An important racecourse, and certainly within the National Hunt realm, is Wetherby. The track sits near to the town of Wetherby in West Yorkshire, only 12 miles or so from the centre of Leeds and also in close proximity to York and Harrogate meaning it gets plenty of support.
Along with Beverley, Catterick, Doncaster, Pontefract, Redcar, Ripon, Thirsk and York, Wetherby is part of the Go Racing in Yorkshire initiative.
Historically, Wetherby was always a National Hunt-only track, but it now holds dual-purpose status having introduced a small number of Flat meetings in 2015. During the spring and early summer, Wetherby hosts Flat racing but allows its track a break before jumps racing returns with the vital Charlie Hall Chase meeting in the autumn.
- Address – Wetherby Racecourse, York Road, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS22 5EJ.
- Owner – The Wetherby Steeplechase Committee Ltd.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat and National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
Given Wetherby is now dual-purpose, it’s good to know and understand the intricacies of the tracks to know how they ride.
Wetherby is a left-handed track, the Flat course being the one usually used for hurdle racing. It is around a mile and a half around and doesn’t feature a straight track as such. There are 5½ furlong races, though they have to begin in a chute close to the end of the back straight.
There isn’t too much data to support what type of horse is needed at Wetherby on the Flat, though the more galloping type is seen as being best.
Flat Track Analysis
Whatever attributes are needed to go well at Wetherby, certainly jockeys to have ridden there seem to react positively to the place.
What riders have said so far is that they think it pays to race near the front. Those of a front-running persuasion are said to do well, but how much of that is based on Flat jockeys taking info from jump jockeys about speedy types doing best here, we don’t know.
Naturally, Wetherby’s jump track is also left-handed and has been called galloping in nature despite some of the other things we know about it.
There are nine fences to each circuit here, with four in the home straight alone which were moved to the inner of the hurdle track after significant resurfacing and realignment work on the nearby A1 which caused problems.
Among the problems caused was making the track even faster than it once was, something to keep in mind when the ground is good. The fences are known to be a big test of a jumper, with front-running types generally favoured.
There is some contrasting information out there regarding Wetherby, but generally speaking, there are few hard luck stories owing to the layout and so the best horse very often wins which is what we like to see as punters.
Jumps Track Analysis
Unsurprisingly after everything else we’ve mentioned, jump jockeys to have ridden regularly at Wetherby have also fed back that it pays to be up in the front rank at this track.
Known to be a fast track, the fences aren’t maybe as tough as they once were but because of how races are naturally run here, they still provide a great test.
All-in-all, National Hunt riders tend to say Wetherby is a fair track with nice fences but, while it still favours speed, clever jockeys do look to keep something in reserve for the home straight as you do need to get home without giving the speedsters too much rope.
Visiting Wetherby Racecourse
There are three main enclosures you can visit when you get to Wetherby, depending on which ticket you hold and what you’re looking for.
The Premier Enclosure is where deep-thinking racegoers like to situate themselves. This enclosure gives access to the brilliant Wetherby Millennium Stand, and to elevated and covered seating in the main Grandstand which allows views straight down to the winning line.
You can also choose to enter the Paddock Enclosure with your Premier badge. Between the various areas of the track, you will then be able to get to Wetherby’s Marston Moor Bar, White Horse Mezzanine Bar, White Rose Restaurant and the 1891 Bar.
There is also a Course Enclosure here if that’s more your thing, with just about every option covered for visitors of all types.
How to Get to Wetherby
Wetherby is one of several British racecourses which can be seen from the A1, so it is easy to find for sure.
The track sits around 15 miles centrally between Harrogate, Leeds and York. It is on the B1224, a couple of minutes’ drive from junction 46 of the A1(M) which is where you should turn off. It is the same junction used for Wetherby Services which is also visible from the road and well signposted.
There is no train station in Wetherby, with York and Leeds being the closest on the East Coast mainline with each being around 12 miles away. Some prior organisation will be needed to get from the train stations cheaply to Wetherby.
The local Harrogate Bus Company does run a regular service, the number 7, which goes Harrogate – Wetherby – Leeds and back, so that gives those arriving into Leeds by train an option.
On major race days, including Charlie Hall Chase Day, the racecourse runs a free shuttle bus service. The bus runs between Wetherby Town Centre and the Racecourse entrance. The bus will pick up and drop off racegoers from the main bus station in the town centre.
If you wish to fly, Wetherby Racecourse is just 16 miles from the closest airport which is Leeds Bradford. A number of domestic and European routes are on the schedule. A taxi from there to the racecourse will take a little over half an hour.
Where to Stay
Wetherby itself doesn’t have a great many rooms, though in and around the town there should be enough hotels, bed & breakfasts and rental properties to cope.
Failing that, both York and Leeds have an abundance of rooms available. The latter has that bus link too, so staying in Leeds is most definitely a good option for visiting Wetherby races.
Wetherby Racecourse Fixtures
|Saturday||9th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
|Tuesday||26th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
|Wednesday||27th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
Wetherby’s Biggest Races
Some good horses take in races at Wetherby on their less heralded race days. On the Flat, Sir Michael Stoute’s Noon Star won here before being considered for the Oaks at Epsom. Many good novices have also taken in Wetherby over the jumps.
In terms of major race meetings however, the Charlie Hall Chase Meeting in late October and the Yorkshire Christmas Meeting beginning on Boxing Day both stand out.
Each year, these are the biggest races to take place at the West Yorkshire track:
|Handicap Chase||5yo+, Handicap Chase, Class 2||2m3½f||February|
|Towton Novices’ Chase||5yo+, Novices’ Chase, Grade 2||3m||February|
|Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle, Class 2||2m3½f||February|
|Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle||3yo Only, Novices’ Hurdle, Listed Race||2m||October|
|Handicap Chase||4yo+, Handicap Chase, Class 1||2m3½f||October|
|Wetherby Mares’ Hurdle||4yo+, Mares Only, Hurdle, Listed Race||2m||October|
|West Yorkshire Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 2||3m||October|
|Charlie Hall Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 2||3m||October|
|Introductory Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Class 2||2m||November|
|Rowland Meyrick Chase||4yo+, Handicap Chase, Grade 3||3m||December|
|Castleford Chase||4yo+, Handicap Chase, Class 2||1m7f||December|
Some of these races, particularly the Charlie Hall, hold major significance on the jumps calendar. The three-mile, Grade 2 chase is often the season’s first opportunity for horses looking to take in races such as the King George at Kempton (Grade 1), and ultimately get to the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.
Past winners include Wayward Lad, Barton Bank, One Man, See More Business, Marlborough, Silviniaco Conti, Cue Card and Bristol De Mai, all of whom went on to top-level success.
The West Yorkshire Hurdle, inaugurated in 1990, has also attracted some brilliant horses. Staying champion Inglis Drever took the race in 2005, while Boss Doyle, Fair Along and Arkle winner Tidal Bay were all popular dual winners of the event.
About Wetherby Racecourse
Back in 1878, the already established Wetherby races were taken over by a new committee. The committee was formed of local sportsmen after they had been refused permission to buy the land they needed, while they were also upset about the increase in rent demands by the tenants of Wetherby Ings.
It was decided then, that a new racecourse would be needed for their beloved sport to continue in the area.
Where the racecourse sits now is land that was previously owned by the famed Montagu family, based at Ingmanthorpe Hall. The imposing Georgian House you will be able to see from the racecourse today stands as a reminder of the times.
The land was rented to the newly formed race committee and a race meeting was scheduled. The first meet took place on March 30th, 1891 and Wetherby races never looked back.
That race committee didn’t sit on its collective hands either. They moved quickly to make the racecourse a more organised sporting venue. From 1906, they started to develop the course’s facilities for visitors which included building a grandstand, known as the ‘Bramham’. That grandstand is still in use today, a nod to the quality of the build.
In 1920 a new committee was formed. The Wetherby Steeplechase Committee has grown hugely since its early days. Eventually, that committee was able to purchase the previously rented land on which the racecourse stands and has continued to develop the area with both visitors and horsemen in mind.
Wetherby Racecourse is categorised as a ‘small racecourse’, though that most certainly doesn’t do it full justice.
It remains independently owned, surviving the clutches if you like of racecourse ownership groups such as ARC or Jockey Club Racecourses.
The track is in fact shareholder owned, with management provided by International Racecourse Management.
Wetherby is well known for taking its responsibilities seriously in all fairness.
The track works not only with the BHA, the country’s governors of the sport, but also the Racecourse Association, Great British Racing and the Administration of Gambling on Tracks.