Sandown Racecourse is one of England’s premier horse racing courses, staging Group 1 action on the flat and Grade 1 action over jumps. It is also one of the most picturesque as it is located in the leafy suburb of Esher.
Sandown was the Queen Mother’s favourite racecourse, where she witnessed some of the amazing feats of horses like Desert Orchid, Mill Reef, and Arkle. The other main highlight over jumps is the Bet365 Gold Cup, whilst the Coral Eclipse has been won by many of the best flat horses every to grace any English racecourse.
Course Type: Flat and Jumps
Current Owner: Jockey Club Racecourses
Both the flat and jumps tracks are right-handed at Sandown. The flat track measures around 13 furlongs and is oval-shaped. It is considered a galloping track and the steady climb to the line all the way from the home bend puts the emphasis on stamina. Races run over five furlongs are run on the straight course, where coming from a low-draw is often an advantage. Whatever the distance of the races, it often pays to race prominently, and front-runners often go well here.
The chase track is considered one of the finest tests of jumping for any horse. The back straight provides runners with seven fences to jump, including the famous railway fences, three fences that come in quick succession. Races such as the Tingle Creek Chase are often won by the fastest horses, whilst long-distance races such as the Bet35 Gold Cup are real stamina-sapping marathons, which can be brutal when the ground is heavy.
If the front-runners ride a well-judged race, it can be very hard to come from behind over hurdles and fences. Though don’t give up on your selection if the front-runners go at it hammer and tongue from the off.
The Tingle Creek is Sandown’s main pre-Christmas feature and this two-mile grade 1 chase has been won by some of the best chasers ever to run in the United Kingdom including Desert Orchid, Moscow Flyer, Kauto Star, Master Minded, and Sprinter Sacre. The Tingle Creek card also features the Henry VIII Novices Chase over the same course and distance, a race that was won by Altior in 2016.
There’s more Grade 1 action in January in the shape of the Tolworth Hurdle. This two-mile hurdle is often a good-pointer to future success at either the Cheltenham Festival or Grand National Meeting, with winners like Yorkhill, Finian’s Oscar, and Summerville Boy all winning at those meetings in the same season.
February is the usual month of the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, and this race has a habit of being won by some high-class individuals including Best Mate, Oscar Whiskey, and Bristol De Mai. Meanwhile, the big March meeting sees the amateurs get their moment in the spotlight in the Grand Military Gold Cup, a race won by amputee jockey Captain Guy Disney in 2017. The Imperial Cup is also run in March and the winner of this race can grab a big bonus if they go and win at the Cheltenham Festival. Horses to have won the bonus include Olympian and Blowing Wind.
The jumps season then closes in April with two high-class contests in the shape of the Celebration Chase and the Bet365 Gold Cup. The Celebration Chase takes place over two-miles and is a chance for top-class chasers to grab a big prize before the end of the season. Recent renewals have all been won by Champion Chasers like Sire Du Grugy, Sprinter Sacre, Special Tiara, and Altior.
The Bet365 Gold Cup is one for the stayers though, and this handicap is a thorough test of stamina over three miles and five furlongs. This race is often won by a horse with a light-weight, but class horses like Arkle, Desert Orchid, and Tidal Bay have all carried big-weights to success.
The flat season kicks-off on the same weekend as the Bet365 Gold Cup, with the Group 2 Bet365 Mile being the highlight of the weekend. Paco Boy, Dick Turpin and Toormore feature amongst eight winners enjoyed by the stable of Richard Hannon since 2004. The Sandown Classic Trial and the Gordon Richards Stakes are two more group races on this card.
May is the time for the Henry II Stakes and the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, whilst the July Meeting features the Group 3 Sprint Stakes. However, July’s main race is the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes that has been won by great horses like Nashwan, Halling, Sea The Stars, and Golden Horn.
Sandown’s last big flat meeting takes place in August and features the Group 3 Atalanta Stakes and the Group 3 Solario Stakes. The latter has produced some serious horses in recent seasons, with the likes of Kingman and Masar going on to classic success. The 2018 renewal was won by the high-class two-year-old Too Darn Hot.
If attending the Premier Enclosure. Restaurants, or Hospitality Areas, smart casual is the required dress code. This includes a collared shirt, polo neck, or polo shirt for men and smart trousers or smart jeans. However, many racegoers choose to dress up and make a real day of it in these enclosures, especially the ladies. Sportswear, trainers, shorts, and flip flops are not permitted.
The Grandstand Enclosure offers more relaxed surroundings, though vests and football shirts are not acceptable attire. Fancy dress is also allowed in the Grandstand Enclosure, providing it is not offensive to other racegoers.
When it first opened in 1875, Sandown raised the bar by becoming the first racecourse in the UK to offer members an exclusive enclosure.
Sandown Park Racecourse, Portsmouth Road, Esher, KT10 9AJ