Horse racing has been taking part at Sedgefield for nearly 300 years, though it has only officially being taking part there since 1846. The racecourse is famous for its friendly atmosphere and for its location nestled in the heart of the Durham countryside.
The course stages a variety of themed meetings each season, including the Injured Jockeys Race Day, the Resident Race Day, Winter Race Day, and its Christmas Jumper Race Day. It’s also a popular venue for events such as the local Christmas Food & Drink Festival and Christmas Parties.
Meanwhile, the main racing highlight is the Durham National Handicap Chase, which is run over 3 miles and 5 furlongs. The course also produces more than its fair share of course specialists, with 13-times course winner Fatehalkhair earning his own unique place in the course’s history.
Course Type: Jumps
Current Owner: Arena Racing Company
Sedgefield Racecourse is widely regarded as one of the easiest to jump chase courses in the country, as the fences are small and ideal for lower-grade horses. The course itself is left-handed and very undulating, with a downhill run off the final bend giving horses the chance to fill their lungs before the final climb to the line.
Despite the easy nature of the jumps, the speedy nature of the course lends itself to prominent racers that jump quickly. It’s extremely difficult to make up ground here from the back unless the front-runners go off far too fast, even when the ground rides slow. When the ground is soft, runners often head to the stands rail after the final bend as the ground is usually better.
The Durham National Handicap Chase is Sedgefield Racecourse’s flagship event and this three mile five furlong race normally takes place in late October or early November. The race generally attracts horses from some of the country’s top trainers, which is no surprise as it offers a first prize of over £18,000. The ground can make a huge difference to how the race is run, but recent renewals have been run on decent ground. The trainer Dr Richard Newland has an excellent record in the race having won the 2017 renewal with Audacious Plan, whilst he also won the 2014 and 2015 renewals with Royale Knight. Splitting those wins was the 2016 winner Buchaill Alainn, who was trained by Peter Bowen.
Sedgefield has three course enclosures, so it’s worth considering the dress code if you’re having a day at the races. If attending the Grandstand or Paddock Enclosure, the dress code is smart casual. Racegoers are asked not to wear trainers, sports tops, sports shorts, jogging bottoms, or skimpy tops.
If attending the Centre Course Enclosure, the dress code is more relaxed. Even fancy dress is permitted, providing it is not offensive to other racegoers.
Up until 1994, the chase course at Sedgefield had the longest run-in of any course in England. However, the water jump, which wasn’t jumped on the final circuit, was replaced by a plain fence known as the Johnny Ridley fence, which takes its name from the eponymous local bookmaker that sponsors it.
Sedgefield Racecourse, Racecourse Road, Sedgefield, Stockton-on-Tees, TS21 2HW