Windsor Racecourse Guide

Windsor Track
Windsor Track (Steve Daniels / geograph.org.uk)

Set amongst 165 acres of Berkshire countryside, Windsor Racecourse is a wonderfully located venue, right beside the banks of the River Thames and in view of the world-famous Windsor Castle. It is one of only two courses in Britain with a figure-of-eight shape, something that adds to its distinctiveness.

There is plenty of action at Windsor with 27 days of flat racing on their calendar which starts in April and ends in October. While a well-attended venue through the flat season, it is the very popular Monday night racing which often draws in the biggest crowds due their lively atmosphere and post-race entertainment.

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The Course

The figure-of-eight layout at Windsor can be a slightly confusing one when seeing it for the first time. Sprint races are simple as they will stick to the straight track which is level throughout but things are a little more challenging when horses are competing over longer distances.

Races over distances greater than six furlongs but less than 12 will see horses take on the rather sharp right hand bend which is sometimes referred to as ‘carnage corner’ due to what happens if the front runner slows down in a congested race. It’s one that often makes or breaks a horse’s chances of success in the race and jockeys have to get their tactics right otherwise they might find themselves struggling come the five furlong run-in.

For races over 12 furlongs, horses have to navigate the top left handed bend as well as the right hand turn at the bottom of the track, posing a unique test for all runners. Jockeys not only need to plan when to make their move but whether or not they pull out to the far side, a tactic which is often employed on more testing grounds.

Major Races

Windsor does host a good range of Class 1 events which include five Listed races. These include the Leisure Stakes which was moved from Lingfield Park in 2000 and the Royal Windsor Stakes which was initiated the same year. Four years later and Windsor welcomed two more Listed races, the Midsummer Stakes and the August Stakes.

The biggest race at Windsor though is their only Group quality event, the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes which was upgraded from Listed status in 1995. It is run every August and in 2016 it carried a rather handsome £60,000 prize purse.

Visiting

Windsor Racecourse
Windsor Racecourse (Bill Boaden / geograph.org.uk)

There are plenty of things to do when in Windsor and if you plan on making the racecourse one of them, here are a few things you should know before you go.

Useful Info

Dress Code

Attire in the Club Enclosure must be smart, which means no ripped jeans, t-shirts, sports clothing or trainers are allowed. It is requested that men wear a collared shirt and for the ladies, they may wear smart sandals but no flip flops.

There is no dress code for the Grandstand or the Silver Ring Enclosure but if you are planning to eat at one of the three onsite restaurants then the Club Enclosure dress code will apply.

Ticket Prices

There are three types of tickets for Windsor and for the vast majority of meetings they remain the same price. On-the-day prices are £25 for a Club Enclosure ticket, £21 for the Grandstand Enclosure and £12 for the Silver Ring Enclosure which is open between May and August only.

For any of the four premium race days each year, tickets will be a little more expensive, with prices available nearer the time. All tickets come with a £3 discount if booked in advance but students with a valid ID card are best off paying on the day as they will be entitled to 30% discount. Children under 18 receive free entry when accompanied by an adult.

Membership

Annual membership at Windsor costs £310 unless you are aged between 18 and 25, in which case you can get intermediate annual membership for £170. With Windsor being one of the Arena Racing Company’s courses, this means you are free to visit one of their other 15 venues as many times as you like.

Other perks include access to the Owners, Trainers and Annual Members Bar, a race card for all 27 meetings and some admission vouchers to give to friends or family.

Getting There

Despite actually being based on an island, Windsor couldn’t be much easier to get to whether by car or public transport. It has three train stations nearby, Windsor and Eton Central, Windsor and Eton Riverside and Slough; the former two both within walking distance of the racecourse.

You don’t have to walk from these two stations, however, as there is a water taxi service that will take you there from the nearby promenade in around 10 minutes.

Parking

If you have purchased a Silver Ring Enclosure ticket you can drive your car directly inside the picnic area for a cost of £10, otherwise your two options are to pay £10 on the day or £7 in advance for the premier members car park or use the free public car park.

History

Aerial of Royal Windsor Racecourse
Aerial of Royal Windsor Racecourse (Thomas Nugent / geograph.org.uk)

Charles II did a lot to kick-start horse racing in Britain and it was during his reign that the first evidence of racing was recorded in Windsor during 1682. Although it held few races of its own from this point and into the 18th century, it did become a well-recognised place due to the fact many of the horses attending the Royal Ascot meeting would base themselves at Windsor while they prepared for the big event.

It was only in the mid-19th century when racing became a more consistent figure at the Berkshire course and it was the home of several highly patriotic military steeplechase meetings that attracted a royal and aristocratic audience. Flat races soon followed, and in 1866 the first race was underway at Rays Meadow, which is where the racing takes place today.

In 1923, there was quite an incredible scene at Windsor as one race ended up with a triple dead heat. This was before the time of photo finishes but one photographer who was watching the action managed to catch a perfectly timed picture of the three horses crossing the line at the same time.

Winston Churchill

Three years later and Windsor was again attracting attention as its racecourse bookies went on strike in 1926 as a result of Winston Churchill’s unpopular betting tax. Fortunately for them, the 2.5% levy on trackside bets was abolished by the Labour government a few years later. It wasn’t the last time Churchill was talked about at Windsor, however, as his prized horse, Colonist II, rode to victory here in 1949.

Famous Visitors & Jockeys

Windsor enjoyed some good crowds during the 20th century, even hosting racing during both World Wars and it received an even bigger boost with the introduction of its Monday evening meetings in the 1960s. It wasn’t unusual to see the Queen Mother attend one of these if she happened to be residing in Windsor Castle at the right time.

While Windsor has been home to plenty of jump racing since its early days, it became a strictly flat track in 1998, although an exception was made between 2004 and 2005 in order to host some of Ascot’s jump races whilst it was being redeveloped. While largely going about its business quietly since, Windsor made the headlines in 2012 as it was where jockey, Richard Hughes, rode seven winners in one afternoon at combined odds of 10,168/1.