The county of Yorkshire is a real hive of racing activity, with a total of eight tracks situated in White Rose country. And, of those eight, the one to be found furthest to the east lies just off the coast in the heart of the Tees Valley town of Redcar. Set in 80 acres of land, this independently owned track offers a fun, laid back atmosphere and is a hugely popular course with families and holidaymakers.
Lying in such a scenic part of the world, with the wonderful Yorkshire countryside and beautiful Northeast coastline both within hailing distance, racegoers will find plenty of reason to stick around in what is one of northern England’s more popular summer tourist destinations. And, happily, for those hoping to extend their visit within an overnight stay, accommodation options are in plentiful supply.
Closest to the Course
Given its central location, the closest hotels to the course unsurprisingly lie within the town of Redcar itself – the bulk of which sit along the coastline. From a wealth of choices, the Abbey Guest House, Claxton Hotel and Park Hotel all benefit from this beachside setting whilst also lying within a mile of the course. For a more luxurious option, how about the Seaview Luxury Apartments which are very competitively priced for what they offer.
In addition to the beach and racecourse, Redcar itself boasts a host of further attractions, including museums and wildlife centres, in addition to a thriving pub scene, with the Gypsy Rover, the Halt and That’s the Spirit amongst a clutch of highly rated watering holes in the area.
For those seeking to mix a big city break with their racing trip, Newcastle sits only 50 miles to the north and is certainly a viable option. A more popular choice with many racegoers though is to stay in Middlesbrough. Falling into the large town rather than city category, Middlesbrough is still four times bigger than Redcar in terms of population, and easily reachable at just under nine miles to the west of the track.
Home to more than enough drinking establishments to facilitate an entertaining post-race pub crawl, the Bottled Note, Twisted Lip and the Hairy Lemon are all particularly highly rated with visitors. And Middlesbrough isn’t too far behind several cities when it comes to the number of accommodation options available, with close to 200 on offer. Holiday Inn, Hampton and Best Western are all represented, whilst Dream Apartments and the Baltimore Hotel feature amongst the higher-end offerings.
And for those seeking something a little quieter to pair with their racing trip, the North York Moors National Park provides a scenic and suitably tranquil option. Only around 13 miles from the track, the park is home to extensive picturesque moorlands and woodlands crammed with a diverse range of wildlife. Throw in a host of archaeological features, including the North’s largest Iron Age fort, and it’s no wonder the area is such a tourist hotspot. Amongst a wide range of accommodation choices available in and around the park, racegoers may wish to consider the Grinkle Park Hotel, the Fox and Hound or St Hilda’s Complex, all of which lies towards the northern end of the park and so are within easiest reach of the track.
About the Racecourse
A flat-only course, Redcar’s season is focused upon the warmer months of the year, with the track’s 18 fixtures all falling between late April and November. Targeting the tourist market, the venue’s four Saturday afternoon fixtures are particularly popular, as is the sole evening meeting of August. Generally, a mid-level track in terms of the quality on offer, Redcar does nevertheless play host to a pair of Listed events, in addition to a valuable contest for the two year olds.
Redcar is easily located for those travelling by car, with the A1, the A66, the A19, the A174 Parkway and the A1085 all approaching the seaside town. Once in the vicinity, motorists will find the track to be very well signposted, but for those using satnav the postcode to enter is TS10 2FD. Free parking is available at the track’s two car parks; the first of which is situated beside the main entrance, with the second at the side of the course. Motorists are advised to leave plenty of time for their journey, as the traffic can build up around the course, particularly during the peak summer months.
For those arriving by train, Redcar Central is the closest station to the track. Only around a seven-minute walk – or short taxi journey – from the course, the station enjoys strong links with Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Darlington.
A narrow left-handed oval of around 1m6f in length, Redcar features two straight sections of around five furlongs in length and a pair of tight banked bends, with that which turns into the home straight being notably sharp. The track also features a three-furlong chute that runs directly into the home straight, creating the only dead straight and completely level turf track in UK racing. All contests between five furlongs and a mile take place entirely on this straight section of the course.
Despite the sharp bends, it is the two long straight sections that make up the bulk of the course, handing the advantage to long-striding galloping performers rather than the nippy more agile types. Front runners go well over the sprint trips, but over further this can be a tricky course at which to judge the pace correctly. As such, those horses who hold their fire before coming with a sustained late run regularly fare best of all.
A generally fair course, there is little in the way of draw bias, with the one exception coming on the straight course when the ground is riding soft, in which case those drawn low hold the edge. In common with many coastal tracks though, the quick-draining sandy subsoil means that soft ground is something of a rarity around here.
A relaxed, tourist-focused and family-friendly course, there is no official dress code in place at Redcar. The track does however advise against sports clothing or turning up in your swimsuit, whilst smart casual is suggested in the Grandstand Enclosure. One thing to pay attention to though is your choice of footwear, as getting around the course does involve crossing grassy sections which, depending upon the weather, might be wet.
Those visiting Redcar have the choice of two main enclosures: the Grandstand Enclosure and the Course Enclosure. Priced at £15 for a midweek fixture and £18 for a weekend, bank holiday or evening meeting, the Grandstand Enclosure provides excellent views of the track from the tiered grandstand steppings, access to the parade ring and winners enclosure, and a range of bars and eateries including the Malton, Middleham and Zetland bars, and the Crows Nest and Voltigeur restaurants.
Priced at a bargain £6 for a midweek meeting and £7 at the weekend, and for evening or bank holiday fixtures, the course enclosure is situated in the centre of the racecourse and contains its own food and bar facilities in addition to a picnic area and playground for the kids.
Racegoers purchasing standard tickets in advance will receive a discount of £3 for the Grandstand Enclosure and £1 for the Course Enclosure, with students and OAPs receiving an identical discount on tickets purchased on the day. Under 18’s go free when accompanied by a paying adult.
In addition to the standard ticketing options, a range of dining packages are available. For £35.50 to £38.50 the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Package includes entry, race card, afternoon tea, a glass of fizz and a reserved table in the Voltigeur Restaurant, whilst three course meal deals at the Crows Nest begin at around £75 per head. The track’s private box facilities can cater for parties of between eight and 16, and offer a range of meal and drink deals, priced from £78 to £98 per head.
Whilst Redcar can be relied upon to provide a fun-filled day out for racegoers of all ages, the action on the track tends to be of only average standard, with the bulk of the fixtures being dominated by competitive handicapping action. As with all tracks though, there are still those fixtures that stand out from the rest, with the following three meetings in particular likely to draw a capacity crowd of 5,000.
Two Year Old Trophy Day
Redcar stages just the two Listed class contests, and they both take place on this same card in October. Offering around £170,000 in total prize money, it is the six-furlong Two Year Old Trophy which acts the headline act and regularly draws promising contenders from both northern and southern yards. Won by the likes of Pipalong and subsequent July Cup winner Limato in the past, it is a race that can provide an early glimpse of a future star. The Guisborough Stakes over seven furlongs provides the second of the days Listed level events, and if the quality of the racing fare is your main priority, this late-season meeting is the time to pay a visit to this coastal course.
Zetland Gold Cup Family Day
Early June sees Redcar hold a race day in honour of the Zetland family who have been amongst the track’s biggest supporters throughout its modern history. The 1m2f Zetland Gold Cup Handicap tops the bill on what is a bumper nine-race card, whilst a range of additional entertainment, including face painting and bouncy castles, ensures the kids are kept as entertained as the punters.
Last but not least comes Redcar’s signature Ladies Day. Also taking place in June, the track is often bathed in sunshine as North Yorkshire’s finest don their best frocks and fascinators. With thousands of pounds worth of prizes on offer for the Best Dressed Lady and Best Hat, there’s a fair amount of competition both on and off the track at this always well-attended summertime fixture.
Racing in the Redcar locale first began way back in the 18th century, with those early events taking place on the sands of Redcar beach. Whilst distinctly amateur affairs, these contests were nevertheless popular enough to require a viewing stand, with local joiner Mr Adamson stepping in to cobble together a wooden facility. The track permitted Mr Adamson to charge visitors for the use of his creation, but in return he was required to build the starting posts, winning posts, and judges box.
Things continued in this manner until 1872 when the jockey club dictated that all races must offer a minimum prize of £50. With the beach facility unable to meet this requirement, the decision was taken to move inland. A consortium of local sportsmen proved the catalyst for this move when purchasing a 21-year lease of the land on which the current course still sits. Raising the necessary prize money funds by charging an entry fee to what was now a private enclosure, Redcar was on its way to becoming the track that it is today.
1872: First Official Race
Staging its first officially recognised meeting on the 9th August 1872, the track quickly proved popular with locals, and by 1875 the first grandstand, as well as a stand for the stewards, had been built at a cost of £2,650. This was then swiftly followed by the unveiling of a second stand in 1877 and on-site stables in 1878.
A positive review in Baileys Magazine – one of the major racing papers of the day – saw a further surge in popularity headed into the 20th century, before the course was closed for the duration of the first world war due to the land being requisitioned for use as an airfield. The track would again do its bit to assist the war effort during WWII – this time when used as an army camp – but it would pay a price, as much of the site was left in a state of considerable disrepair.
First Course to Install CCTV
All was not lost, however, as Major Leslie Petch was appointed as manager in 1946 and he soon set about restoring the track to its former state. Staging only around four meetings a year at the time of his appointment, the Major instigated an increase in the fixture list and oversaw a number of notable firsts, as Redcar became the first course to install CCTV, furlong markers and a timing clock.
1964: New Grandstand
A new grandstand which is still in use to this day then followed in 1964, as Petch, ably assisted by his secretary Mrs Roise – who would later receive an MBE for services to racing – continued to propel the track forwards into the modern era. As is often the case, improved facilities and attendance eventually fed through to a higher quality of action on the track, with the Zetland Gold Cup making its debut in 1988, followed by the Two Year Old Trophy in 1993 and Guisborough Stakes in 2003.
Independently owned to this day, International Racecourse Management stepped in to the track operations in 2008 and have overseen a number of further improvements, including the building of a luxury stable block and accommodation facilities for stable staff.
Redcar may continue to feature amongst the lower profile tracks in the land, but what it does, it does very well, that is providing a relaxed and fun day out, with quality facilities on offer both for racing fans and those working within the industry.