Sussex is another of England’s horse racing heartlands.
Across West and East Sussex, a number of racecourses and training centres exist supplying the industry with some of the best thoroughbreds, racecourses and events found anywhere in the country.
Check out the history of racing across Sussex, the current racecourses, those to have closed and the top races staged in the area every year.
How Many Courses Are There in Sussex?
Currently, there are four racecourses hosting racing under rules across Sussex.
Fontwell and Goodwood are in West Sussex, while Plumpton and Brighton are in East Sussex.
There is an even split in terms of the type of racing offered here.
Plumpton and Fontwell offer jumps racing only, while Brighton and Goodwood are exclusively Flat racing venues.
Also situated in Sussex is the popular Parham point-to-point.
Racecourses in Sussex and Nearby
Less than 40 miles separates Goodwood and Fontwell in West Sussex and Brighton and Plumpton in East Sussex. If you live in the area, it won’t be hard to reach a racecourse hosting Flat or jumps racing.
Right down on the coast and often having to race in the gloom of the sea fret, Brighton is an unusual course hosting yearly Flat racing meetings. The Brighton Festival is a three-day meeting in August which still attracts large crowds to the course.
Fontwell Park is a jumps racing venue hosting meetings throughout the winter. A number of top horses do visit the track en route to larger meetings such as those at Cheltenham and Aintree.
The crown jewel of horse racing in Sussex is Goodwood. This racecourse, uniquely shaped and world famous, is home to the ‘Glorious’ festival which features the track’s three Group 1 races (see below).
Goodwood Racecourse is very often labelled, quite rightly, as the most beautiful and picturesque racecourse in the country, indeed to some people, in the world.
A second jumps venue in Sussex, Plumpton is popular with local trainers and has been used by some top racehorses over time. Indeed, Voy Por Ustedes won a handicap chase at this track en route to landing the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.
Not in Sussex but just over the border in Surrey is Lingfield Park. Easy to get to for Sussex residents, Lingfield is only 30 miles from Brighton and less than 50 from Goodwood. Lingfield is a busy, dual-purpose venue hosting year-round Flat and jumps meetings.
Major Races in Sussex
Across both codes, Sussex has its share of fine annual race events.
The majority of the real quality is staged by Goodwood of course, especially during its major meeting in the summer. The best of the yearly races in Sussex are:
|Sussex National||Jumps||Plumpton||January||3½-mile handicap chase.|
|National Spirit Hurdle||Jumps||Fontwell||February||Grade 2 hurdle run over 2½ miles each year.|
|Height of Fashion Stakes||Flat||Goodwood||May||1m2f Listed race for 3yo fillies, a good trial for the Oaks.|
|Lennox Stakes||Flat||Goodwood||Jul/Aug*||7f Group 2 race.|
|Vintage Stakes||Flat||Goodwood||Jul/Aug*||7f Group 2 race for juveniles, a very important race for the 2yo’s.|
|Sussex Stakes||Flat||Goodwood||Jul/Aug*||1m Group 1 race, the first big mile race bringing together the 3yo’s and older horses, a championship race.|
|Lillie Langtry Stakes||Flat||Goodwood||Jul/Aug*||1m6f Group 2 race for fillies and mares.|
|Goodwood Cup||Flat||Goodwood||Jul/Aug*||A major 2-mile Group 1 race, won by the best stayers in Europe.|
|King George Stakes||Flat||Goodwood||Jul/Aug*||Group 2, 5-furlong sprint which many think should have G1 status.|
|Stewards’ Cup||Flat||Goodwood||Jul/Aug*||A major betting race. 6f sprint, much like the Wokingham and the Ayr Gold Cup.|
|Nassau Stakes||Flat||Goodwood||Jul/Aug*||Goodwood’s third Group 1, a 1m2f race for the top fillies & mares.|
|Celebration Mile||Flat||Goodwood||August||Group 2 mile race, often contested by Group 1 horses.|
|Prestige Stakes||Flat||Goodwood||August||7-furlong, Group 3 for 2yo fillies.|
|Foundation Stakes||Flat||Goodwood||September||1m2f Listed race.|
|Southern National||Jumps||Fontwell||November||3-mile, 3½-furlong handicap chase.|
*Run during the ‘Glorious Goodwood’ festival which takes place over five days at the end of July/beginning of August.
There are also other Listed and Group races run at Goodwood every year on an important calendar for British Flat racing. Many of the races mirror those run at Royal Ascot and are a natural next step for horses having raced there at the end of June.
How Has Racing Changed Over the Years in Sussex?
Racing has been taking place across Sussex for centuries.
At Brighton, the Duke of Cumberland put on the first race meeting for the public at the current site back in 1783, though racing was taking place in the area from at least 1713.
Racing began at Goodwood in 1801. From 1808, the first Goodwood Cup was run at a meeting dubbed by the press as ‘Glorious Goodwood’, a tag that has stood the test of time. The nature of the meeting once led to King Edward VII calling it “a garden party with racing tacked on”.
Plumpton Racecourse began staging racing in 1876 and opened officially in 1884. Fontwell followed in 1924 and was the venue for the Queen’s first winner as an owner in 1949.
Back at Brighton, racing became very popular. Large crowds were drawn after the War with both St Leger and Derby trials being held there during the 60’s. Goodwood was also busy gaining in popularity.
After this period, Brighton’s fortunes began to fade. Today, Brighton still hosts a number of meetings but its prize money is notoriously poor. Fontwell and Plumpton stage annual jumps racing fixtures, while Goodwood goes from strength to strength hosting the Glorious meeting and various other top-class events.
Famous Courses in Sussex to Have Closed Down
Over the course of the decades, indeed centuries, many organised race venues in Sussex have come and gone.
In terms of the recorded, proper racecourses we’ve known about, these are the ones to have closed in relatively recent times:
|Lewes Racecourse||1964||Racing took place at Lewes from at least 1727. Racing was staged in mid-August on the chalk downs. The site is now used for training.|
|Gatwick Racecourse||1940||There was racing at Gatwick from 1891, though the land used for it is now part of Gatwick Airport.|
|Hastings and St Leonards Racecourse||Unknown||Racing from 1827, Hastings hosted a two-day meeting in September.|
|Eridge Racecourse||1911||A regular fox hunt transitioned into racing here around 1886.|