Taunton Racecourse is situated on an area of ground previously known as the Orchard Great Field in the village of Orchard Portman, two miles south of Taunton, the county town of Somerset, in South West England. The first meeting on the course in its current location, under National Hunt Rules, took place in 1927. In 1959, the Royal Box was constructed for the visit of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, but, having missed her original engagement through illness, it was not until three years later that she actually attended. A new grandstand was completed in 1969 and the course has been transformed over the years, such that it now boasts modern facilities and hosts 13 National Hunt fixtures throughout the year.
For racegoers, Taunton Racecourse offers the choice of the Grandstand Enclosure, with an admission price of £15, or the Centre Course Enclosure, with an admission price of £10. Taunton offers a reduced admission price of £9 for junior members, aged 16 to 24 years and admission is free for accompanied children.
For corporate events, including conferences, meetings and seminars, Taunton Racecourse offers two separate, completely independent grandstands, known as the Orchard Stand and Paddock Stand. Each offers a range of conference rooms and suites, most of which have blackout facilities to allow the use of audiovisual equipment, capable of accommodating between 12 and 250 people. Free parking for up to 500 vehicles is available, along with licensed bar and catering facilities, if required.
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What's unique about the course at Taunton?
Taunton Racecourse consists of a sharp, right-handed oval, about a mile and a quarter in extent, with minor undulations throughout. There are seven, moderately difficult fences per circuit, of which three are in the home straight.
The bend after the winning post is especially tight and the run-in on the chase course is short. The ground falls away approaching the last fence, which can create problems for steeplechasers at the end of their races.
Notable Races and Events
The most valuable race of the season at Taunton is the Totepool.com Handicap Chase, run over 2 miles 3 furlongs in April. In 2013, the race was won by the much vaunted Hunt Ball – much vaunted by former owner Anthony Knott, that is – who was recording his last victory on British soil before being sold to race in America. Other notable races at Taunton include the Toteexacta.com Handicap Hurdle, run over 3 miles 110 yards on the same card as the Totepool.com Handicap Chase. In 2013, the race was won by David Pipe's 6-year-old Weekend Millionaire, who was racing beyond 2 miles 6 furlongs for the first time in his career.
Rooster Booster, owned by Terry Warner and trained by Philip Hobbs, won his first race, a maiden hurdle, at Taunton in January 2000. He didn't win again until the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2002, but went on to win a further eight races, including the Champion Hurdle in 2003, before his untimely death, as an 11-year-old, in December 2005.
Top Owners, Jockeys and Trainers
Taunton Racecourse is less than an hour away, by road, from Paul Nicholls' Ditcheat yard, so it's no surprise that the former champion jockey is the leading trainer, by far, over the last five seasons with 44 winners from 143 runners.
Nicholls' former stable jockey, Ruby Walsh and Daryl Jacob, who took over as first choice in May 2013, are third and fourth, respectively, in the jockeys' table, but Richard Johnson leads the way with 17 winners from 96 rides. As is the case at many of the National Hunt courses in Britain, John McManus is the leading owner with 7 winners from 40 runners over the last five seasons.
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