Wincanton Racecourse Guide

The small Somerset town of Wincanton is perhaps best known for its National Hunt racecourse. You may spot Paul Nicholls among the crowd on racedays as it’s located close to the trainer’s yard and is one of his favoured places to try out young runners.

The Racegoers Club voted it the best small racecourse in the South West & Wales category in 2015. A fitting title for a course which has made real efforts to improve its facilities and racegoer experience.

Map

Swap Start/End

The Course

Particularly when the going is good or firm, Wincanton is a very fast course. Jockeys opting for hold up tactics will usually not reap rewards and you instead want a horse that travels well and runs near the front. Often the horse ahead at the second last fence will be the first past the winning post.

Things are different when the going is testing however. Races on soft to heavy ground become particularly demanding, more so over the tight hurdles course, leading to strung out fields with stamina becoming an important attribute. The fences are stiff and Wincanton does have a fairly high causality rate as a result. Three of them are placed down the home straight so you usually need to have a good jumper to finish the race well. In general there is no major draw bias.

Major Races

One of Wincanton’s prized races is the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle, scheduled to feature every February. The two mile contest has a winner’s list bursting with very talented names. It’s not unusual for the winner to go on to feature in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham a few weeks later so it serves as a very important trial race.

Another big event is the Badger Ales Trophy which is the star of one of the November fixtures. It experienced a particularly eventful renewal in 2014 when The Young Master found himself first past the line, only to be disqualified when it was discovered he hadn’t met the criteria for the race. The steeplechase is supported by another in the form of the Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices’ Chase and also by a high class hurdle, the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle.

Visiting

Saturday racedays are best if you are after Wincanton’s highest standard of racing as usually this is the day where the most talented horses make a visit to Somerset.

  • Dress Code: No dress code applies at Wincanton so selecting clothing fit for the weather should be your main concern. Fancy dress is allowed but it must not be of an offensive nature.
  • Ticket Prices: By buying tickets online you’ll usually save yourself a couple of pounds on admission. On quiet racedays, admission, which includes Grandstand and Premier Enclosure access, costs £12 in advance. On busier meetings, pre-booked tickets cost £16 in the Grandstand Enclosure and £21 in the Premier Enclosure. It is also possible to purchase a ticket for the Premier Viewing Area above the finishing post for £31. Tickets on the day are usually £2 more expensive but this does not apply to the Boxing Day meet where buying well in advance can save you up to £10 a ticket. No concessions are available except for under 18s who go free – the best kind of concession we know!
  • Membership: There are two types of membership for adults at Wincanton, standard membership costing £225 and gold membership costing £295. The cheaper option still includes many perks such as Premier Enclosure and Annual Lounge access, discounted food and drink on certain days, stable visits to local trainers, a premium parking spot and £5 off tickets for Exeter and Warwick Racecourse. Gold membership includes all this but has one extra benefit which is a guaranteed spot in the Premier Viewing Area on all racedays. Younger racegoers looking for cheap membership can buy South West membership for £115 which gives access to almost all meetings at Cheltenham (Festival aside), Exeter, Warwick & Wincanton Racecourse.
  • Getting There: While driving to the quiet town of Wincanton poses few issues, neither does taking public transport. The nearest train station is Templecombe which has direct links to places such as Exeter, Gillingham, Yeovil and London. From the station a courtesy bus service will take you to the racecourse and back again once the racing is over.
  • Parking: There is no charge for parking in the main car park but if you wish to park by the railway station then you will need to pay between £6-£10 depending on the meeting.

History

It is believed that Wincanton hosted the first ever National Hunt fixture back in 1867, a year which marked the town’s first major involvement with racing. Regular meetings were soon established under National Hunt rules and carried on until World War One.

Prior to the war, racing had been held on the nearby Hatherleigh Farm but upon re-opening, the course faced financial hardship and a threat of liquidation. Lord Stalbridge, who chaired a new board of directors, stepped in to ensure this threat would never materialise however. When the lease on Hatherleigh Farm ran its course, Lord Stalbridge gathered enough money to relocate the course and the new venue hosted its first event on Easter Monday, 1927.

Racing was put on hold again, this time due to the Second World War as the racecourse was requisitioned as a military base. During the conflict, Lord Stalbridge’s health was declining and the course was subsequently put up for sale. A group of 10 local sportsman teamed up to purchase the venue and also ensured it received some much needed investment.

Lord Stalbridge passed away in 1945 but he would have been pleased to know that the racecourse he had played such an essential role in, was able to carry on strongly. On Wincanton’s popular Boxing Day meet, the Lord Stalbridge Memorial Cup Handicap Chase is run in his honour.

In the 1960s, the Racecourse Holdings Trust, now The Jockey Club, purchased the course and have remained owners ever since. They invested £1.6m into the course from 2001 to 2017 and there are plans to increase spending by an additional £1.4m in the following years.