Though not as famous as other UK-based tracks such as Ascot or Aintree (home to the Grand National), Chepstow remains a key venue on the horse-racing calendar, holding fond memories for many jockeys and trainers within the racing fraternity.
Situated near the stunning Wye Valley (Monmouthshire in West Wales), Chepstow played host to twenty-nine jump and flat race meetings in 2007. However, the racecourse is most notable for staging the Welsh Grand National and Coral Welsh National, major highlights of The National Hunt calendar year.
Chepstow’s Flat Course is an oval-shaped track, two miles in length, with an additional 8-furlong straight course used for races of one mile or less. Meanwhile the National Hunt course consists of eleven fences, two of which are open ditches with one water jump.
The story of how Chepstow came to be one of the UK’s primary horse-racing locations dates back to the 1920’s, when a group of ten South Walians formed a company to buy Piercefield Park and its 370 acre surroundings. Personnel believed to be involved include Lords Tredegar and Queenborough.
The weekend of August 6/7 1926, saw approximately 20,000 racegoers attend the inaugural race meeting at Chepstow racecourse. Despite financial difficulties early on, Chepstow soon made its mark on racing folklore when jockey Gordon Richards rode eleven consecutive race winners to victory at a meet in 1933.
After the war-years had ended, 1948 witnessed Chepstow racecourse debut as host to the Welsh Grand National, following the demise of the nearby Carleon race track. Further horse-racing history was made at Chepstow when David Nicholson (ex-trainer and jockey) partnered three successive Welsh National winners in 1959, 1960 and 1961.
Notable names to have won the three and three-quarter mile Coral Welsh National race include Stearsby, Righthand Man and Burrough Hill Lad, who in that 1983-84 season completed a double by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, adding even further to the achievement of a name synonymous with horse-racing – trainer Jenny Pitman. Incidentally Pitman had, the previous year, pulled off the Coral Welsh National-Aintree double with Corbiere as a jockey.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s another well-known name in the racing community – Somerset-based trainer Martin Pipe – dominated with his stable that included Bonanza Boy (1988/89) and Carvill’s Hill (1991), allowing him frequent visits to the winners’ enclosure.
However, since 1994 the Welsh National has transferred from Chepstow to Newbury racecourse, with the likes of Earth Summit and more recently Silver Birch, going on to gain acclaim in the Aintree Grand National following Welsh victories.
Yet Chepstow racecourse has now firmly established itself as a venue where the world’s leading jockey and trainer combinations, as well as bookmakers and punters, gather to enjoy the unique thrill that is horse-racing. Prize money alone available to the victorious at Chepstow has now passed the £1million mark.
Meeting Ticket Prices
As already established, the biggest event of the calendar year for Chepstow is the Coral Welsh National, which is due to be held on Saturday 27th December 2008. It is Wales’ most prestigious race meeting, and allows horse-racing lovers to enjoy top class National Hunt action at its best.
Tickets for this event range from £23 for a seat at the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure, to £32 for the Premier Enclosure. A Group Booking Discount of £2 per person is available for those in a group of fifteen people or more, who book at least seven days in advance.
Students and pensioners are entitled to a £5 discount though proof of ID is required, whilst children under 16 accompanied by a paying adult gain free entry.
For information on how to buy tickets online click here
For a full up-to-date Chepstow Racecourse fixture list click here
Food and Drink
If you are feeling peckish and fancy a bite to eat, or need to quench your thirst, Chepstow racecourse has many different bar and restaurant outlets available.
In the Premier Enclosure is the Premier Bar, which offers a wide range of draught and bottled beer, wines and spirits. Snacks available include the hot dish of the day, fresh baguettes and sandwiches. Tea and coffee is also served. Prices range from £3.10 for deep-filled sandwiches to £4.65 for hot savoury pies.
Also situated within the Premier area is Silks Restaurant, where racegoers can enjoy a first class three-course meal complete with picturesque views of the course. Prices start from £60 per head on a normal raceday to £121 per person on Welsh National weekends.
Open to all customers is the Grandstand and Paddock Bar, which sells a full range of drinks and snacks, including burgers, sausage rolls and pasties. Costs vary from £2.15 for a light bite to £4.50 for a burger and chips meal.
There is also the Marquee Bar, serving sandwiches and baguettes as well as a vast selection of mobile food units that serve fish and chips, burgers and hot dogs. Another option is the hog roast unit.
Those who wish to view the racing at Chepstow from the Premier Enclosure are not permitted to wear vests, trainers, ripped jeans, shorts, or football or rugby attire (tops).
Removal of shirts within any enclosure is forbidden. Annual box holders must adhere to a newly enforced dress code which is no jeans, trainers or t-shirts (polo shirts allowed).
Anyone who does not comply with the above code can be refused entry.
Chepstow Racecourse, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, NP16 6BE
Chepstow Racecourse is situated on the A466 Chepstow to Monmouth Road, not far from the Severn Bridge (Bristol or Cardiff depending on which side of the border you’re from). From the M4 East – Junction 21 or M4 West – Junction 23; car drivers are advised to take the M48 (exiting at Junction 2: Chepstow).
Train services are available from Gloucester and Cardiff to Chepstow railway station, which is half a mile from the racecourse.
The track is 30 miles away from Bristol Airport and 45 miles from Cardiff Airport.