One of Britain’s most unique venues, Cartmel is a popular National Hunt racecourse situated in the village of Cartmel.
Previously, Cartmel was in Lancashire but nowadays sits within the bounds of Cumbria and it’s the location of the track that is part of its major charm.
Cartmel is famous for holiday time racing. Bank Holiday jumps races are held here, with the three-day May meeting actually being spread over five days to allow punters to head off and enjoy the beauty of the Lake District in between race days, the track being successfully recovered in the meantime.
- Address – The Racecourse, Grange-over-Sands, LA11 6QF.
- Owner – The Holker Estate.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
Cartmel hosts only jumps racing and does so within a relatively tight space, so there is no great expanse to the track here.
Ostensibly, Cartmel is a tight left-handed track but it’s not simply on oval. As well as a typical left-handed round course, Cartmel also has a diagonal chute going right through the middle of the track and in fact this is where the winning line is, allowing people on both sides in the centre of the course to view the action.
There are six fences on each circuit here, which are reasonably fair meaning jumping is not actually the main factor so much as speed between the obstacles, and stamina for the finish.
There are two fences on the side of the racecourse and four along the back, with no others to take. This leads to a run-in from the final fence of half a mile, making it the longest run-in in Britain.
With that, many leaders go for home a little too early and become tired meaning the lead can change hands once, twice or more from the final fence to the line.
Cartmel Track Analysis
There is plenty going on around the runners while racing is taking place, with up to 10,000 people picnicking and grilling which can catch out some horses and jockeys!
Cartmel is noted by jockeys as being tight and strong travellers tend to do best. The runners tend to go off a little quick on this track and in the unique atmosphere meaning if your horse is under pressure before the last fence, it is highly unlikely to see out the finish.
Riders report both the hurdles and the fences to be fair, so as long as you have that strong traveller who can keep something for the last four furlongs, you’ll be doing OK.
Visiting Cartmel Racecourse
Racing takes place during the warmer months at Cartmel, usually on Bank Holiday weekends so if you can make it to the Lake District during that time, you’re in for a real treat.
Imagine the morning coats and top hats of Royal Ascot and the feathered fedoras and tweed-wrapped yellers at Cheltenham – then forget the lot! Cartmel has very much its own identity and is known as a true holiday track attracting up to 10,000 to a beautiful part of the country each time.
How to Get to Cartmel
Cartmel may be particularly rural, but it is within easy reach of several Cumbrian and Lancastrian towns and cities. The track is around 15 miles from the M6, making it always accessible.
From Carlisle to the north, take the M6 south and come off at junction 36. From Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, get to the M6 and head north towards Lancaster, taking the same junction 36.
Trains are available but do require changes, usually via Lancaster.
Where to Stay
You can stay in any number of major towns and cities before travelling to Cartmel via the M6. If you prefer something a little more scenic, then naturally there are hundreds of available hotels, bed & breakfast venues and rental properties all over Cumbria, serving the Lake District.
It must be pointed out that the Lake District and its accompanying Michelin Star restaurants and the like can command quite a fee – this will be at its highest during racing at Cartmel which comes at holiday time.
Major Events at Cartmel
No major graded races and top-class handicaps are held at Cartmel, as it’s about the atmosphere and competitiveness more than the quality of the horses here.
That said, the popularity of the course means they aren’t short of prize money and that attracts some good fields, excellent trainers and well-known jockeys.
These are the best races taking place at the track each year:
|Handicap Hurdle||Handicap Hurdle, 4yo+, Class 2||3m1½f||Season Opener||May|
|Handicap Chase||Handicap Chase, 5yo+, Class 3||2m5f||Monday Racing||May|
|Handicap Chase||Handicap Chase, 5yo+, Class 4||2m1½f||Wonderful Wednesday||May/June|
|Handicap Hurdle||Handicap Hurdle, 4yo+, Class 2||2m1f||Family Funday Sunday||June|
|Handicap Chase||Handicap Chase, 5yo+, Class 2||2m5f||Family Funday Sunday||June|
|Cumbria Crystal Cup||Handicap Hurdle, Class 3||2m6f||Jumping July Saturday||July|
|Handicap Chase||Handicap Chase, 4yo+, Class 3||2m1½f||Jumping July Monday||July|
|Cartmel Cup||Handicap Hurdle, Class 3||2m1f||Cartmel Cup Day||August|
|Handicap Hurdle||Handicap Hurdle, 4yo+, Class 2||3m1½f||Season Finale||August|
|Peter Beaumont Memorial Chase||Handicap Chase, Class 2||2m1½f||Season Finale||August|
|Cavendish Cup||Handicap Chase, Class 2||3m1½f||Season Finale||August|
About Cartmel Racecourse
Even just according to what can be proved via records, racing at Cartmel goes all the way back to 1856. That’s racing as we know it of course, but in fact a form of this sport can be traced back to the area as far into history as the mid-fifteenth century.
In the early years of organised racing at Cartmel, mostly flat racing took place though at the beginning of the 1900’s it became a jump racing area.
Just one day’s racing each year was organised on Whit Monday, though in 1945 a Saturday meeting was scheduled that weekend and by the 60’s the August meeting was added. In more recent times, more racing days in May, June and July have all been welcome additions.
When racing was suspended during the War, the course very nearly didn’t survive. Local landowners, the Pain family and Michael Dickinson’s grandfather George were all influential in saving race meetings at Cartmel.
The track and the land around it is owned by the Holker Estate, home to the Cavendish family of Cavendish Cup fame at the track.
Both the track and the facilities have been improved over the years. In 2004 a new Grandstand was built to replace the old structure, while improved irrigation has also been added to protect the course and going. This is especially important for a summer racecourse.
Now, Cartmel is one of the most popular summer race venues in the country. DJ’s and barbecues are commonplace during racing, while the track is also hired out for non-racing events.