My Local Racecourse - Taunton

Features | 19th October 2022

Taunton Racecourse might be just a few miles from the county town of Somerset but it has a
wonderfully rural feel

Beautiful Surroundings

It nestles at the foot of the beautiful Blackdown Hills – officially an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – providing racing fans watching from the stands with a stunning backdrop at England’s newest jumps track. The course at its current location opened in 1927. The next new track to be opened in Britain came 81 years later when Great Leighs, now Chelmsford, was created. A year later, in 2009, Ffos Las held its first fixture to take Taunton’s title as Britain’s newest National Hunt course.


Racing has taken place in and around Taunton for much longer than the 95 years of the current site. There are records of the sport being held in the 18th century near West Monkton, a few miles to the north of the present location. These races were stopped on the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars in 1812. More than a hundred years later Viscount Portman allowed a racecourse to be created on his land at the current site. In the early days, heavy rain often resulted in racegoers being stranded in the wooden stand by the resulting floods. 

Ironically, these days, it’s the course’s ability to cope with winter weather better than most tracks that helps attracts some of the country’s top trainers. The ground is often drier at Taunton than most venues in the depths of the jumps season. It is easily accessible being just off the M5 motorway. In fact, the creation of the new road in the 1960s helped shape the racecourse, as earth excavated from the works was used to extend the back straight and home turn. Taunton is also handily placed for some of the country’s top stables. 

Attracts Top Trainers

It is a favourite course for powerful Somerset-based trainers like Paul Nicholls, Joe Tizzard, Philip Hobbs and David Pipe. The track itself is a flat, right-handed course that is basically two long straights with a sharp bend at either end. It generally suits the speedier type of horse. Lots of decent novices have cut their teeth around the turns of Taunton. Champion trainer Nicholls sent subsequent Grade 1 winners Al Ferof, Irving and Saphir Du Rheu to the course in the early stages of their careers. 

Nicky Henderson’s Verdana Blue and Darlan both won at the track as novices, so it, perhaps, shouldn’t be a surprise that they went on to win the Christmas Hurdle at another flat, right-handed course in Kempton. Sire De Grugy, Hunt Ball, Grumeti and Menorah are other top horses that have entertained the enthusiastic crowds that flock to Taunton’s racedays. 

The Portman Cup is the track’s big race of the year. A chase run over three-and-a-half miles, it has been won in the last three years by Yala Enki, ridden each time by Bryony Frost. In 2017, the track hosted the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase when it was rearranged from snowbound Huntingdon. It was won by Top Notch. 

Great Place To Visit

It might not be in the premier league of jumps tracks, but for friendliness and competitive racing, Taunton is very much top notch. Despite being located just the other side of the motorway from the town, the racecourse has very much a rural feel to it. It’s a country course in a convenient location staging good racing in front of decent crowds. 

Taunton really does have a huge amount going for it and is well worth a visit.