A very popular jumps racing venue in England is Wincanton, located in Somerset.
The track hosts National Hunt racing throughout the peak winter months, hosting in fact a number of key races. The best of them is the Kingwell Hurdle, a two-mile affair in February at Grade 2 level which is a strong Champion Hurdle trial, as well as being the last recognised trial of the season.
Famously, Wincanton is well supported by multiple champion trainer Paul Nicholls given its close proximity to his yard (9 miles), with many of his better novices turning out there.
- Address – Wincanton Racecourse, Wincanton, Somerset, BA9 8BJ.
- Owner – The Jockey Club.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
Wincanton features quite a simple layout. The track is flat in nature, right-handed and basically pretty sharp. When the ground is quicker than ‘good’ in fact, it is thought of as the sharpest jumps track in the country.
It does not pay to employ waiting tactics here with hold-up horses have regularly been disadvantaged. That’s to say when the ground is sound that is the case, but the straight is long enough to ensure that when the ground is very testing, races can be a real test so a proper stayer is still needed.
The fences are stiff enough here, three of them being in the home straight and located very close together meaning momentum can be lost for those attempting to come from behind, further strengthening the case of those racing handily.
Jockeys agree that Wincanton is very quick. As such, horses who travel well are required and that’s something you can find out by checking them out visually, or by looking for those with strong published speed figures.
Runners have to go downhill from the home turn to the line pretty much, something that helps to make in particular the two-mile course here one of the fastest you’ll find.
Jockeys can’t go too early, but unassailable leads can be gained if they’re smart so as well as finding the right horse, it may pay to stick with obviously talented jockeys which is simple enough on the major race days.
Visiting Wincanton Racecourse
There are three enclosures to choose from at Wincanton, two of them available for every meeting.
The Premier Enclosure gives visitors full access to all public areas of the course. This is the best enclosure to visit and means being able to see the horses close up.
Up in the Grandstand Enclosure you will get, among other things, access to the viewing stand which allows good views over the final fence as the excitement builds.
Lastly, the Course Enclosure has a grandstand which is further out, opposite the third-last fence, which is only open on Boxing Day but does have its own bar and food options.
How to Get to Wincanton
The racecourse sits on the B3081 road which runs between Wincanton and Bruton.
If you’re coming from the Bristol area, which is around 30 miles away, the total journey time is around an hour and traffic on race days can be bad.
From Bristol, take the signs on the A37 for Shepton Mallet. Once there, follow signage for Castle Cary and Wincanton on the A371. Follow ‘Wincanton Town Centre’ and then the racecourse, which is only around a mile from the centre of town on the B3081.
If you’re heading in from the Bournemouth area, then your drive should be around an hour and a half with the track approximately 45 miles away.
Coming out of Bournemouth, follow signs for Blandford on the A350. Turn left on the A357 for Sturminster Newton and continue through the numerous villages. Stay on the A357 and look for signs to Stalbridge and Wincanton. Once reaching the town, the racecourse is signposted.
Where to Stay
Rooms are pretty limited close to Wincanton Racecourse. Salisbury is to the east and Taunton to the west, but the busier options are Bristol and Bournemouth with some travel needed.
Wincanton Racecourse Fixtures
|Tuesday||19th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
|Tuesday||26th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
Biggest Races at Wincanton
Wincanton is a fine track and features some strong novice races throughout the season. Stars of the future then may well appear here regularly, especially those trained by Paul Nicholls. The best-established races on Wincanton’s calendar however are:
|Kingwell Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 2||1m7f||February|
|Badger Beer Chase||4yo+, Premier Handicap Chase, Class 1||3m1f||November|
|Elite Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 2||1m7f||November|
|Rising Stars Novices’ Chase||4yo+, Novices’ Chase, Grade 2||2m4f||November|
The Kingwell Hurdle is particular important, not just as a fine Grade 2 race in its own right, but also as a key trial for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Fred Winter’s greats Bula and Lanzarote won the race three times each, while Kribensis, Hors La Loi III, Inglis Drever and Goshen are other very notable winners.
The Rising Stars Novices’ Chase has done its job over the years too, producing the likes of Bindaree. It’s not surprising either that Paul Nicholls has used the race well, winning it with such excellent types as See More Business, Silviniaco Conti and Frodon.
About Wincanton Racecourse
In the Wincanton area, cross-country match races had become common by the start of the 1800’s and so racing here has a rich history.
A first official race meeting was held at Hatherleigh in August 1867, with apparently several thousand people turning out to see the spectacle and all dressed in their Sunday best. By 1893 the Wincanton Hunt Steeplechases had been formed, holding Easter Bank Holiday races.
The lease expired on Hatherleigh Farm in 1925 and now a new racecourse was needed. Kingwell Farm when then purchased for this purpose, a new course was laid and a first meeting was ready to be staged by Easter Monday in 1927.
The track was popular but was in a bad state of disrepair by 1945. Things began to improve as necessary from then onwards, the stands being rebuilt in 1968 and changes to the weighing room and other facilities following in the 70’s. Eventually in 1990, the new Hatherleigh Stand was opened.
Now a very modern track hosting excellent jumps racing during the winter, Wincanton uses well its position near many top trainers to gain support, especially for its novice events.