As with the rest of Great Britain, horse racing has been popular in Wales for centuries.
We’re taking a look at the racecourses situated around Wales, how the sport has changed in the country over the decades and we also list the biggest races held in Wales each year.
How Many Courses Are There in Wales?
Currently there are three regularly used racecourses in Wales.
In terms of geography, Wales has Bangor Racecourse in the north, just across the border from Chester Racecourse, as well as Ffos Las and Chepstow in the south.
Ffos Las is Britain’s westernmost racecourse.
Bangor-on-Dee stages jumps racing only, while both Ffos Las and Chepstow are dual-purpose venues hosting both Flat and jumps meetings year-round.
After the introduction of Ffos Las in 2009, Wales is now up to three racecourses. Meetings are shared nicely and mean than racing is available across the country all year round. Wales’s racecourses are:
Bangor-on-Dee, to give it its full name, is a jumps venue near Wrexham in the north of Wales. It is just over the border from England.
Famous for not having a grandstand and for keeping runners on the turn the whole way round the track, Bangor doesn’t host any top-class racing but remains popular with jumps fans.
The best-known of Wales’s three racecourses, Chepstow is the home of the Welsh Grand National and some Graded events.
Well supported, given the accessibility of the track these days using the Severn Bridge Chepstow is frequented by English as well as Welsh racegoers.
The building of Ffos Las really did mean shifting the area from one form of income to another. After operations closed down at an open cast coal mine, the racecourse was built on that land and was completed in 2009.
Now, Ffos Las is a popular conferencing, sports, equestrian and horse racing venue which hosts Flat and National Hunt meetings throughout the year.
Wales’s Major Races
The three current Welsh racetracks are popular with racegoers and TV viewers. While there are no Group 1 races on the Flat or Grade 1 races over the jumps, some very competitive races are staged in Wales.
The most important events run each year are:
|Persian War Novices’ Hurdle||Jumps||Chepstow||October||A near-2½-mile novices’ hurdle race, run at Grade 2 level.|
|Welsh Champion Hurdle||Jumps||Ffos Las||October||Two-mile limited handicap hurdle, run at Class 2 level and worth close to £50,000.|
|Welsh Grand National||Jumps||Chepstow||December||Wales’s premier race, a 3m6½f premier handicap chase worth close to £150,000.|
|Finale Juvenile Hurdle||Jumps||Chepstow||December||A Grade 2 hurdle, run on Welsh National Day. Formerly a Grade One race.|
How Has Racing Changed Over the Years in Wales?
Up at Bangor, racing has been taking place since February of 1859. Other than during wartime, it has continued there ever since.
A number of locations in South Wales were used for racing during the late 19th century, including at St Arvans which is close to the present Chepstow Racecourse.
After WWII, both Caerleon at Newport and Cardiff Racecourses closed with now-established races having to be moved around, including the Welsh Grand National which moved to Chepstow in 1949 where it has remained since.
Racing went from strength to strength in Wales over the decades, the Welsh National being by far the most important race. Run each year on December 27th, the Welsh National became one of the most important betting races of the year for punters around the UK.
In the 80’s and 90’s, the race was won by such staying stars as Corbiere, Burrough Hill Lad, Cool Ground, Master Oats and Earth Summit. Inextricably linked with Grand National success at Aintree, the Welsh National has been won in more recent times by Bindaree and Native River among others.
A new racecourse was planned for Wales in the early 2000’s. At a cost of £20 million, Ffos Las was opened in 2009 and became the first new jumps venue in Britain for 80 years.
Nowadays, Ffos Las and Chepstow tick along very nicely while Chester in England and Bangor in Wales share an ownership and a Clerk of the Course.
Famous Courses in Wales to Have Closed Down
As with the rest of Great Britain, Wales has had many sites used for horse racing down the years.
Even in more professionally set up eras, organised racecourses have come and gone in Wales.
These are some of the better-known defunct racecourses in Wales:
|Anglesey Racecourse||1903||Racing was staged here from 1757, first at Llangefni and then Beaumaris before closure.|
|Tenby Racecourse||1936||A number of meetings were held at Tenby for many years before closure between the Wars.|
|Cardiff Racecourse||1939||Open from 1855, Cardiff or ‘Ely’ hosted the Welsh Grand National before it moved to Chepstow.|
|Newport Racecourse||1948||Newport was also known as Caerleon Racecourse. It staged jumps racing from 1845 until its closure after the War.|