Surrey, not only in the past but very much in the modern day, has a very important role to play in British horse racing.
From hosting the second biggest Grade 1 jumps race on Boxing Day to hosting the most important Flat race of all in the summer, Surrey has it all.
We’re looking into Surrey’s current and past racecourses, the county’s biggest races and how the sport has changed in the area over the years.
How Many Courses Are There in Surrey?
As of 2023, there are four active racecourses in Surrey and plenty more which border the county.
Three of Surrey’s tracks are dual-purpose, hosting both Flat and jumps action, while the other is a Flat racing only venue and one of huge importance at that.
Between them, Surrey’s four racecourses stage 4 of Britain’s Group One races on the Flat including two Classics, as well as 8 of the country’s Grade One events over the jumps.
Racecourses in Surrey
Surrey’s four modern racecourses are fairly well grouped. Those living in London, Berkshire, Sussex and Hampshire however will not struggle to reach one of them either.
Epsom Downs, to mention its rightful title, is the home of the Derby and the Oaks. They are the most important of Britain’s five Classics, the Derby in particular still influencing the breeding game more than any other race on the calendar.
Epsom hosts three Group 1’s across Derby weekend on a track which is lightly used during the year. With people allowed on the infield, the Derby can attract up to 100,000 people and remains the most popular Flat race of the year.
Though Kempton ripped up its turf Flat course and laid a Polytrack surface down making it all-weather, it retains its turf course for the jumps which is a very important one.
As well as other major races throughout the winter, Kempton is the key venue for racing on Boxing Day every year as it hosts major Grade 1 action.
Lingfield Park is a very busy all-weather venue on the Flat, the home of the Winter Derby among other things. It remains dual-purpose too, hosting occasional jumps meetings over on the turf course which is also used for a couple of major Classic trials (see below).
Sandown Park is another of Britain’s most important tracks. A Group 1 and Grade 1-hosting venue, Sandown is a major venue across both racing codes. A quirky course, Sandown is a favourite of many top jockeys, owners and trainers.
Surrey’s Major Races
Across all four tracks, Surrey boasts many top races. There are too many to mention in one place, but assuring variety, these are the events to keep an eye out for across the county:
|Tolworth Hurdle||Jumps||Sandown||January||Grade 1 event for novices.|
|Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase||Jumps||Sandown||Jan/Feb||Grade 1 novice chase over 2m4f.|
|Winter Derby||Flat||Lingfield||March||1m2f Group 3 race run on the all-weather.|
|Imperial Cup||Jumps||Sandown||March||2-mile handicap hurdle, a major betting race.|
|bet365 Gold Cup||Jumps||Sandown||April||Major premier handicap chase.|
|Celebration Chase||Jumps||Sandown||April||Grade 1 chase over 2 miles.|
|bet365 Mile||Flat||Sandown||April||Important 1-mile, Group 2 race.|
|Classic Trial||Flat||Sandown||April||1m2f, 3yo-only, an important Derby trial.|
|Blue Riband Trial||Flat||Epsom||April||A Listed race offering entry into the Derby.|
|Oaks Trial||Flat||Lingfield||May||Listed race, good pre-Oaks race for the fillies.|
|Derby Trial||Flat||Lingfield||May||Listed race, genuine Derby trial run on the turf.|
|Coronation Cup||Flat||Epsom||May/June||1m4f Group 1 race for the older horses.|
|The Oaks||Flat||Epsom||May/June||1m4f Group 1 Classic race for the 3yo fillies.|
|The Derby||Flat||Epsom||June||The most important Classic, run over 1m4f for 3yo colts.|
|Epsom Dash||Flat||Epsom||June||Run on Derby day, this is the fastest 5-furlong handicap around.|
|Eclipse Stakes||Flat||Sandown||July||Important summer race, a Group 1 over 1m2f for 3yo+.|
|Solario Stakes||Flat||Sandown||August||Group 3 race for juveniles over 7f, an important 2yo race.|
|September Stakes||Flat||Kempton||September||A 1m4f Group 3 race on the all-weather, often used by top horses.|
|Kauto Star Novices’ Chase||Jumps||Kempton||December||Grade 1 novice chase over 3 miles.|
|Christmas Hurdle||Jumps||Kempton||December||Top Grade 1 two-mile race.|
|King George VI Chase||Jumps||Kempton||December||3-mile, Grade 1 chase, the top race of its type after the Cheltenham Gold Cup, always run on Boxing Day.|
|Tingle Creek Chase||Jumps||Sandown||December||A major 2-mile chase at Grade 1 level.|
How Has Racing Changed Over the Years in Surrey?
Surrey has been lucky enough down the decades to have had lots of good racing venues. Its proximity to major training centres such as Lambourn, as well as being commutable from London has aided this.
What Surrey has produced over time epitomises horses racing in Britain; its variation. In Surrey, racegoers have enjoyed seeing action on a flat, level track at Kempton situated on the Thames gravels, on the chalk land at Epsom, up and down the ridges of Sandown and around Lingfield Park.
In 1987, the latter-named track was the first in Britain to lay an all-weather course which paved the way for other tracks to follow suit.
The Derby was introduced at Epsom way back in 1780 and, along with the Oaks, is going strong today. Via Epsom’s two Classics, Surrey has shown that racing has changed immeasurably, while somehow not changing at all.
Famous Courses in Surrey to Have Closed Down
Surrey’s current tracks have been around for a long time and have stood the test.
One or two recognised locations for horse racing in the county over the years however didn’t quite manage to last.
|Hurst Park Racecourse||1962||Hurst Park raced from 1890. In 2018, the summer was so warm and the grass so scorched that the former paddock of Hurst Park was visible on the field.|
|Croydon Racecourse||1890||Croydon raced from 1871, but the area is now a housing estate.|
|Egham Racecourse||1884||Situated where King John signed the Magna Carta. The former course there was a flat, two-mile affair.|