Set against the beautiful backdrop of the rolling East Riding Hills, and only around a mile outside the town of the same name, lies the small but perfectly formed Beverley Racecourse. A truly historic venue, with tales of racing in the area dating back over 300 years, this friendly and welcoming summer track is a firmly established fixture of the racing scene.
Within proximity to Beverley itself but also to the urban hubs of Hull and York, the track regularly draws in the crowds from the surrounding areas, in addition to racing fans from further afield.
Beverley may be relatively small but anything it lacks in stature it certainly makes up for in quality, with the town frequently being voted as one of the best places to live in the UK. A thriving market town steeped in history, it’s an attractive location for tourists, as well as residents, and one in which racegoers may well wish to linger a little longer. With the livelier Hull and York also within easy reach, there are plenty of options for those seeking to tack an overnight stay onto their racing outing.
Closest to the Course
Boasting a fine Minster and the 15th century North Bar Gate, Beverley has plenty to keep history buffs entertained. And, if taking a step back in time isn’t your thing, the town also boasts an attractive range of traditional pubs, with the likes of the Queen’s Head, the Dog and Duck Inn and the Grapes all rating highly. The Tudor Rose and the Beverley Arms are popular accommodation options in the town centre, whilst the Best Western Lairgate and the Cross Keys are within easy reach of Beverley’s main attractions, whilst also being under a mile from the course itself.
Racegoers seeking something just a little busier than Beverley for their post-race entertainment may wish to select Hull as their base of operations. Lying only around 10 miles to the south of the town, Kingston upon Hull boasts over 60 pubs and bars, from the traditional Ye Olde White Harte to the up-market Lexington Rooftop Bar.
Many of the major hotel chains can also be found in and around the city centre, including iBis, Holiday Inn and Campanile – all three of which lie within a few hundred metres of the train station – which handily offers a frequent service to Beverley. And, for those looking for something a little swankier, the appropriately named Swanky Suites on the Marina or the Park Apartments are worth checking out.
Look Yonder to York
Lying only around 30 miles to the east of Beverley is one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations – the picturesque city of York. Home of the famed “Shambles”, York Minster, the Jorvik Viking Centre, York Dungeon – not to mention a pretty decent racecourse of its own – York is always well worth a visit when passing through this part of the UK.
Being so well frequented by visitors from far and wide, York is incredibly well served by hotels considering its size, with the range of options running into the hundreds. If a bed is all you are after, both the Safestay York and the Astor York Hostel provide comfort on the cheap, whilst at the other end of the scale, 23 St Mary’s and the Clifford Gathering York are amongst a range of truly luxurious options. Whatever your preference and budget though, you should find something that fits the bill in this beautiful city, which is within easy reach of Beverley by both rail and road.
About the Racecourse
A flat-only track, Beverley operates during the warmer months of the year and in line with the core British flat campaign. Laying on around 19 fixtures across the course of its season, which runs from April through to September, most meetings are single day, midweek affairs. The quality of the racing reaches its peak with the three Saturday fixtures, whilst a number of themed evening meetings also push the 12,000 capacity. In terms of individual standout contests, the track’s only Listed class event of the Beverley Bullet Sprint Stakes, which takes place in late August/early September each year, undoubtedly takes centre stage.
Racing fans wishing to pay a visit to this corner of Yorkshire will find Beverley easily accessible via rail and road. Trains arrive at Beverley Train Station around every 20 minutes from Hull, with direct services also running from the major stations of Sheffield and London Kings Cross. Racegoers arriving from Hull, York or Leeds meanwhile also have the option of utilising a number of bus services which run to the town, including the 23, X46 and Cityzap. Once within the town centre, the track is within reasonable walking distance, or only around a five-minute ride in a taxi. Bus services also operate from close to the train station, stopping just outside the Grandstand and Paddock enclosure.
For those travelling by car, the course lies on York Road in Beverley Westwood just off the A1305. Those arriving from the North can approach via the A1, A54, A1079 and A19, whilst southern travellers should first take the M1, turn onto the A64 and follow the signs to the town. The M62 is the major approach road from the west, from which motorists should head to Market Weighton before taking the A1079 or A1035 to the course. And of course, Satnav makes it all a little bit simpler, with the postcode to use being HU17 8QZ.
Ample free parking is available at the nearby Westwood Pasture, only a very short walk from the track. A smaller quantity of spaces are available at the track itself but they do incur a charge. For those hoping to leave the car within Beverly town centre, 24-hour parking facilities are available on Spencer Street, Butcher Row and at the Flemingate Multi-Story.
The track at Beverley measures close to 1m3f in circumference and lies somewhere between an oval and an egg in terms of its configuration. Featuring tight, right-handed turns, the course is only moderately undulating in the main, with the glaring exception of the three-furlong home straight, which climbs steadily all the way to the line. In addition to the main round course, the track also features a spur containing the five-furlong start, which kinks to the right before joining the home straight.
Despite the uphill finish, Beverley is generally considered to be only a moderately testing track – unless the ground is soft. Whilst tough, the final section of the course is balanced to a degree by the tight, pace steadying turns and slightly downhill portions of the course. In events on the straight five-furlong course, however, an ability to truly see out the distance is absolutely essential.
Overall, front runners tend to be favoured at all distances, with hold-up horses regularly struggling to make up ground in the straight. Given the tight turns, a low draw is beneficial over all distances on the round course, but it is over the sprint trip of five furlongs that the strongest bias is in evidence. In addition to kinking right-handed, the sprint track also cambers away from the inside rail, leaving those drawn wide not only travelling further round the bend but also having to run slightly uphill whilst doing so. It is one of the strongest biases in evidence at any track in the country, so always pay close attention to those drawn low in sprint contests.
A small and relaxed venue, Beverley has a dress code to match. There is in fact no official dress code in either the Course or Grandstand and Paddock enclosures, with jeans, sportswear and inoffensive fancy dress all being permitted in these areas. Despite the relaxed rules, many racegoers do opt for smarter attire within the Grandstand and Paddock Enclosure on the busier race days, with Ladies Day in particular seeing an array of smart jackets for the gents and fancy frocks and hats for women.
Racegoers in the Premier Enclosure are encouraged to dress smartly. Suits, dresses and hats are all welcomed, but for the gents a collared shirt, jeans/chinos and shoes will suffice, whilst tailored shorts and smart t-shirts are also fine. Sportswear is not permitted in the track’s classiest enclosure, with fancy dress also being forbidden, other than on special themed race nights.
Beverley offers three main ticketing options at the majority of fixtures: the Course Enclosure, the Grandstand and Paddock Enclosure and the Premier Enclosure. Set in the centre of the track, the Course Enclosure is the cheapest option, with tickets available for around £7. The only area of the course which allows patrons to bring their own food and drink, this enclosure is an ideal spot for a picnic and is hugely popular with families. Punters are also permitted to drive into this section of the track – again at a cost of £7 – with parking spots close to the rail providing an excellent view of the action.
Next up the ladder comes the Grandstand and Paddock enclosure. Very reasonably priced at £16 for standard tickets and £12 for concessions at the majority of meetings, this is the largest of the three enclosures. Providing some seating and shelter, parade ring viewing and access to a range of bars and eateries, including the Rapid Lad Bar, Touch Above Bar and Cleverley’s Bar and Bistro, this busy part of the course invariably generates a real buzz.
And finally, amongst the standard ticketing options, we have the track’s swankiest offering of the Premier Enclosure. Providing excellent facilities, the very best views of the track and a range of smart bars, including the 1690 Bar, the Terrace Bar and the Whistlejackets Lounge, tickets are priced at £24 in advance for standard meetings, rising to £34 for the season’s major events.
In addition to the above, a range of hospitality and private suite packages are available, with prices ranging from £23 to £42.50 for food packages, and £80 to £115 for an all bells and whistles suite. Note that under-18’s go free with a paying adult at all meetings, other than Ladies Day where a charge is in place for those aged between five and 17 years old.
A relatively low-key track in terms of the class of the action on show, Beverley still consistently draws in the crowds, with the fact that it operates exclusively during the warmer months not doing attendance figures any harm. Whilst handicapping fare is the staple diet at the course, there are nevertheless several meetings that do stand out from the crowd, with the following three in particular seeing the fans flock to the Westwood venue.
Beverley Bullet Raceday
Taking place in late August/early September each year, this is one of only three Saturday fixtures at the venue. It is also the biggest, being headlined by the courses only Listed class event of the titular Beverley Bullet. The tracks signature event, this five-furlong contest for the speedballs is perhaps the one occasion of the year when this small Yorkshire course really draws the attention of the wider racing world. Well supported by six competitive handicap and novice events. And with the track pulling out all the stops in terms of entertainment and race-day experience, this is one of the first dates pencilled into the diaries of racing fans in the area.
Very British Raceday
Always eager to come up with something a little different in terms of raceday experience, Beverley lays on several themed fixtures throughout the season. Bygone Beverley takes a look back at the 1950s and 1960s, whilst the flares are always out in force for the popular Bus Stop 70’s Night. The pick of the bunch however might well be the Very British Raceday of late May/early June.
Boasting a range of fairground attractions, including a vintage Carousel, Swing Boats and Hook a Duck there’s plenty to keep the family entertained. And the action on the track isn’t too bad either with the Two-Year-Old Trophy and Hilary Needler Stakes both being regular stopping off points for runners bound for Royal Ascot.
Of course, everyone loves a Ladies Day! Lauded as one of the very best such events in the land – and there’s no shortage of competition – the sun is often out for this Wednesday afternoon fixture in mid-August, with the lovely lasses of Yorkshire invariably brightening up proceedings still further in an array of frilly frocks and fascinators. With style awards for the best dressed, additional entertainment and food and drink options, be sure to book early for what is one of the course’s biggest and best fixtures of the year.
With reports of racing from as early as the 16th Century, it’s safe to say that the Beverley locale has been playing host to equine events of some description for a very long time indeed. Based at its current site atop a hillside on common land known as the Westwood since 1690, the embryonic early days were dominated by irregular and relatively unorganised meetings.
1767: First Grandstand Cost £1,000
It wasn’t until the formation of the jockey club in 1752 that Beverley became formally recognised as a racing venue and the course was officially founded. Becoming significantly more organised in the following years, by 1767 the course was playing host to more frequent fixtures with that year also seeing the commissioning of the first grandstand at the track, at a cost of £1,000.
Temporarily closed following a downturn in fortunes between 1798 and 1805, Beverley soon rebounded, with the advent of a hugely popular three-day spring meeting helping the track get back on its feet. This period also saw local trainer, Richard Watt, help to raise the profile of the course and area in general with an impressive four wins in the St Leger between the years of 1813 and 1833.
1968: New Grandstand Cost £90,000
Commandeered as an airbase during World War II – with the home straight actually being used as a runway – the track was quick to resume its upward trajectory upon reopening. 1968 saw the unveiling of a brand new stand – the £90,000 cost of which represented a significant rise from the £1,000 of the 1767 original. Grandstands, like almost everything else it seems, aren’t immune to inflation.
Famous Names at Beverley
Other than that of Richard Watt, famous names from Beverley’s past include those of Scottish filly Attraction who backed up a win in the Hilary Needler Stakes with successes in the following season’s English and Irish 1,000 Guineas. An impressive feat, and one which resulted in the Mark Johnston-trained star having a restaurant at the track named in her honour. Rapid Lad meanwhile didn’t go on to achieve anything like the peaks of Attraction but became something of a cult hero at the course – winning 12 of 29 starts here, and only one of 26 elsewhere.
Owned and operated on a not-for-profit basis by the Beverley Race Company Ltd, the track is one of only a few independently run courses in the country but it continues to keep pace with those falling under the Jockey Club and ARC umbrellas. With further upgrades scheduled to the existing facilities, this small historic course looks set to continue to provide racegoers with a thoroughly modern experience in the years to come.