Southwell has been attracting punters from Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands since around 1850, and punters still flock to a course that now offers a unique blend of fibresand all-weather racing and jumps racing on turf.
The course is also one of the busiest in the United Kingdom, putting on around 50 meetings each year. Many of those are held on the fibresand, with trainers saying the surface is similar to many dirt tracks in America.
Course Type: All-weather flat and jumps
Current Owner: Arena Racing Company
Southwell’s all-weather track is a left-handed oval that measures around 10 furlongs. It has a run-in of three-furlongs after the home bend, though races run over five furlongs are run on a straight course thanks to an additional chute. The fibresand surface is generally considered to suit horses that would prefer some cut in the ground on turf, though that’s not always the case. However, because of the uniqueness of the surface, the course produces a lot more course specialists than most other courses.
From a betting perspective, it is often better to back a horse that is proven at Southwell, even if better horses are proven on the other all-weather surfaces at Wolverhampton, Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield and Newcastle.
Jockeys tend to avoid the inside rail when they come into the straight, as this is perceived to be the slowest part of the track. Statistics give this theory plenty of weight, with winners often coming down the middle of the track or wider. You also don’t want to back a horse whose best form is over shorter distances than the length of the race it’s running in, as the surface puts the emphasis firmly on stamina rather than speed.
By contrast, the ground on the jumps course makes a massive difference to how the course rides. When the ground is good or faster the emphasis is on speed, whilst if it’s soft or heavy stamina tends to win the day. The fences are quite stiff too, so quite a few horses tend not to finish their races. The hurdles course is interesting too, as Southwell uses brush hurdles that are often compared to the mini fences that are used in France. These hurdles put the emphasis firmly on a horse’s ability to jump as they are much more penal than normal hurdles.
Southwell is renowned for low-quality but friendly and entertaining racing, and it doesn’t have a flagship race. However, it’s New Year Festive Fixture often attracts Southwell’s largest crowd of the season.
Southwell doesn’t operate a formal dress code but, if you’re attending the Premier Enclosure or any other form of hospitality area, smart casual is the order or the day. That means no trainers, shorts, or t-shirts. However, these can all be worn in the Grandstand.
Southwell is one of just six courses in the United Kingdom that have an all-weather course, but is the only one with a fibresand surface.
Southwell may not have any major races of its own, but it did stage the 2007 renewal of the Great Yorkshire Chase when Doncaster was under redevelopment.
Southwell Racecourse, Occupation Lane, Rolleston, Nottinghamshire, NG25 0TS