Wolverhampton Racecourse Guide

Towards the north of the city of Wolverhampton lies its floodlit racecourse. It’s been situated there since the 19th century and today welcomes over 120,000 visitors each year on more than 70 racedays.

Wolverhampton is one of just a few courses in the country that has an artificial surface. It’s actually had three different types of artificial surface too, originally opting for Fibresand before moving to Polytrack and then Tapeta in 2014.

Map

Swap Start/End

The Course

With the left handed, all-weather oval circuit at Wolverhampton measuring just one mile, you spend a lot of time taking corners. Both straights are short so it’s really important to get positioning right here and horses that need time to find their gallop tend to struggle.

Due to the nature of the course, there is a strong bias towards horses drawn low for races up to one mile. A quick start out of the stall and a jockey can pick up a prime spot around the fairly sharp track. It’s something which is a big advantage and worth taking note of when placing your bets. Obviously all-weather form is a big plus as well, although it is worth noting that many feel Tapeta has a lot more in common with Fibresand than it does with Polytrack.

Major Races

Two of Wolverhampton’s major races fall on the same day in March. One is the Lady Wulfruna Stakes, named after the grand-daughter of King Ethelred I and Queen Aethelflaed. Remember them? No, us neither. It’s a Listed seven furlong race with a generous purse of £50,000. The other event, the Lincoln Trial is another lucrative event, carrying the same amount of prize money but being run instead over an extended mile.

Visiting

With typically 77 racedays spread across the entire year, Wolverhampton is one of the UKs busiest racecourses.

  • Dress Code: Casual clothing is the norm in the Grandstand but in hospitality areas, restaurants and the Premier Enclosure, guests must be in smart casual wear. Smart jeans are acceptable but sports shirts, ripped jeans and casual shorts are not. On Ladies’ Day and Gentlemen’s Day, there is an emphasis on dressing up for the occasion but it is by no means compulsory and the same codes apply.
  • Ticket Prices: For almost all meetings at Wolverhampton, you can expect to pay £11 in advance for Grandstand admission and £16 in advance for Premier Enclosure admission. Prices at the gate for both enclosures are £2 more expensive. There is also the option of the popular £20 Pukka Package which includes grandstand entry, a racecard, a drink, a pie and a half price grandstand ticket for a future meeting. Admission along with a three course meal in the Horizons Restaurant costs £44.95 for adults and £21.95 for children. The price of entry and hospitality only increase on special occasions such as the Boxing Day meeting and meets that include a live music performance.
  • Membership: Individual membership at Wolverhampton costs £290 and with that you get access to a lot of racing. On top of all of Wolverhampton’s many fixtures you will be able to attend many reciprocal fixtures as well as meetings at all other ARC racecourses. Other benefits include 15% off prices at the Parade Bar and Restaurant plus four complimentary tickets to give to friends or family.
  • Getting There: Wolverhampton train station is very well connected with direct links all over the country. It’s situated around two miles from the racecourse and while the journey can be covered on foot, plenty of bus services are available. There isn’t a bus stop right outside the course but there are many frequent services, departing from the main bus station in the city centre, which will drop you off a 10-minute walk away. Taxis are also an option whilst there is a hotel at the course for those wanting the maximum convenience.
  • Parking: There are 1,500 free parking spaces available for racegoers.

History

Monday 15th August 1825 is when racing kicked off in Wolverhampton, taking place at Broad Meadows, a formerly marshy area that was drained and made fit for racing. After the work on the land, it made for a great course and it even had its own grandstand two years later plus a row of stands that stretched a quarter of a mile.

One of the big races on the first meeting was the Darlington Cup and it was nearly won by Lord Darlington himself, his horse coming in second place. Racing continued until 1878 when the Duke of Cleveland, owner of the course, decide to sell up just as the lease for the land ended. Locals purchased the land at Broad Meadows but not to preserve racing, instead to create a new park, now known as West Park.

The quest to find a new location for racing began and the Dunstall Park Club hoped the 130 acre site it purchased would be fit for purpose. This was indeed the case and in August 1888, the first meeting at Dunstall Park took place. Robert Herman-Hodge was made director of the course and this position he held, on and off, for an impressive 43 years.

Seven years later and Dunstall Park was the only course in Staffordshire to host flat racing following the closure of Lichfield. With more punters coming their way, the racecourse company struck a deal with the Great Western Railway to build a station close to the track.

The first meeting of 1910 was cancelled due to King Edward VII’s death and war meant the summer meeting of 1914 faced the same fate. The conflict did not stop racing completely however. The government opted not to use the racecourse for the war effort despite it being offered. A textile factory was built on part of the course instead but it only meant that longer distance races couldn’t be run.

All fixtures were cancelled for the duration of the Second World War and the venue was completely neglected during this time. Money for improvements was limited but the company invested wisely and were able to replenish their finances within a few years. This led to the construction in the 1950s of roofs for the stands, the Champagne and Oyster Bar, the Paddock Buffet Bat, and a modern watering system for the racetracks.

Things only continued to improve in the following decades, with the course recording record profits in 1986. £15.7m was spent on floodlighting (the first course in the UK to have this), an artificial surface, a new grandstand, executive boxes and an on-site hotel. The work was complete in December 1993 and Queen Elizabeth paid a visit six months later. The course was purchased by the Arena Racing Company in 1999 and has an enjoyed even more investment since.