Which are the highest and lowest racecourses in Britain?

Interestingly, the highest racecourses in Britain are well-publicised, but less so, or so it would appear, are the lowest. The highest racecourse in the country is, unequivocally, Exeter Racecourse, which stands 850 feet above sea level in the Haldon Hills, near the city of Exeter, in Devon, in southwest England. The second highest is Hexham Racecourse, which is situated in High Yarridge, 600 feet above the market town of Hexham, and 800 feet above sea level, in Northumberland, in northeast England. Both Exeter and Hexham exclusively stage National Hunt racing, so the honour of being the highest racecourse in the country to Flat racing goes to Bath Racecourse, which is set on the Lansdown Plateau, 780 feet above sea level, in Somerset, in southwest England.

Worcester Racecourse, in Worcester, the county town of Worcestershire, in the West Midlands of England, lies in the floodplain of the River Severn and appeared a likely candidate for the lowest racecourse in Britain, granted the frequency with which it is flooded. However, according to Ordnance Survey, Worcester Racecourse stands at an elevation of 66 feet above sea level or more than twice that of two racecourses in East Anglia, in eastern England.

Again according to Ordnance Survey, the lowest point, geographically, is Holme Fen in Cambridgeshire, which stands at an elevation of 9 feet below sea level. Huntingdon Racecourse, which is situated just under 15 miles south of Holme Fen, in the low-lying parish of Brampton, has an elevation of just 33 feet above sea level and so, too, does Great Yarmouth Racecourse, situated just over a hundred miles east of Holme Fen on the coast of Norfolk.

What is the difference between a fence and a hurdle?

Fences and hurdles or, more correctly, ‘flights’ of hurdles, are obstacles to be negotiated in different types of National Hunt race and, consequently, differ in their construction, height and rigidity. Fences, which are used for steeplechase races, are the more substantial, higher and less yielding of the two. Steeplechase fences typically consist of a rigid steel or wooden frame, filled with artificial or real birch, cut to size and bound together. With the exception of a water jump, all steeplechase fences must be a minimum of 4’ 6” in height. By contrast, hurdles, which are used, unsurprisingly, in hurdle races, consist of individual, lightweight panels of cut brushwood, each at least 3’6” in height. The panels are driven into the ground, side-by-side, at an angle, to create a ‘flight’ of hurdles at least 30’ wide and at least 3’1” high.

Who was the last amateur rider to win the Grand National?

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, amateur, or ‘gentleman’, riders regularly participated in, and won, the Grand National. However, throughout the twentieth century, as National Hunt racing became more commercialised, amateur participation in the Grand National dwindled. In fact, nowadays, amateur riders in the Grand National are very few and far between.

Amateur Katie Walsh, who retired from race riding in April, 2018, went close to winning the Grand National at her first attempt in 2012, when her mount, Seabass, led from the second-last fence until the Elbow, halfway up the run-in, before fading to finish third. The last amateur rider to win the National, though, was Marcus Armytage who, in 1990, partnered Mr. Frisk to a three-quarters-of-a-length victory over Durham Edition. In the last ever National run on going officially described as ‘firm’ – nowadays, the National Course is routinely watered to prevent going faster than ‘good to soft’ – Mr. Frisk set a course record time of 8 minutes 47.8 seconds. Armytage, nowadays racing correspondent for ‘The Telegraph’, later wrote that his ‘first emotion was relief at not having cocked up’.

What is Timeform?

Timeform, which was founded by the late Phil Bull in 1948, but is now part of the Paddy Power Betfair Group, is a highly-respected sports data provider. Timeform, as a company, is well-known for its various publications, including its ‘Racehorses’ and ‘Chasers & Hurdlers’ annuals, ‘Black Books’ and daily racecards, but is probably most famous for its private handicapping, or performance rating, system, also known as ‘Timeform’.

Timeform ratings, which have been available on the Flat since the late Forties and over Jumps since the early Sixties, express, in Imperial pounds, the calibre of each horse, so that the runners in any given race can easily be compared. In fact, such is the credibility of Timeform ratings that they are considered, by many industry professionals, to be the definitive, if unofficial, measure of thoroughbred performance in Britain and beyond.

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