Located in the middle of the relatively small gap between Liverpool and Manchester, Haydock Racecourse has an excellent catchment area. It regularly serves keen racing enthusiasts from both of these nearby cities as it features plenty of high-quality racing throughout the year. In total, it hosts over 32 days of action and with National Hunt and flat racing on offer, there is something to please everyone.
Haydock itself is only a village and its only real visitor attraction is its racecourse. There are a couple of golf clubs situated nearby to the course, plus the small market town of Ashton-in-Makerfield, but ultimately it’s not an area in which many people spend much time. Should you want a nearby stay the night before/after a racing fixture though, a few options do exist but you may prefer venturing a little further out.
Despite being a long way from a tourist area, Haydock Racecourse does feature three accommodation options that are within walking distance. Two of them, the Bay Horse and the Holiday Inn, are situated within a 15-minute stroll away. The former is a traditional British pub but with a very limited number of rooms compared with the much larger three-star Holiday Inn. If you are happy to walk an extra five-minutes you can get to the Mercure Haydock that offers four-star comfort from a trusted name.
On top of this, there are an extra two possibilities that some of you (without children) may consider within walking distance. Heading close towards Haydock itself you have both the Travelodge Haydock St Helens and the Hotel Ibis Styles Haydock. Both high-capacity locations, they are able to accommodate a sizeable number of racegoers. At just over a two-mile walk from the course though, some of you may prefer to get a brief taxi ride to these locations.
Wigan or St Helens for a Nearby Town Stay
If you want to stay somewhere where there is more to do, but don’t want the longer journey to Liverpool or Manchester, then Wigan or St Helens are worth looking at. In the centre of St Helens, you will find a Mercure hotel while in heart of Wigan there is the Premier Inn Wigan Town Centre. Do not get this confused with the Premier Inn Wigan (M6, J25) as this alternative is right on the outskirts of Wigan, although it is distinctly closer to the racecourse.
Liverpool, Manchester or Warrington for more options
So far, the choices we have discussed have been rather limited and it may be that you are after a hotel offering something different. If this is the case, Warrington, located about eight miles away, is the first place to consider. For far greater variety though and offering much more in the way of attractions, you will want either Liverpool or Manchester. It is really a matter of preference which you choose as both are equally far away.
About the Racecourse
By hosting National Hunt and flat racing, Haydock is able to host racing all year round. When combining a significant number of meetings with a lovely course and high-quality facilities, it is no surprise that few courses boast better annual attendances. Even during the smaller meetings, there will still be a vibrant yet friendly atmosphere at Haydock with all welcome no matter if you are a casual racegoer or something of a self-proclaimed expert.
Should you wish to visit this fine course then, of course, you need to know how to get there. If driving by car, the course is all but two minutes from junction 23 of the M6. It is here that the motorway intersects the A580, this being one of the key routes out of Manchester and Liverpool. The course is not only easily accessible by road but another bonus is that parking at Haydock is free of charge. With it being a gravel car park, you needn’t worry about getting your best shoes dirty either.
For public transport users, Haydock Park is not the most convenient place to get to but it is still manageable. By train, the nearest busy station is Newton-le-Willows and despite its small size it is a well-connected stop with direct trains running to and from Liverpool Lime Street, Leeds, Crewe, Newcastle, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria. From the train station, you are a little under three miles from the course. For busier race days, a shuttle bus from the station will be in operation to take you to the course. If not, you will need to arrange a taxi (or walk).
As an alternative, you can get the train to Bryn station. It is a very minor stop served by a single service running from Wigan to/from Liverpool. If you live in either location, this service is worth looking at given Bryn is less than two miles from the racecourse. If coming from Wigan, you can also hop on the 320 Arriva bus service that also runs to St Helens. As a frequent service, this bus is a convenient option for those departing from either town.
Haydock Park is the full name of this race course because the 127-acre plot of land on where it lies used to be a park. You can still see evidence of this when attending as much of the back straight sits in front of a thick layer of tall trees. This woodland setting helps Haydock Park to be one of the more picturesque courses in the country, particularly during the flat racing season. Should you need help navigating around the course, which is possible given it is a sizeable venue, try downloading the Jockey Club app as this provides free access to an interactive map.
As for the racing itself, Haydock is considered to be a very ‘fair’ track on account of its two long straights. What this usually means is that the best horses typically win here and hard-luck stories are something of a rarity. When the conditions are good at Haydock, horses tend to run at a very quick gallop but conversely, in boggy deep-winter meetings, the gruelling conditions can result in quite a sluggish pace.
For a relaxed day out, you will want to head to the Grandstand and Paddock or the Be Friendly enclosure. In both sections of the course, no dress code is enforced and you can even come in fancy dress if you like, providing it is not offensive. Clothing rules only apply if you want to visit the County Enclosure as here smart dress is strongly encouraged. At a minimum, gents need to wear a buttoned, collared shirt with smart trousers (including smart jeans). Fancy dress, sportswear and swimwear are not permitted. For the crème-de-la-crème Premier Enclosure, women should come equipped with the best day wear and the gents should put on a jacket, tie and smart trousers (not jeans).
Haydock Park has five different stands, all providing overhead shelter, and four different types of tickets. The first ticket type, which is only available on selected race days, is called ‘Be Friendly’. This provides access to the Be Friendly Family Stand, which as the name suggests, is a more family-friendly part of the course, in part because it has the largest outdoor standing area. While more limited in what you can access, food and drink venues are still available and adults can still easily place their bets here.
Available year-round is the Grandstand and Paddock ticket and this grants holders access to both the main grandstand and the adjacent Makerfield Stand. This is the largest enclosure of them all and one that provides three raised viewing areas including one with seating. In addition, you also have easy access to the parade ring and winners’ enclosure.
The final two stands, located in-line and just after the winning post are the Centenary Stand and the Tommy Whittle Stand respectively. These, more premium buildings, which feature suites such as the Champagne and Seafood bar, are reserved for County Enclosure and Premier Enclosure ticket holders. The difference between the two tickets is that only with the Premier Enclosure do you have access to the very top floor of the Centenary Stand with its simply unrivalled view.
Entry prices vary by meeting but a fairly typical fixture will charge £20 for a Grandstand and Paddock ticket, £30 if you want to be in the County Enclosure and £55 for the Premier Lounge. For the busier race days in which the Be Friendly Enclosure is open, expect this to cost around £12 as it is the cheapest of all enclosures. You will notice a little variation will prices a little higher/lower than listed but overall Haydock is a reasonably-priced venue all year round.
If you are into your live music you should know that Haydock will occasionally book in a popular musician or band to perform after the racing has finished. Many large acts have performed in the past and Haydock is always looking to add to the list. For meetings when racing and music are combined, the cheapest available ticket becomes significantly more expensive and you will be looking at potentially £40 for a spot in the Grandstand and Paddock enclosure.
As for meetings that are popular purely for the racing, Haydock does have some notable events but no extremely high-profile festivals like many other big racecourses. Still, there are some meetings that are definitely bigger than others and we have highlighted the pick of the bunch below.
Old Newton Cup Festival
The joint-longest meeting to take place at Haydock Park, in terms of duration, is the three-day Old Newton Cup Festival. Held in early in January, this Thursday to Saturday meet is always able to attract not only a good crowd but a good standard of equine competitors. The quietest day is the Thursday should you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere while the Friday (evening) and the Saturday (afternoon) are a little more high-octane especially as the latter sees the main event itself, the Old Newton Cup.
Sprint Cup Celebration
Another three-day meeting at Haydock is the Spring Cup Celebration which runs early in September. Like the Old Newton Festival, this is scheduled to take place from Thursday to Saturday and it is the opening day’s action which is almost always the quietest. To help boost numbers for this day, Haydock allowed customers to bring their only bottle of wine/prosecco/champagne in 2021 so keep an eye out to see if this offer returns. Regardless of the booze policy though, the most popular day of this festival will always be Saturday as it sees the Sprint Cup. This exhilarating top-class contest usually sees 10+ horses zoom down Haydock’s straight course in little over a minute.
Betfair Chase Day
Although Haydock hosts a number of Graded level races (these being among the best in the country) it only has one that boasts the most elite Grade 1 status. This is the Betfair Chase which is a race that always attracts a huge degree of hype and interest, especially as it is the first Grade 1 chase of the National Hunt season. It is a time to see some of the best steeplechasers in the country and they rarely disappoint as they take on 19 Haydock fences. Plenty of fans make their way to Haydock to see this race as a result so a good atmosphere is always guaranteed.
Competitive horse racing close to the current location of Haydock Park is thought to have first taken place in 1751 on Golbourn Heath, Newton-le-Willows. Newton Races, as they were known then, took place regularly between 1807 and 1898 with the biggest contest being the Newton Hunt Cup. Towards the end of the century though, partly due to unruly behaviour, people were less keen on watching the racing and attendances were dwindling.
1899: Grand Opening
Before the situation became too dire, Lord Newton was quick to accept an offer to rent out his land so that a brand new course could be built. Ready in 1899, this is when Haydock Park Racecourse as we know it today first opened its doors. Its inaugural two-day National Hunt meeting had to be postponed due to frost but it did eventually take place three months later in May. The new venue also claimed ownership of the Newton Hunt Cup, although by 1903 it was called the Old Newton Cup. Still running today, it is the sole race that ties Haydock Racecourse to its early origins.
Haydock has largely gone from strength to strength since this point, except during wartime, which forced a temporary closure. There have been some real highlights in this time too such as in 1966 when Haydock introduced a new race, the Vernon’s Sprint Cup (now known as the Sprint Cup). The first and second renewals of the race were won by Be Friendly, a supremely talented sprinter that Haydock later named an entire enclosure after. You will also find a one-tonne bronze statue of Be Friendly at the course. Another big year was 1990 as this was when Haydock opened a brand new grandstand to help increase its capacity.