Notwithstanding the continued uncertainty surrounding Towcester Racecourse, following the appointment of administrators in August, 2018, and the subsequent sale of its assets to Fermor Land LLP, a company connected to Chairman, Lord Hesketh, the last British racecourse to close permanently was Folkestone. Formerly billed as ‘The Racecourse of Kent’, Folkestone Racecourse is situated in the village of Westenhanger, approximately eight miles west of Folkestone town centre, in the south-east of the county.
The racecourse was closed ‘temporarily’ by owners Arena Racing Company (ARC) in December, 2012, because it was ‘not a viable business’. However, the current landowner, Cozumel Estates, is working with Folkestone & Hythe District Council on a proposal to build a new garden town, Otterpool Park, with 10,000 homes, on Folkestone Racecourse, so the closure is almost certainly permanent, in all but name.
Much beloved of certain pre-eminent trainers, including Gordon Elliot and Nigel Twiston-Davies, the northernmost racecourse in Britain is Perth Racecourse, near ‘The Fair City’ of Perth in central Scotland. The National Hunt-only course is situated in Scone Palace Park, adjacent to the ancient Scone Palace itself; its nearest neighbours are Musselburgh Racecourse and Hamilton Park Racecourse, roughly 60 miles to the south and 66 miles to the southwest, respectively.
The first recorded racing in Perth took place in a large green space, known as the ‘South Inch’, south of Perth city centre on the banks of the River Tay and approximately 4 miles south of Scone Palace Park. However, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the honesty of competitors and the drunken behaviour of spectators on the ‘Inches’ were called into question more than once. In 1906, Lord Mansfield offered his land, in front of Scone Palace, for the construction of Perth Racecourse, which opened two years later. The racecourse has remained more or less unchanged ever since and the main grandstand is still the same one that was built for the opening of the racecourse in 1908.
What became known as the ‘Gay Future Affair’ was an ingenious, but ultimately unsuccessful, betting coup that was attempted at Cartmel Racecourse in Cumbria, North West England on Bank Holiday Monday, August 26, 1974. Cartmel was chosen because, at the time, it was not connected to the ‘Blower’ telephone service for bookmakers operated by the Exchange Telegraph Company.
Masterminded by Cork construction magnate Tony Murphy, the attempted coup involved two horses, the ‘real’ Gay Future, who was trained in Tipperary by Edward O’Grady, and another four-year-old chestnut gelding, who was sent to permit-holder Tony Collins in Troon, Scotland, with counterfeit documents identifying him as Gay Future. Collins was instructed to enter Gay Future in the Ulverston Novices’ Hurdle at Cartmel and two days before the race, the bona fide Gay Future was shipped across the Irish Sea and placed in Collins’ charge.
Collins was similarly instructed to enter two other horses, Ankerwyke at Southwell and Opera Cloak at Plumpton, although neither was an intended runner. On the morning of the race, Murphy and his associates placed a series of multiple bets on the three Collins-trained runners which, after the withdrawal of Ankerwyke and Opera Cloak, became single win bets on Gay Future. Gay Future won easily, by 15 lengths, at a generous starting price of 10/1, but bookmakers, for the most part, refused to pay out.
The name of Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori became synonymous with that of Ascot Racecourse when, on September 28, 1996, the Italian jockey completed his so-called ‘Magnificent Seven’ by winning all seven races on the Festival of British Racing card. Dettori, 49, rode his first Royal Ascot winner, Markofdistinction, in the Queen Anne Stakes, in 1990 and 30 years later, in 2020, hit the headlines once again at the Royal Meeting.
Quoted at 20/1 to win the Royal Ascot Leading Jockey Award before the start of the fifth and final day, Dettori completed a 150/1 treble, courtesy of Campanelle in the Queen Mary Stakes, Alpine Star in the Coronation Stakes and Palace Pier in the St. James’s Palace Stakes. In so doing, he took his winning tally to six for the week, edging out Jim Crowley on placings, to win his second consecutive title and his seventh in all. Furthermore, Dettori took his career total at Royal Ascot to 73 winners, making him the joint-second most successful jockey at the prestigious meeting, alongside the late Pat Eddery and behind only the legendary Lester Piggott; Piggott retired from race riding in 1995, long before the Royal Meeting was extended to five days in 2002, but still rode an astonishing 116 winners.