A racecourse of some significant importance in Britain is Sandown Park, located in Esher, Surrey.
Its location means it attracts support from racegoers close to the London area, while trainers from Berkshire and Newmarket as well as the rest of the country also send some top animals to the track.
A dual-purpose track, Sandown hosts a handful of Grade 1 races during the National Hunt season and one Group 1 race on the Flat in the summer.
- Address – Sandown Park Racecourse, Portsmouth Road, Esher, KT10 9AJ.
- Owner – The Jockey Club.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat and National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
Sandown is important across both racing codes thus, it pays for punters to understand how the Flat and jumps courses here both ride.
Sandown is a right-handed track, generally oval in shape with the main track being 1 mile, 5 furlongs around though there are chutes for different start points and even a separate sprint track.
The home straight is half a mile long, moving uphill until shortly before the line where it levels off.
Mostly seen as a fair track, Sandown is of a galloping nature with the climb from the home turn to the line putting the emphasis very much on stamina.
The five-furlong sprint track runs right through the middle of the main oval, rising steadily from the gates to the line. It often still takes a proper five-furlong horse to win here, especially on quick ground, but those to have seen out a little further than five can naturally be favoured.
Flat Track Analysis
There is a slight fall jockeys refer to from the 1m2f start, a bigger one from the side of the course at the 1m4f start, which mean runners go a little too quickly down the back. Bearing in mind the almost all uphill, four-furlong home straight, stamina is to the forefront of a jockey’s mind here.
When you look at some of the winners of the Eclipse, to name one race, you’ll see how some were bred for further than a mile and a quarter or indeed had already successfully stayed a mile and a half.
On the five-furlong track, most jockeys tend to agree that it pays to be up the far rail away from the stands. Results confirm in the bigger sprint races that this is the place to be.
If you can find a genuine front-runner, drawn low in sprints at Sandown, you may already be on to something good. A good jockey from that point will know how to best deal with that advantage.
As expected, based on the Flat course, the National Hunt track at Sandown Park is a galloping right-handed affair.
In terms of the fences, Sandown isn’t an easy place for chasers to go. Regarded as a proper test of a jumper, Sandown has some seven fences down the back of the course, three of them very close together so there’s little time for a chaser to think or to reorganise itself after a sketchy jump.
When the ground gets soft, the hurdles course is even more testing than the chase track so beware of that when picking out runners.
Frontrunning types can do very well over fences, perhaps owing to them staying out of trouble over those seven back straight jumps, while over hurdles that may be less the case especially when the rain comes.
Jumps Track Analysis
According to National Hunt jockeys and trainers, Sandown remains an excellent track and in fact they seem to love than uniquely busy back straight.
Despite there being plenty of time left in theory, experienced riders want to get into their preferred challenging position before entering the home straight, so you may need a horse with good tactical speed who can respond quickly to a rider’s urgings.
As mentioned above, jockeys feed back that you need a solid, sometimes adaptable jumper for that back straight as the fences come up very quickly on horses.
The run-in is all uphill and really tests out a horse’s stamina. When the ground is soft, this is especially the case so you’re looking not only for proven soft ground form, but the extra proven stamina that goes along with it.
These intricacies don’t mean you’re looking for some wild, 25/1 shot. If anything, the opposite may be true. Strong horses with tactical speed, proven stamina and excellent jumping ability are likely to be at the front end of the market and they are the ones you’re looking for on the big days at Sandown.
Visiting Sandown Park Racecourse
When you get to Sandown, you’ll find the sort of facilities indicative of a Grade One track. Visitors can choose to watch from the Grandstand Enclosure, the Premier Enclosure, the 1875 Lounge or gain some private hospitality.
Naturally, there are always plenty of on-course bookmakers and pool betting outlets which is handy as Sandown hosts some of the big betting days of both the Flat and National Hunt seasons.
How to Get to Sandown
Driving to Sandown from the London area is common and is easy enough.
From there, you can take the A3 and follow the brown tourism signage to Sandown Park. Alternatively, you can drive along the M25 and take junction 10, then following the A3 back towards London and then look out for the same signs.
From Southampton use the M3 all the way to junction 1 at Sunbury-on-Thames, moving onto the A308 and following the signs. From Portsmouth, use the A3 all the way to Sandown Park. From Brighton, use the A23 and M23 going north before seeing the brown signs.
The nearest train station is Esher, which is only around half a mile from the entrance to the track, while Sandown is fairly well served by major airports if you are flying in for the races.
As well as Southampton Airport, some 60 miles away, Sandown Park can be accessed simply from Gatwick Airport which is 25 miles to the south, and Heathrow Airport which is a mere 9 miles to the north.
Where to Stay
Given Sandown’s position in the world hotel rooms, B&B’s and rental properties are not hard to come by. It really comes down to how close to the track you wish to stay and/or how much you want to pay.
Heathrow and all the airport hotels are only ten miles away. London is close by, there are racecourse-recommended hotels in Esher which is walking distance away, while there is also a 21-bedroom hotel just yards away from the racecourse entrance.
Sandown Park Racecourse Fixtures
|Friday||8th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
|Saturday||9th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
Sandown hosts a number of top meetings both in the winter for the jumps season, and throughout the warmer months during the Flat campaign.
Top meetings well known to racing punters over jumps are Contenders Day, Imperial Cup Day, the Jump Finale and the Tingle Creek Festival.
On the Flat, major meetings include Classic Trial Day, which is run a day before the Jump Finale during a unique mixed meeting, Gentlemen’s Day and the Summer Festival.
Major Flat Races at Sandown:
|Esher Cup||3yo Only, Handicap, Class 2||1m||April|
|Gordon Richards Stakes||4yo+, Group 3||1m2f||April|
|Sandown Mile||4yo+, Group 2||1m||April|
|Classic Trial||3yo Only, Group 3||1m2f||April|
|Heron Stakes||3yo Only, Listed Race||1m||May|
|National Stakes||2yo Only, Listed Race||5f||May|
|Henry II Stakes||4yo+, Group 3||2m||May|
|Brigadier Gerard Stakes||4yo+, Group 3||1m2f||May|
|Scurry Stakes||3yo Only, Group 3||5f||June|
|Dragon Stakes||2yo Only, Listed Race||5f||July|
|Esher Stakes||4yo+, Listed Race||2m||July|
|Gala Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||1m2f||July|
|Sprint Stakes||3yo+, Group 3||5f||July|
|Challenge Handicap||3yo+, Handicap, Class 2||1m||July|
|Distaff||3yo Fillies Only, Listed Race||1m||July|
|Eclipse Stakes||3yo+, Group 1||1m2f||July|
|Star Stakes||2yo Only, Listed Race||7f||July|
|Atalanta Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Group 3||1m||August|
|Solario Stakes||2yo Only, Group 3||7f||August|
|Fortune Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||1m||September|
In the case of the Classic Trial, Brigadier Gerard Stakes and the Solario, these races may be Group 3’s but are usually so important for the racing Pattern. Many top horses have won these races in recent years before going on to be Group 1 regulars.
Major National Hunt Races at Sandown:
|Future Stars Intermediate Chase||4yo+, Chase, Listed Race||3m||November|
|Winter Novices’ Hurdle||4yo+, Novices’ Hurdle, Grade 2||2m4f||December|
|Henry VIII Novices’ Chase||4yo+, Novices’ Chase, Grade 1||1m7½f||December|
|Tingle Creek Chase||4yo+, Chase, Grade 1||1m7½f||December|
|London National||5yo+, Handicap Chase, Class 2||3m5f||December|
|December Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle, Listed Race||2m||December|
|Mares’ Hurdle||4yo+, Mares Only, Hurdle, Listed Race||2m4f||January|
|Tolworth Hurdle||4yo+, Novices’ Hurdle, Grade 1||2m||January|
|Contenders Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Listed Race||2m||February|
|Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase||5yo+, Novices’ Chase, Grade 1||2m4f||February|
|Heroes Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle, Grade 3||2m7½f||February|
|Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle||4yo+, Mares Only, Novices’ Hurdle, Grade 2||2m4f||February|
|National Hunt Novices’ Handicap Hurdle||4-7yo Only, Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, Grade 3||2m4f||March|
|Imperial Cup||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle, Grade 3||2m||March|
|Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race||4-6yo, Mares Only, Bumper, Listed Race||2m||March|
|Novices’ Handicap Chase||5yo+, Novices’ Handicap Chase, Listed Race||2m4f||March|
|Novices’ Championship Final Hurdle||4yo+, Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, Class 2||2m||April|
|Oaksey Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 2||2m6½f||April|
|Celebration Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 1||1m7½f||April|
|bet365 Gold Cup||5yo+, Handicap Chase, Grade 3||3m5f||April|
|Select Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 2||2m5½f||April|
About Sandown Racecourse
Sandown Park as we know it has been around since 1875 and it began creating history immediately.
Back then, Sandown became the first course anywhere in England to have a members’ enclosure, and it was also the first racecourse to charge everyone for attending meetings. At the time, everyone coming in was to pay at least half a crown to watch racing.
The first race meeting at Sandown was staged over three days. It began on Thursday April 22, 1875, and included a race names the Grand National Hunt Chase, an event which has survived all this time but is now run during the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The Tingle Creek
Now long-established, Sandown is important across both racing codes. The top National Hunt race and one of five Grade 1’s of the season is the Tingle Creek Chase.
The race was established in 1969 and, other than the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, is the most important two-mile chase in England. The names of winning Tingle Creek horses just roll off the tongue, those since 2010 being:
- 2021 – Greaneteen (trained by Paul Nicholls)
- 2020 – Politologue (Paul Nicholls)
- 2019 – Defi Du Seuil (Philip Hobbs)
- 2018 – Altior (Nicky Henderson)
- 2017 – Politologue (Paul Nicholls)
- 2016 – Un De Sceaux (Willie Mullins)
- 2015 – Sire De Grugy (Gary Moore)
- 2014 – Dodging Bullets (Paul Nicholls)
- 2013 – Sire De Grugy (Gary Moore)
- 2012 – Sprinter Sacre (Nicky Henderson)
- 2011 – Sizing Europe (Henry de Bromhead)
- 2010 – Master Minded (Paul Nicholls)
Going further back, such greats as Kauto Star, Moscow Flyer, Flagship Uberalles and Desert Orchid have also won the Tingle Creek.
Sandown’s flagship race on the Flat is the brilliant Eclipse Stakes, named after the great Eclipse and known due to a long-standing sponsorship for more than 40 years as the Coral-Eclipse.
The race, over 1¼ miles, often brings together those from Britain, Ireland and France, while also potentially uniting the Classic 3-year-old generation with the older horses whether they be Guineas runners stepping up in trip, or Derby and Oaks horses stepping down.
One of the top middle-distance races in Europe, the Eclipse has been won by these wonderful specimens since 2010:
- 2022 – Vadeni (3yo, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget)
- 2021 – St Mark’s Basilica (3yo, Aidan O’Brien)
- 2020 – Ghaiyyath (5yo, Charlie Appleby)
- 2019 – Enable (5yo mare, John Gosden)
- 2018 – Roaring Lion (3yo, John Gosden)
- 2017 – Ulysees (4yo, Sir Michael Stoute)
- 2016 – Hawkbill (3yo, Charlie Appleby)
- 2015 – Golden Horn (3yo, John Gosden)
- 2014 – Mukhadram (5yo, William Haggas)
- 2013 – Al Kazeem (5yo, Roger Charlton)
- 2012 – Nathaniel (4yo, John Gosden)
- 2011 – So You Think (5yo, Aidan O’Brien)
- 2010 – Twice Over (5yo, Henry Cecil)
Roaring Lion was horse of the year, while the likes of Ghaiyyath, enable and Golden Horn were the highest-rated horses in the world at the time.
Going further back, such champions as Sea The Stars, Giant’s Causeway, Daylami, Halling, Nashwan, Mtoto, Dancing Brave, Sadler’s Wells, Brigadier Gerard and Mill Reef also won the Eclipse.