Sedgefield Racecourse Guide

Sedgefield Track
Sedgefield Track (JThomas / geograph.org.uk)

For a small racecourse, Sedgefield boasts some good quality facilities, set in the beautiful Durham countryside. It’s a place that, despite recent upgrades, still possess a lot of character and charm.

The quaintly located racecourse hosts jump racing on most months, with the season starting in January and ending in December. A break occurs during the firmer ground of June and July to allow the course to recover, ensuring that it is in a good state for the other 10 months.

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The Course

Easy to tackle fences on the course mean that serious jumping ability isn’t a necessity here. That said, of course having a horse that can take the obstacles quickly and accurately is an advantage. This is particularly true during the warmer months when the ground is good. On occasions when the going is soft, jumping can become a bit trickier and jockeys sometimes opt, especially in hurdles races, to travel towards the outside rail in the search of better ground.

The left handed course at Sedgefield is undulating and it includes an uphill finish. It would be wrong to assume this finish leads to a lot of position changing however. Many front runners are able to fend off challengers here, especially in hurdles races where the run-in is short.

Major Races

The Hurdle Series and the culminating Hurdle Final that usually takes place around late March is Sedgefield’s highlight event over the smaller obstacles. The final showdown includes a purse of £25,000 and with it being a Class 2 affair, it’s one of the course’s most high quality races.

The biggest occasion is undoubtedly the Durham National however. Originally run in late April/early May, the testing three mile, six furlong race now features at the end of October or beginning of November. The Class 3 handicap has seen an increase in the standard of horse in recent years and this is something which looks set to be sustained.

Visiting

Sedgefield Racecourse Grandstand
Sedgefield Racecourse Grandstand (Oliver Dixon / geograph.org.uk)

While there’s not a lot to do in the small town of Sedgefield, Durham is not situated too far away and there’s plenty to keep you busy there either side of the racing. Equally the major cities of the North East are within striking distance too, making this a good option for a long weekend away.

Useful Info

Dress Code

There are no formal rules in place regarding dress but smart casual attire is recommended in all enclosures.

Ticket Prices

With only a couple of exceptions, prices at Sedgefield remain constant regardless of the day you attend. Grandstand Enclosure tickets will set you back £14 when booking in advance and £16 on the day and a spot in the Course Enclosure costs £5, although it isn’t open for every meeting.

One of the pricing exceptions is the South Durham Point to Point meeting, with tickets costing £10 in advance. The other is Ladies’ Evening, where Grandstand entry is an extra £1. Concessionary discounts of £8 are available in the Grandstand Enclosure for senior citizens and students when purchased on the day. Children under 18 are admitted free of charge.

Membership

Annual badges costs £250 for the full year (£150 if you are aged between 18-25) and £180 for half a year. With Sedgefield being an ARC course, you also get free access to all other ARC courses (restrictions apply), as well as £50 worth of vouchers and four complimentary tickets for any ARC venue. Other perks include over 20 reciprocal meetings, reduced rates on hospitality packages and access to the members’ car park.

Getting There

Sedgefield is located almost equidistant from Teeside, Darlington and Durham which are all about 20 minutes away by car. Driving is the most common way of getting to the course as there are few public transport links. Darlington and Durham offer the closest train stations and from here you’ll need to drive or order a taxi.

Parking

Parking is available just outside the course and is free of charge.

History

Village of Sedgefield
Village of Sedgefield (Andrew Curtis / geograph.org.uk)

Evidence traces racing back to Sedgefield to around 1732, although the first recorded meeting came 114 years after this date. The original course was based in the Sands Hall Estate, known as the Melton of the North. It was here that would become the headquarters of the Ralph Lambton Hunt, created in 1804, named after Ralph Lambton, an ancestor of the Earls of Durham.

In these days Sedgefield was a densely grassed course which absorbed rainfall incredibly well, meaning the turf was never known to get heavy. FJ Bayles also commented that the surface on the course was “smooth and as regular as a garden lawn.” The course organised a two day fixture in March in Edwardian times and although it was still a meeting for hunting men, it was far more professional than in previous years.

Sedgefield During WWI

As with many tracks around the UK, racing at Sedgefield was abandoned in 1915 due to war but returned in 1920. It was not a happy return to racing, however, for many involved at Sedgefield, who mourned the passing of Richard Ord, owner of the Sands Hall Estate. This paved the way for a new racecourse company to be founded in 1927 and this is the date that Sedgefield considers to be the start of its modern era.

Improvements

Facilities at the course were radically improved in 1977, the ‘tin huts’ which were previously there were replaced by new bars and dining areas. Stable facilities also received a timely upgrade ensuring they were far more comfortable for all who used them. In 1991, Sedgefield opened a new pavilion which included Tote facilities, a restaurant and seven private suites. With this not entirely satisfying the demand for corporate facilities, the Theakston Suite was built in 1995 to create more suites and an additional bar.

Frank Sotto, who had overseen all these changes since being appointed chairman of the course in 1977, died in 1996, but improvements continued in a manner he would have been proud of. Such enhancements to the course include a refurbished parade ring, a new betting ring and a modern weighing room complex.

Sedgfield may not be the biggest or best course around but for those looking for a fun, friendly day at the races without huge crowds, it still has plenty to offer.