Chester: a unique racecourse

Chester is a racecourse with a fascinating and long history from Roman skeletons found on the site to blood-stained, medieval football matches. Combined with a rich history is a very unique track with tight bends and an enthusiastic crowd that’s right up close to the action.

The biggest event in the Chester racing calendar, the Boodles Festival starts tomorrow Wednesday 9th May to Friday 11th May.

The Boodles Festival has one of the oldest horse races in the entire British racing calendar and three Group races headlining an exceptional three days of racing, and a bit of style and elegance is brought to the Festival on Ladies Day which is the pinnacle of Chester’s social calendar.

 

The Oldest racecourse in the UK

Credit: The Crewe Chronicle

Chester racecourse is the oldest still in use in the UK and one of the oldest in the world.

It was 1539 when horse racing begun in Chester, while King Henry VIII was busy cutting ties with the Catholic Church and about to marry his fourth wife!

Archaeologists are still discovering more about Chester racecourse to this very day. One of the most interesting findings is the discovery of a Roman tomb dated back from 90AD, with two skeletons and an inscription which can be seen in the Grosvenor museum (a two minute walk outside the racecourse).

 

A blood-stained footballing past

The racecourse was the venue for the famously bloody Gotesdday (or Shrove Tuesday) football match which took place right up to the 16th century.

The games were so violent that a modern day Millwall vs West Ham football match would look a well-mannered affair in comparison. The annual bloodbath was banned in 1533 and subsequently replaced by horse racing six years later.

The Lord Mayor at the time, called Henry Gee, helped ban the football match and he introduced racing, which is why people even today use the term ‘gee-gees’ as a nickname for the racecourse.

 

A hub of entertainment

In the more recent history, the venue has been home to some world class entertainment such Iggy Pop, Jessie J, Labrinth and The Saturdays as well as Prince William saddling up to play polo back in 2013.

The Boodles Festival attracts a lot of footballing legends and current stars such as Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick who have been over the last few years. There have been a host of TV personalities in attendance as well so keep your eyes peeled this year.

 

Tight bends

The course is one of the smallest in Britain with extremely tight bends but that adds to the uniqueness of the racecourse.

The tight bends make for a thrilling start to the race where the horses go out all guns blazing to get the lead and the inside line. The small track with a 15,000 strong crowd creates an excellent atmosphere and punters are right up close to the action.

 

Getting bigger and better

There has been major investments in the racecourse over the winter, £250,000 has been invested in extra giant digital screens so racegoers can watch home and away racing as well as promoting live betting odds.

There has been improvements to the Parade Ring, hospitality suites and a new Paddock Club (pictured below) so this year’s Boodles Festival promises to better than ever!

Credit: The Chester Chronicle

Register

Sign up to Great British Racing for our email updates and you will receive a range of benefits, including exclusive offers, competitions and behind-the-scenes updates.