A popular summer destination for Flat racing in England is Salisbury Racecourse in Wiltshire.
Sitting just a few miles from Salisbury itself, the racecourse is well attended and hosts approximately 15 meetings each year between May and October.
- Address – Salisbury Racecourse, Netherhampton, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP2 8PN.
- Owner – The Bibury Club Limited.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat.
- Surface – Turf.
Salisbury has a layout which is similar to Hamilton in that it is a right-handed ‘loop’ course. With a loop course, the idea is that in longer races, runners will have to track the ‘wrong’ way along the straight before going round the loop and heading for home.
After the loop, there is a long run of some seven furlongs to the line, with those long-striding, front-running types often doing well.
There is an elbow to negotiate with around five furlongs to run, but those running at the front end, usually at a steady gallop, can begin to get away or at least that’s how people have seen it over the years.
The straight course is a mile long, with just that elbow to take, which is uphill over the last half-mile. With that in mind, perhaps even more so than on the round course, stamina really comes into play. With established runners you want proven stamina at the trip, with juveniles you’d like to see staying ability in their pedigree.
One notable thing that jockeys have fed back about riding Salisbury is that the bend is tight. Many fight to get an inside pitch as they don’t want to be wide, something much easier to achieve with a horse drawn low and able to get away quickly from the stalls which is worth keeping in mind.
Riders taking on the loop have fed back that they feel like they’re almost always on the turn, because of going round the loop itself and then taking the dogleg. This means the pack can shuffle and there aren’t too many hard luck stories.
The track may look unconventional, but it is essentially fair.
Visiting Salisbury Racecourse
Fostering a friendly atmosphere, Salisbury is a fine racecourse to visit. The Bibury, Grandstand & Paddock and the Sarum Enclosures all offer fine food and drink outlets.
How to Get to Salisbury
Visitors come to Salisbury from all around the country for popular race days.
From Southampton, which is only 27 miles away, take the A36 heading north and follow the brown tourism signs for the racecourse as you reach Salisbury. These will take you right to the track.
From the west, use the A303 and come off at Deptford. Take the A36 south in the direction of Wilton and Salisbury and follow the signs.
From the London area, use the M3 towards Southampton. Come off the M3 at junction 8 onto the A303 for Andover and Salisbury. Head along the A303 and at the roundabout after Stonehenge, take the exit for the A360 towards Salisbury. Take the A36/Salisbury Road and follow the brown signs.
Salisbury does run a complimentary shuttle bus and race days, picking up at Salisbury Railway Station. The bus leaves the station at the same time the gates open and runs again an hour later. The return bus leaves 20 minutes after the final race.
The train station at Salisbury is also well served by routes from Basingstoke, Bristol Temple Meads, London Waterloo, Portsmouth Harbour, Southampton and Yeovil Junction. The station is a four-mile taxi ride from the racecourse, the journey typically taking around 15 minutes.
Where to Stay
Rooms are available in Salisbury, which is also a good base for visiting Stonehenge. Alternatively, Southampton is 27 miles southeast, Bournemouth is 28 miles to the south and Bristol is 50 miles northwest.
Salisbury’s Best Races
Salisbury is one of those British races that is extremely popular with trainers and jockeys, is well situated and well supported yet doesn’t have a massive fixture list of major handicaps and Pattern races.
That said, it does boast some quality events during the Flat season, these being the best of them:
|City Bowl Handicap||4yo+, Handicap, Class 3||1m6f||May|
|Cathedral Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||6f||June|
|Handicap||3yo+, Handicap, Class 2||1m||June|
|Bibury Cup||3yo Only, Handicap, Class 3||1m4f||June|
|Upavon Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Listed Race||1m2f||August|
|Sovereign Stakes||3yo+, Colts & Geldings, Group 3||1m||August|
|Premier Fillies’ Handicap||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Handicap, Class 2||1m4f||August|
|Stonehenge Stakes||2yo Only, Listed Race||1m||August|
|Dick Poole Stakes||2yo Fillies Only, Group 3||6f||September|
|Lochsong Fillies’ Handicap||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Handicap, Class 2||6f||September|
|Conditions Stakes||2yo Only, Conditions Stakes, Class 2||6f||September|
|Handicap||3yo+, Handicap, Class 2||1m2f||September|
This is a very respectable list of Class 2, Listed and Group races. The Class 3 Bibury Cup is also a historic race which remains popular with trainers.
Some of these events, not least the one-mile Stonehenge Stakes, are becoming increasingly important with an eye on the future.
A race of this quality of a mile for juveniles often attracts some very well-bred, potentially top-class middle-distance horses for the future, perhaps even for races such as the following season’s Derby or St Leger.
About Salisbury Racecourse
Many towns and locales can boast centuries worth of racing, but usually at different locations.
In the case of this racing location which is three miles from the centre of Salisbury, the sport has been held since the middle of the sixteenth century. That’s an impressively long time for any racecourse.
Salisbury has also had a canny knack of attracting some very good horses down the years, many of which raced at the track before going on to achieve major things in the sport.
Gimcrack won here in 1768, Eclipse won at Salisbury only a year later in 1769, while Sun Chariot in 1941 and Mill Reef in 1970 also won here. All four of those all-time greats have big races named after them now in England.
More recently, 2006 Derby winner Sir Percy won at Salisbury in his juvenile season and 2008 Oaks heroine Look Here also took in a two-year-old race, winning at the track in 2007.
The late, great Lester Piggott famously rode at Salisbury as a twelve-year-old weighing an unthinkable five stone, while American great and adopted Brit Steve Cauthen made his riding debut in the country around Salisbury, scoring aboard Marquee Universal.