Salisbury Racecourse Guide

Salisbury Racecourse
Salisbury Racecourse (Maigheach-gheal / geograph.org.uk)

With a great view of the stunning Salisbury Cathedral and surrounding greenery, Salisbury Racecourse really is a wonderful looking course. It typically holds 16 flat racing fixtures a year which fall between May and October.

It’s a track that has been no stranger to great names and many stables are keen to send some of their better talents out here. Promising two-year-olds in particular feature here so the quality among the juveniles is often high. Those that love to try and spot the stars of the future could certainly do worse than to pay this picturesque track a visit.

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The Course

The course at Salisbury isn’t your most typical in shape. It’s fairly linear but there is a three furlong loop towards the far end. The loop allows it to host races up to one mile and six furlongs while races up to a mile are run on a largely straight track that features a slight right-handed elbow. All races finish with a steady rise to the line, so stamina in the final few furlongs is absolutely essential.

The right-handed corner on the loop can also cause horses problems due to its tightness. Position around the bend is vital as not only will you have lots more ground to cover on the outside but it can be slippy further from the inside rail. The gallop is rarely quick around the loop so those that are ridden handily do tend to benefit from it more than others.

Major Races

Salisbury’s two biggest races exclusively for two-year-olds are the Dick Poole Fillies’ Stakes and the Stonehenge Stakes. The former was recently promoted to Group 3 status and in 1999 was won by Crimplene who would go on to the win the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes the following year. The latter was introduced in 2001, testing horses over a mile, and usually takes place in August.

The other major races at Salisbury are for horses three and above and they include the listed Upvon Fillies’ Stakes and the Cathedral Stakes. Perhaps the best of them all though is the Sovereign Stakes, which was made a Group 3 quality race in 2004. It’s the most lucrative contest at the course with a prize purse of at least £75,000.

Visiting

Visitor Stands at Salisbury
Visitor Stands at Salisbury (Jonathan Kington / geograph.org.uk)

The busiest racedays at Sailsbury tend to fall on the weekends so if you are hoping to avoid a busy crowd, it’s good to go during the week.

Useful Info

Dress Code

There is no dress code to adhere to in the Sarum Enclosure or the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure but anyone wearing offensive dress may be refused entry. In the Bibury Enclosure, there is a smart casual dress policy so gentleman should wear collared shirts (tie optional) with trousers or smart jeans.

Ticket Prices

There are two or three enclosures to choose from depending on the meeting with advanced purchase discounts available for all of them. Advanced tickets can usually be purchased up to seven days before the day of the race and cost £7 in the Sarum Enclosure (£8 on the day), £14 in the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure (£16 on the day) and £24 in the Bibury Enclosure (£26 on the day).

The price of admission is the same for every fixture bar Ladies’ Evening which is £1-£2 more expensive. There is no discount for senior citizens but students can receive half price Grandstand entry when buying tickets on the day of the race. Children aged 17 and under receive free entry when accompanied by a paying adult.

Membership

Early bought annual subscriptions cost £190 but any purchased after the cut-off date will be £205. Being a member entitles you to attend 49 reciprocal meetings (including two in Ireland) and two days at Hickstead Show Jumping on top of all of Salisbury’s own fixtures. You’ll also be able to park in the conveniently located Car Park 1, although spaces are issued on a first come first serve basis.

Getting There

Salisbury railway station is well connected to other parts of the country with direct trains arriving from the likes of London Waterloo, Cardiff Central and Bristol Temple Meads. The station is approximately four miles from the racecourse and from there a free shuttle bus service (which also collects on Castle Street) will pick you up.

The departures times of the bus are posted on the course website. The bus returning to Salisbury will leave 20 minutes after the last race although an additional later service will run on selected meetings.

Parking

There are several free car parks at Salisbury and raceday stewards will direct you where to go.

History

The Course at Salisbury
The Course at Salisbury (Peter Facey / geograph.org.uk)

In 1584, close to Salisbury, just three miles from Sarum, a horse race took place which was won by the Earl of Cumberland, who received a golden bell as a prize. Four years later and the site would be welcomed by Queen Elizabeth I who stopped by on her way to give her best wishes to Sir Francis Drake, who was set to face the Spanish Armada.

In 1681, the famous Bibury Club was created and while it eventually became associated with the racing at Salisbury, this did not happen until 218 years later. This means they played no part in the new round course that opened in 1722. Later the racing was moved towards the south west of the city, in Combe Down and it was here where the union with the Bibury Club was made.

Famous Racers

Since then, the course has been home to many famous names. One of the most well recognised horses ever in attendance was Winston Churchill’s Colonist II who made his debut appearance when winning the Upavon Stakes. This completed half of what spectators called the ‘Tory Double’ as another horse called Conservative was running the same day. Salisbury was also the place where the illustrious jockey Steve Cauthen made his UK debut, riding a horse named Marquee Universal in 1979.

Salisbury welcomed two horses in 1970 who would soon become huge names in the racing scene. A two-year-old Mill Reef won the Salisbury Stakes, a year before triumphing in the Epsom Derby. Brigadier Gerard triumphed in the Champagne Stakes, just eight days after a victorious debut appearance at Newbury. A year later, he would go on to beat Mill Reef to win the 2000 Guineas.