Brighton Racecourse Guide

Brighton Racecourse above Whitehawk
Brighton Racecourse above Whitehawk (nick macneill / geograph.org.uk)

Based right on the south coast of England, you’ll struggle to find too many racecourses so close to a beach. While horse racing is not what Brighton is known for, the small course still provides spectators with plenty of entertainment and fantastic views. Moreover, it’s one of the warmer, sunnier days out British racing provides and life doesn’t get much better than when you are backing winners in the sun!

Brighton Racecourse had formerly held hurdle races but it is now strictly a Flat only course. As a result, racing takes place here during the warmer months and there are typically 22 meetings spread from April to October.

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The Course

Brighton is one of a small number of tracks not to form a loop and the U-shaped course is far from the longest either. It’s just 12 furlongs in length so you won’t find any endurance flat races held here. A degree of stamina is required though to tackle the uphill finish, which has been known to catch horses out when ridden a little hard coming into it.

Aside from the climb to the finishing post, runners also have to deal with both left and right handed turns (although primarily left) in races over six furlongs and there is also a noticeable camber that draws you in to the rail. This can often cause congestion at Brighton, although less so when the going is testing as then jockeys will consider pulling off to the stand side with a few furlongs to go.

Major Races

Brighton is a small racecourse with races that never pack much of a financial punch. Its highlight event is the three day festival that runs in August. The mid-week event includes 21 races and features a Ladies’ Day on day two before a climactic finish on the Friday. There isn’t a particular race that one would class as “major” but if you’re going to come to Brighton at any time, this is perhaps the meeting to plump for if you can.

Visiting

The Grandstand at Brighton Racecourse
Grandstand Entrance (Paul Gillett / geograph.org.uk)

Brighton is known as one of the friendliest recourses in the UK so it’s a great place for a first taste of racing experience.

Useful Info

Dress Code

Smart/casual wear is encouraged at both enclosures at Brighton but there is no strict dress code to adhere to. Many women choose to dress up and wear hats, especially on Ladies’ Day but this is far from compulsory.

Ticket Prices

Online advance prices are £12 in the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure for non-feature racedays and £17 on feature racedays. For the Premier Enclosure, admission is £17 on non-feature racedays and £23 on feature racedays. Booking in advance saves you £5 per ticket although a £1.50 fee will be added to the total booking.

Students and senior citizens are eligible for a £4 discount on entry but only when purchasing tickets on the day. ‘Fancy a flutter’ tickets can be purchased on all racedays and these tickets include a drinks voucher, racecard and a £2 tote bet. On non-feature days, such tickets are £22 with Grandstand admission and £27 in the Premier Enclosure, rising to £27 and £32 respectively on feature racedays.

Membership

To become an annual badge holder at Brighton the fee is £270. With this, you not only get admission to all the action at Brighton but there are 40 reciprocal meets and opportunities to visit any of the other Arena Racing Company courses. In addition, you will be treated to a behind the scenes tour of the course and have the chance to visit a local trainer’s stable.

Getting There

In the hottest months, Brighton does tend to attract plenty of tourists, so when driving to the racecourse at such times, the city centre should be avoided at all costs. If going by train, you’ll find that the main station is a 30 minute walk from the racecourse but a complimentary bus service, starting around two hours before the first race, will drop you off by the entrance. Direct trains run from London St Pancras and London Victoria and Brighton is very accessible from the capital.

Parking

Parking is free of charge in the main car park.

History

Brighton Racecourse with the Sea as a Backdrop
Brighton Racecourse with the Sea as a Backdrop (Stuart Dorn / Wikipedia.org)

Evidence of racing in Brighton dates back to 1713 but it wasn’t until 1783 when the first official meeting took place. The following year an impressed Prince of Wales was in attendance and when he recommend the course to many of his interested, aristocratic friends, this helped the racecourse and indeed the local area to thrive.

The Original Course

The same patch of land on Whitehawk Hill which was used in the 18th century is still being used for racing today. The original course, however, was an extra half a mile long and could accommodate four mile races by making runners loop back on themselves.

The course began to struggle in the first half of the 19th century but enjoyed something of a renaissance come 1850. The introduction of the railway in Brighton made it far easier for Londoners to see the action and attendances grew. As a result, managers began pumping money into the facilities, with much going towards building a new stand and they also introduced the Brighton Cup in the hope of attracting some top horses.

Ups & Downs

Brighton soon found itself as part of the “Sussex Fortnight”, referring to two weeks of racing in the county that began with Glorious Goodwood before Brighton’s big three-day meeting. The good times wouldn’t last forever, however, and by the 1920s, gang warfare had causes problems both in and outside the course, as depicted in Graham Greene’s novel, Brighton Rock.

Another boom period was to follow, however, this one coming after the end of World War II with crowds of over 20,000 in attendance to see the action, spread across both sides of the home straight. A Derby Trial race was introduced shortly after and while no runners went on to enjoy Derby success, two of them did end up later winning the St Leger.

Redevelopment

Such a prosperous period wasn’t especially long lived, however, and a reduction in the amount of tourists for Brighton meant that the course was struggling to stay afloat. It was given a lifeline in 1998 when Northern Racing (later merged to form the ARC) took over and gave the venue a much needed £4m makeover.

Brighton’s ups and downs will be familiar to regular punters who know the glory of a long odds winner and the disbelief of their odds-on nap disappointing. The course now appears on steady ground though, and makes a great day out for those in the south of the country.