The Ultimate Guide to Exeter Racecourse

Exeter Racecourse has the distinction of being the highest racecourse in the country and is situated 850 feet above sea level on Haldon Hill, on the outskirts of Exeter, Devon, overlooking Dartmoor. King Charles II is credited with bringing horse racing to Exeter in the 17th century, but the first official meeting on Haldon Hill was on the Flat in 1769 and the first official National Hunt meeting didn't take place until 1898. The original grandstand was built in 1911 and remained in use until a replacement was opened in 1992. Today, Exeter hosts 15 National Hunt fixtures, including Haldon Gold Cup Day in November, between October and May each year.

Exeter Racecourse offers racegoers a choice of the Haldon Stand, at £20 per person, or the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure, at £15 per person. Admission is free for accompanied children in both enclosures.

For corporate events, Exeter Racecourse offers an established, purpose-built conference and events centre, which is open all year round, including evenings and weekends. The Denman Room in the Haldon Stand can accommodate up to 250 people and is complemented by a range of light, comfortable breakout rooms and suites, all of which overlook the racecourse and the Haldon Forest beyond. Each room can be configured as you desire and an events team is on hand to tailor individual components of each event, including catering, to your personal wishes.

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Getting there

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What's the Exeter course like?

Exeter Racecourse consists of a right-handed, galloping, oval, approximately two miles around, with pronounced undulations.

The four furlong home straight runs uphill all the way to the winning post, making Exeter a testing track, especially on heavy going. There are eleven fences per circuit and a run-in of less than a furlong.

Notable Races and Events

The principal race on the Exeter calendar is the Haldon Gold Cup Chase, a Grade 2 limited handicap steeplechase run over 2 miles 1 furlong in November each year. The Haldon Gold Cup Chase was established in 1982 in an effort to attract better class horses to Exeter. In November 2012, the £35,594 first prize was won by Colin Tizzard's 6-year-old Cue Card, who quickened well clear of his opponents to win by 26 lengths. Cue Card went on to win the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and finished an honourable second to the unbeaten Sprinter Sacre in the John Smith's Melling Chase at Aintree.

Unfortunately, the Haldon Gold Cup Chase also has the distinction of being the race in which Best Mate, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2002, 2003 and 2004, met his end. Having been ruled out of the 2005 Cheltenham Gold Cup after breaking a blood vessel, Best Mate returned to Exeter as a 10-year-old, but was pulled in the Haldon Gold Cup Chase and collapsed and died in the racecourse stables from a suspected heart attack.

On a happier note, Exeter Racecourse is considered a thorough, but fair, examination of young horses and many exceptional performers, including Desert Orchid in 1985, Best Mate himself in 2000 and Denman in 2008, winning their first races over the larger obstacles at the track.

Exeter Racecourse was witness to the largest winning dividend in the history of the Tote Jackpot, £1,445,671.71, which was won by Steve Whiteley, a heating engineer from North Devon. Mr. Whiteley attended the meeting at Exeter on a free promotion and in his Tote Jackpot bet, costing just £2, managed to correctly predict six winners at 2/1, 12/1, 16/1, 16/1, 5/1 and 12/1. His final selection, a 7-year-old mare called Lupita, was on a losing run of twenty-six and was ridden by 7lb claimer Miss Jessica Lodge, who'd never ridden a winner in public before.

Desert Orchid won his first steeplechase here in 1985, with Best Mate doing the same in 2000. More recently Denman, imperious winner of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, also got his career off to a winning start at Exeter.

Top Owners, Jockeys and Trainers

Richard Johnson is, by some way, the leading jockey at Exeter over the last five seasons with 34 winners from 164 rides, although A.P. McCoy with 23 winners from 106 rides and Ruby Walsh with 19 winners from 45 rides both have better strike rates.

Paul Nicholls, for whom Ruby Walsh rides more often than not on this side of the Irish Sea, heads the trainers' table with 40 winners from 134 runners, although Richard Johnson's boss, Philip Hobbs, who trains at Withycombe, Somerset, just over an hour away up the M5, isn't far behind with 37 winners from 211 runners. As with many other National Hunt courses in Britain, J.P. McManus is far and away the leading owner in the last five seasons with 18 winners from 109 runners.

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