As you could imagine, there is no room for racecourses to be situated in the middle of London. In the general area of London and the M25 however, a number of top tracks are commutable.
We’re looking into the closest racecourses to the London area, how many there are, how racing has changed in this region, the biggest races and more.
How Many Courses Are There Near London?
This depends on how far you’re willing to travel and what area you class as London.
There are none within the City of London, for example, but inside the M25 there are 3, and within a 45-mile radius there are 4 more, giving a total of 7 racecourses.
They range geographically from Ascot to the west, Chelmsford to the north-east and Linfield to the south, with Epsom, Sandown Park and Kempton Park being the closest to the centre of the capital.
Racecourses Near London
Berkshire and Surrey in particular offer Londoners the chance to visit racecourses nearby. The closest current racecourses to London are:
Home of Royal Ascot and some top jumps racing, Ascot Racecourse is just 30 miles to the west of London in Berkshire. Racing is hosted all year round, with the big summer meeting coming in the second half of June.
North-east of London in Essex is Chelmsford City Racecourse, formerly known as Great Leighs. A Flat-only venue, Chelmsford hosts racing on its all-weather surface all year round.
Epsom Downs is in Surrey, just 20 miles down the road. This is home to the Derby as well as the Oaks and the Coronation Cup. All three Group 1 races are run across the first weekend in June.
Less than 20 miles away in Surrey is Kempton Park. On the Flat, some fine races are held on the all-weather, while over the jumps Kempton hosts one of the biggest jumps races of the year on Boxing Day.
Another Surrey track is Lingfield Park. Though it hosts Derby and Oaks trials on the grass, it is famous for being a longstanding all-weather track. There are also jumps racing fixtures here in the winter months.
Just 15 miles or so away in Esher, Surrey, is the famous Sandown Park. Top-class races are held here across both codes including the Eclipse on the Flat and the Tingle Creek over the jumps.
Only 25 miles west in Berkshire is Royal Windsor. Famed for its Monday night meetings in the summer, the fixtures here on the Flat are very regular in the warmer months.
Major Races Near London
Between the closest tracks to London in Surrey, Berkshire and Essex, there are some top-class jumps and Flat events run year-round. The best of them are:
|Tolworth Hurdle||Jumps||Sandown||January||Grade 1 hurdle race for novices.|
|Clarence House Chase||Jumps||Ascot||January||Grade 1 chase over 2m1f.|
|Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase||Jumps||Sandown||Jan/Feb||Grade 1 novice race over 2m4f.|
|Ascot Chase||Jumps||Ascot||February||Grade 1 chase over 2m5f.|
|bet365 Gold Cup||Jumps||Sandown||April||Valuable premier handicap chase.|
|Celebration Chase||Jumps||Sandown||April||Grade 1 chase over 2 miles.|
|Coronation Cup||Flat||Epsom||May/June||Group 1 over 1m4f for older horses.|
|The Oaks||Flat||Epsom||May/June||Group 1, 1m4f for 3yo fillies.|
|The Derby||Flat||Epsom||June||Group 1, 1m4f for 3yo’s, the biggest Classic of all.|
|Queen Anne Stakes||Flat||Ascot||June*||Group 1 race over a mile for older horses.|
|King’s Stand Stakes||Flat||Ascot||June*||Group 1 sprint race over 5 furlongs.|
|St James’s Palace Stakes||Flat||Ascot||June*||3yo-only Group 1 over a mile.|
|Prince of Wales’s Stakes||Flat||Ascot||June*||Important Group 1 race over 1m2f.|
|Royal Hunt Cup||Flat||Ascot||June*||Prestige handicap over one mile.|
|Ascot Gold Cup||Flat||Ascot||June*||Group 1 race over 2½ miles.|
|Commonwealth Cup||Flat||Ascot||June*||6f sprint for 3yo’s only, Group 1.|
|Coronation Stakes||Flat||Ascot||June*||3yo fillies only, Group 1 over 1m.|
|Diamond Jubilee Stakes||Flat||Ascot||June*||Group 1 6f sprint for older horses.|
|Wokingham Stakes||Flat||Ascot||June*||Major 6f handicap.|
|Eclipse Stakes||Flat||Sandown||July||1m2f Group 1 race of major importance.|
|King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes||Flat||Ascot||July||The summer showpiece, a 1m4f Group 1 race.|
|British Champions Sprint Stakes||Flat||Ascot||October||6f Group 1 race run on Champions Day.|
|British Champions Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes||Flat||Ascot||October||1m4f Group 1 run on Champions Day.|
|Queen Elizabeth II Stakes||Flat||Ascot||October||1m Group 1 race on Champions Day.|
|Champion Stakes||Flat||Ascot||October||1m2f Group 1, run on Champions Day.|
|Long Walk Hurdle||Jumps||Ascot||December||3m1f hurdle race, Grade 1.|
|Kauto Star Novices’ Chase||Jumps||Kempton||December||Grade 1 novice race over 3 miles.|
|Christmas Hurdle||Jumps||Kempton||December||2m race at Grade 1 level.|
|King George VI Chase||Jumps||Kempton||December||3-mile, Grade 1 chase on Boxing Day.|
|Tingle Creek Chase||Jumps||Sandown||December||A top 2-mile chase at Grade 1 level.|
*Races run during Royal Ascot.
How Has Racing Changed Over the Years Around London?
Horse racing as we know it was really created from Newmarket outwards. Down towards London, it became more popular in nearby Berkshire. There, Queen Anne was riding out from Windsor in 1711 when she discovered land she thought perfect for racing, now known as Ascot Racecourse.
Much later when racing became more organised, London had several tracks open to the public. Dove House Races at Harrow-on-the-Hill opened in 1836, just ahead of the Hippodrome Racecourse in Bayswater in 1837.
They were joined by Hampton Racecourse, Alexandra Park in 1867 and the very popular Hurst Park on the banks of the Thames in 1890. There was also racing during this time at Northolt Park.
One by one, all of these tracks shut down. As London grew as a metropolis, racing wasn’t sustainable within what is now the M25, though there are plenty of tracks nearby in Essex, Kent, Surrey and Berkshire.
Famous Courses Near London to Have Closed Down
London and the immediate surrounding areas were better off for racecourses in times gone by.
Many have closed however, including these:
|Alexandra Park Racecourse||1970||The Ally Pally track raced from 1868 and hosted the London Cup.|
|Hurst Park Racecourse||1962||Hurst Park opened in 1890 but sadly closed in 1962. In 2018, the hot summer meant the scorched grass showed the area where the old Hurst Park parade ring was.|
|Northolt Park Racecourse||1940||It’s uncertain when racing started at Northolt, though it ceased in 1940 after the War started.|
|Dove House Races||1836||The track at Harrow-on-the-Hill hosted racing in the middle of August.|
|Hampton Racecourse||Unknown||Three-day meetings were held in June.|