The Ultimate Guide to Chester Racecourse

Chester Racecourse, otherwise known as the Roodee or Roodeye, is situated on a strip of land covering approximately 90 acres on the banks of the River Dee outside Chester.

The history of racing at Chester can be traced back to 1539, during the reign of Henry VIII, making it the oldest racecourse in the country. The May Festival, which still takes place today, was introduced in 1766 and the Tradesmens' Cup, which became the Chester Cup in 1893, was introduced in 1824.

Chester Racecourse offers a range of enclosures for racegoers and admission prices range from £48 for the County Long Room, when available, through £35 for the County Concourse, which offers ground floor access only, to £28 for the Tattersalls & Paddock enclosure. Other, more affordable options are available in the Dee Stand at £12 and on the Open Course at £8.

For corporate functions, such as conferences, exhibitions, meeting and team-building exercises, Chester Racecourse offers no fewer than 35 separate facilities, capable of accommodating up to 700 people, plus 100 acres of outdoor space and free, hard standing car parking for up to 600 vehicles. All the indoor facilities offer natural daylight and are equipped with audio/visual resources and free wired or wireless Internet access. Comprehensive event planning and management is provided by an in-house team and a range of dining options is available.
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Getting there

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What makes the Chester course so unique?

The track at Chester is a tight, circular course, just a little over a mile in circumference and, with the exception of the more staying races such as the Chester Cup, tends to favour handy, nimble horses rather than cloggers.

One of the main attractions of racing at Chester is the proximity of the course to spectators, which allows it to become a theatre where everyone can see all of the action.

Triple Crown winner Ormonde

Notable Races

The four most significant races that take place at Chester each year, the Chester Cup, the Chester Vase, the Dee Stakes and the Ormonde Stakes, are all run during the May Festival. The Chester Cup, run over 2 miles 2 furlongs and 147 yards, provides an early season test of stamina for horses that often go on to contest the major Cup races, such as the Goodwood Cup and the Ascot Gold Cup. Perhaps one of the most famous winners was Sea Pigeon who, in addition to back-to-back Chester Cups in 1977 and 1978, went on to win the Ebor Handicap at York, under 10 stone, in 1979 and back-to-back Champion Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival in 1980 and 1981.

The Chester Vase, run over 1 mile 4 furlongs 66 yards, is open to 3-year-old colts and geldings only and considered a bona fide trial for the Derby and the St. Leger. Shergar, owned by the Aga Khan and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, won the Chester Vase by 12 lengths in 1981 en route to a breathtaking 10-length win in the Derby. Shergar was, in fact, the last horse to win the Chester Vase and the Derby.

The Dee Stakes, run over 1 mile 2 furlongs 75 yards and, once again, confined to 3-year-old colts and geldings, is another significant Derby trial. In fact, winners of the Dee Stakes have a better record in the Derby than winners of the Chester Vase in recent years; Blue Stag, winner in 1990, went on to finish second to Quest For Fame at Epsom, while Oath (1999) and Kris Kin (2003) won both races.

The Ormonde Stakes, run over 1 mile 5 furlongs 89 yards, is named after Ormonde, who was unbeaten in 16 races and won the Triple Crown – 2,000 Guineas, Derby, St. Leger – in 1886. Nowadays, the race is confined to 4-year-olds and upwards and is considered a trial for the Coronation Cup, run at Epsom on Derby Day. St. Nicholas Abbey won both races in 2011 and other notable winners include 1969 Derby winner Blakeney, 1983 Derby winner Teenoso and 2010 King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Harbinger.

Franny Norton, on Negotiation (credit: biltho)

Top Owners, Jockeys and Trainers

Liverpool-based owner Dr. Marwan Koukash makes no secret of his love for Chester Racecourse, which is reflected by the fact that he's had nearly four times more runners than any other owner on the Roodee during the last five seasons. Understandably, Dr. Koukash is, by far, the most successful owner during that period with 31 winners from 278 runners.

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum is in second place with 12 winners from 75 runners. In the training ranks, North Yorkshire handlers Mark Johnston and Richard Fahey, have trained 26 winners from 170 runners and 23 winners from 201 runners, respectively, during the last five seasons and are some way ahead of Monmouthshire handler David Evans, with 13 winners from 163 runners in the same period.

Unsurprisingly, Liverpool-based Franny Norton is far and away the most successful jockey, with 29 winners from 193 rides.

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