Taunton Racecourse Guide

Having opened its doors in 1927, Taunton is far from a new racecourse but it does remain as the youngest National Hunt course in the country. It was also the last racecourse entirely to be built in England until Great Leighs opened in 2008.

The Somerset based course is blessed with some wonderful scenery. Spectators can catch a sight of the Blackdown Hills slopes while remaining fairly close to the heart of Taunton.

Map

Swap Start/End

The Course

Taunton’s course is right-handed and features some sharp bends which gives it an almost rectangular shape. Although racing takes place in the winter months, the ground is quite resilient due to the Somerset soil and a recently installed reservoir so it takes a lot of rainfall for things to turn heavy.

The fences are small and unproblematic here although this doesn’t mean fallers are rare. A combination of a low standard of runners and the sharpness of the course means that unfortunately casualties aren’t uncommon. The third to last fence and second to last hurdle which are both met on a downhill slope are particularly a danger for novice jumpers.

Major Races

Taunton doesn’t really have much in the way of a major races but the Class 1 novices’ handicap hurdle on New Year’s Day is one of high quality and has a big prize fund to match. Taunton is perhaps better known for having lots of smaller races which they’ve named after people associated with the course or racing more generally.

Visiting

Although the season at Taunton usually takes place around the start of November to March, they do hold other events such as Arabian horse racing in the interim period.

  • Dress Code: No official dress code exists at Taunton but they do remind you to wear suitable footwear. Annual members and other racegoers who will be in the restaurant or hospitality suites are encouraged to dress smartly.< li>
  • Ticket Prices: Tickets don’t get much more simple than at Taunton. All racedays during the main season cost the same price, £14 when purchased online (no later than 10am the day before the meeting) or £16 on the day. Admission gives you access to all areas expect the members stand and private hospitality boxes. There is also the option of a gift package or raceday package that include a food and drink voucher, £6 tote bet and racecard along with admission. Online prices for the packages are £30.60 and £28.80 respectively. Anyone aged between 18 and 24 who has a RacePass from The Jockey Club can enjoy half price entry and accompanied under 18s are admitted free.
  • Membership: Membership at Taunton covers the calendar year as opposed the months of racing. After the January to March fixtures are complete, you can purchase half year membership for £85 for the remaining fixture of the year. Expect to pay a little under double this amount for a full year’s membership. As a member you will have exclusive use of the Paddock Stand and members’ car park plus you’ll have around 40 reciprocal meetings to attend. If you would like to invite a guest along to enjoy the experience with you in the members area then you are able to buy tickets for them at a cost of £21 per guest.
  • Getting There: While it is possible to take either the public 99 or 6 bus service to the racecourse from the city centre, it’s often better to take advantage of the courtesy bus service that runs on racedays. The courtesy bus collects at Taunton train station two hours before the first race and returns 30 minutes after the start of the last. Priority on the journey back is given to those with a return ticket.
  • Parking: Car parking is available and is free of charge.

History

Racing has existed in some form at Taunton since the 18th century including races in west Monkton. The Napoleonic Wars which broke out in 1803 put an end to any progress however. Incentives were used to drum up interest but few people were interested and racing was discontinued.

Bridgwater picked up the pieces shortly afterwards and racing continued there, by the River Parrett until Taunton made a comeback in 1825 thanks to Mr. J E White. The Sporting Magazine’s reporter was impressed with what he saw, describing Taunton as more brilliant than ever before with superb equipage and fashionable company.

Heavy rainfall caused the races to be abandoned in 1838 and as a result racing moved to Trull Moor two years later. The action only remained here for 15 years however as it was once again relocated, this time back to Bridgwater. The final change came in 1927 when the Taunton Racecourse Company, founded by seven men during a meeting at the Paddington Hotel, created a new course on land owned by Viscount Portman.

The first meeting of the new course took place on 21st September 1927 and the first race, the Shoreditch Selling Hurdle was won by a horse called Baalbek. Since these origins, the course has undergone many changes. Ground dug up to make way for the M5 was used to extend the bends and they’ve been able to say goodbye to the small wooden stands that used to be surrounded by big piles of mud.