of the Scottish capital on the Firth of Forth. The first record meeting at Musselburgh was staged in 1816 and, nowadays, the most valuable race of the year is the Queen’s Cup, staged over 1 mile 6 furlongs, in April.

Heading west, approximately 50 miles, into South Lanarkshire, Hamilton Park Racecourse is a Flat-only venue situated on the northern outskirts of the town of Hamilton, less than15 miles from central Glasgow. Racing was first staged in Hamilton in 1782 and, nowadays, notable races include the Scottish Stewards’ Cup in July and the historic Lanark Silver Bell Handicap, reinstated in 2008, in August.

Moving southeast, 75 miles or so, into the Scottish Borders, Kelso Racecourse is another National Hunt-only venue in Roxburghshire, less than 45 miles southeast of Edinburgh. Founded, in its current location, in 1822, Kelso is billed as ‘Britain’s Friendliest Racecourse’ and its principal race of the season is the Premier Kelso Hurdle, a Grade Two event, run over 2 miles and 2 furlongs in February or March.

Heading west again, just over 100 miles, in to Ayrshire, Ayr Racecourse is a dual-purpose venue and, in fact, the only Grade One track in Scotland. Ayr opened, in its current location, in 1907 and is, nowadays, best known for the Ayr Gold Cup in September and the Scottish Grand National – transferred to Ayr following the closure of Bogside Racecourse in 1965 – in April.

Can jockeys still remount?

Can jockeys still remount? Historically, jockeys could, and frequently did, remount horses that fell, unseated rider or refused during races, in order to complete the course and collect prize money. Sir Anthony McCoy, for example, famously remounted odds-on favourite, Family Business, to finish alone and win a race at Southwell in January, 2003, in which all seven starters failed to complete the course unscathed.

However, since November, 2009, when the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) introduced new safety rules, jockeys are not allowed to remount horses after the start of a race. Jockeys may remount, with the permission of the racecourse doctor or veterinary surgery, if they are unseated during the preliminaries but, once the race is underway, may only remount, with permission, for the purpose of riding back to the unsaddling enclosure.

Of course, the rule change introduced the possibility of races being declared void in the event of no finishers. Indeed, that eventually famously happened for the first time in a novices’ chase at Towcester in March, 2011; two of four the runners fell at one fence early on in the race and, at the same fence on the second circuit, the favourite refused and unseated his rider, hampering the only remaining runner so badly that he, too, unseated his rider.

Which is the oldest of the five English Classics?

Which is the oldest of the five English Classics? The five English Classics are, of course, the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, the 1,000 Guineas Stakes, the Oaks Stakes, the Derby Stakes and the St. Leger Stakes. At least, that is the order in which the Classics are run in the modern racing calendar, but they all came into existence at slightly different times.

Indeed, the St. Leger Stakes, which is run over 1 mile 6 furlongs at Doncaster in September, may be the final Classic of the season, but was, in fact, the first to be inaugurated. The brainchild of Major General Anthony St. Leger, a local army officer and politician, the St. Leger Stakes was first run, as ‘a sweepstake of 25 guineas’, on Cantley Common in 1776, before moving to Town Moor two years later.

Next, chronologically, came the Oaks Stakes, devised by Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby and friends, and first run on Epsom Downs in 1779. The Derby Stakes, co-founded by Smith-Stanley and his friend, Sir Charles Bunbury – who, according to legend, tossed a coin to decide after which of them the race was named – followed a year later. Decades later, in his capacity as Jockey Club Steward, Sir Charles Bunbury was also responsible for establishing the 2,000 Guineas, first run at Newmarket in 1809, and the 1,000 Guineas, five years later.

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