The Ultimate Guide to Sandown Park Racecourse

Sandown Park Racecourse, located in Esher, Surrey, has the distinction of being the first purpose-built racecourse in the country and the first one to be completely enclosed. The inaugural meeting at Sandown took place in 1875 but, over the years, the racecourse has developed into one of the premier horse racing venues in the country and typically hosts 30 Flat and National Hunt fixtures each year.Notable races run at Sandown include the Tingle Creek Chase, run in December, the Gold Cup, run in April and the Eclipse Stakes, run in July, all of which have thrown up memorable results over the years.


For race goers, Sandown Park offers two enclosures, known as Grandstand and Premier and admission prices vary from £18 for the Grandstand on race days other than the bet365 Gold Cup, Coral Eclipse, Tingle Creek and Variety Club Day to £43 for the Premier enclosure on days when racing is followed by a live music concert. Accompanied children under the age of 18 are admitted free on all race days, except music nights, when the admission price is £20.When it's not operating as a racecourse per se, Sandown Park offers a variety of exhibition halls, conference rooms, meeting rooms and suites, which are suitable for any kind of corporate event. The racecourse complex is easily accessible by road, via the M25 motorway and the A3 and by rail, via Esher railway station, which is less than half an hour away from London Waterloo.[column width=”40%” padding=”5%”]

Getting there

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What makes the Sandown course so unique?

The Sandown course is a right-handed oval, a mile and five furlongs around, with a four furlong straight. From the mile and a quarter start until the last hundred yards the course runs uphill, so it is predominantly galloping and testing in nature. There is a separate straight course, which rises steadily throughout, on which all five-furlong races are contested.Sandown presents a tricky test for steeplechasers, with eleven fences per circuit, including a line of three, known as the Railway fences, which come in quick succession at the end of the back straight. Runners must then negotiate the Pond fence, just before the home turn and two more fences on the uphill climb for home. It is not unusual for the complexion of steeplechases at Sandown to change, significantly, on the 220-yard run-in. [/column][end_columns]

Gold Cup

Statue of Special Cargo at Sandown

The Gold Cup, nowadays sponsored by Bet365, but sponsored by Whitbread for 44 years and still referred to by some race goers as the Whitbread Gold Cup, was first run in 1987.Perhaps the most memorable finish ever to the Gold Cup came in 1984, when Special Cargo, owned by the late Queen Mother and trained by the most successful trainer in the history of the race, the late Fulke Walwyn, powered up the Sandown hill to snatch victory from Lettoch by a short head, with stable companion Diamond Edge a further short head back in third. In all, Fulke Walwyn trained no fewer than seven Gold Cup winners, starting with Taxidermist in 1958 and ending with Special Cargo in 1984.

Eclipse Stakes

The Group 1 Eclipse Stakes has been sponsored by Coral since 1976 and is, nowadays, popularly known as the Coral Eclipse. Run over the intermediate distance of a mile and a quarter, the Eclipse Stakes has the distinction of being the first opportunity for the current Classic generation to take on the older horses. The last Classic winner to win the Eclipse was John Oxx's Sea The Stars, who won the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby in 2009 and went on to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the same year.

Tingle Creek Chase

The third and final, iconic race of the year at Sandown Park, the Tingle Creek Chase, takes place in early December each year. The race is named after the popular steeplechaser, Tingle Creek, who was trained in Newmarket by Harry Thomson Jones in the 1960s. The roll of honour for the race reads like a who's who of two-mile chasing talent over the years, with multiple winners including Flagship Uberalles, Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star and Master Minded. The 2012 winner Sprinter Sacre is currently the highest rated chaser in training and seems likely to start the shortest-priced favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival since the legendary Flyingbolt (1/5) in 1966 Since 1965, the longest-priced winner of the Lincoln Handicap was Bronze Hill in 1973, who started at 50/1. The shortest-priced winner was Penitent in 2010, who started at 3/1.

Top Owners, Jockeys and Trainers

AP McCoy, in JP McManus' colours (credit: danheap77)

On the Flat, Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation is the leading owner at Sandown Park over the last five seasons with 18 winners from 113 runners, although Sheikh Mohammed's son, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, is not far behind with 14 winners from the same number of runners.Richard Hughes is the leading jockey in the same period, with 38 winners from 199 rides, although he's just one ahead of Ryan Moore, who's ridden 37 winners from 190 rides. Richard Hughes' father-in-law Richard Hannon Snr. is, by far, the most successful trainer, with 41 winners from 287 runners.Over the Jumps, J.P. McManus is the leading owner with 11 winners from 51 runners. McManus' retained jockey, Tony McCoy, is the leading jockey with 27 winners from 93 rides and Seven Barrows trainer Nicky Henderson, who trains several McManus-owned horses, is the leading trainer with 35 winners from 149 runners.

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