Stratford Racecourse, or Stratford-on-Avon as it is sometimes known, is a National Hunt racing venue which rather uniquely stages jumps racing throughout the summer.
There has been racing at Stratford since 1769 with one of the summer highlights being the Stratford Foxhunters’ Champion Chase.
- Address – Stratford Racecourse, Luddington Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 9SE.
- Owner – Stratford-on-Avon Racecourse Company Ltd.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
The track at Stratford is left-handed and sharp enough with its three pronounced bends helping horses around the 1¼-mile circuit.
The fences here are known as stiff with two being on the side of the course after the line, three being down the back, one appearing in the straight and another one coming after the line.
The hurdles track has one flight on the side of the course, two down the back, one in the straight and one after the line. Races tend to be very well run and while it can pay for a jockey to go for home before the turn because of the short straight, some go too fast too early and can be caught.
Jockey feedback from Stratford does tend to point to the course being one for the speedier horses. Visually, you should be looking out for horses who jump quickly and fluently, while on the numbers those with strong speed figures may also be at an advantage here.
Punters, commentators and other interested parties have disagreed over the years about the need for a strong jumper here. Some say it’s because the fences are tough, but jockeys have tended to disagree saying that casualty rates may be higher than ideal simply because of the speed horses go around this track.
Good bumper horses, those with a perfect jumping record and ex-Flat horses tend to do very well here because of the pace angle, so without giving them special consideration, do keep that in mind.
Jockeys have described the final bend, especially over hurdles, as very sweeping and with some horses struggling with balance and not being able to quicken, races can be won from the front there.
Visiting Stratford Racecourse
Stratford racegoers in the Tattersalls Enclosure or Course Enclosure have plenty of good facilities at their disposal.
Among them are the Champagne Bar, the Chris Rookes Bar, the Grandstand Bar, the Gallery Restaurant, five private boxes and other amenities.
Feedback from visitors tends to be very positive. The atmosphere tends to be lively but friendly, with summer jumping being a great or National Hunt punters who want to enjoy the action without the need to wrap up for winter conditions.
How to Get to Stratford
The train station is just 1.8 miles from the track, just about a 10-minute journey in a taxi. There are direct arrivals from Kidderminster and Leamington Spa, while connections from Birmingham are also available.
In terms of driving – once you get to the Stratford-upon-Avon area the racecourse is well signposted.
From Leicester and passing Coventry, use the M69 heading south-west, then the A46 straight towards Stratford. From Birmingham, drivers should come out east using the M42 and the A3400 south to Stratford with the overall journey being around 36 miles.
From Gloucester and Cheltenham, head north using the A46, while from London and Oxford you can head north-west along the M40.
The nearest airport, which is also one of the major hubs, is Birmingham (BHX) which is just 24 miles away using the M42 and A3400, or 30 miles using the quieter A45 and A46 via the outskirts of Coventry.
Where to Stay
Given that Stratford is a hugely popular destination for tourists in its own right due to it being both the birthplace and burial place of William Shakespeare, rooms are abundant in and around the town.
For proper National Hunt enthusiasts Cheltenham is another option which is 30 miles away, while for a few more city lights Birmingham is an option. Getting to Stratford from Birmingham involves taking the train from Moor Street Station to Stratford-upon-Avon, a journey time of less than 50 minutes.
Major Events at Stratford
Stratford does not host major National Hunt races in terms of Class 1 events, but it has very much made a name for itself as one of the homes of summer jumps racing.
The best races on offer during the year here are:
|Ladies Open Championship Final||5yo+, Hunters’ Chase (Female Jockeys), Class 3||2m6½f||May|
|Champion Novices’ Hunters’ Chase (The John Corbet Cup)||5yo+, Novices’ Hunters’ Chase, Class 2||3m3½f||May|
|Stratford Foxhunters Champion Hunters’ Chase (The Horse and Hound Cup)||5yo+, Hunters’ Chase, Class 2||3m3½f||May|
|Stratford Summer Salver||3yo+, Handicap Hurdle, Class 3||2m½f||July|
|Allan Atkinson Memorial Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle, Class 3||3m2½f||July|
|Roger Wyton Stanley Memorial Handicap Chase||4yo+, Handicap Chase, Class 2||2m1f||July|
|Brian and Sheila Vaughan Memorial Handicap Chase||4yo+, Handicap Chase, Class 2||2m3½f||August|
About Stratford Racecourse
In terms of the wider Stratford-upon-Avon area, racing it is thought first took place in July of 1718. More organised racing on a proper racecourse, the current venue in fact, was staged from September 1755 onwards.
Racing was a regular occurrence here throughout the remainder of the 18th century and well into the 19th century. In fact, in 1839, a famous horse named Lottery won at Stratford before going on to land the Grand National at Aintree.
Between 1904 and 1914, when racing was stopped due to World War I, horse racing here was known as the “Stratford and Warwickshire Hunt Races”. Racing restarted after the War and in 1925 the Stratford Race Company was inaugurated, a group that runs racecourse activities to this day.
Facilities for much of Stratford’s early modern history were limited. In 1955 however, a new grandstand was built at the racecourse and in 1965 a restaurant was added. Since then, facilities and amenities have improved all the time and as of now, the track is perfectly modern.
Stratford these days is hugely popular with the connections of hunter chasers. Considered third in the pecking order of top annual hunter chase races, the Stratford Foxhunters Chase is see as being behind only the similar races at Cheltenham and Aintree.