Nowadays, the Coral Welsh Grand National is a Grade 3 handicap steeplechase run over 3 miles 6½ furlongs at Chepstow Racecourse, where it has been hosted since 1949. In its history, the race has assumed various positions in the calendar, but in recent years has been scheduled for December 27 each year. The race is also the subject of the longest-running commercial sponsorship in British horse racing, having been sponsored by Coral bookmakers since 1973; understandably, more often than not, it is referred to by its sponsored title.
Prior to Chepstow, the Welsh National was staged at Caerleon Racecourse, on the banks of the River Usk, just once before its closure in 1948. The race was established at Ely Racecourse, to the west of Cardiff, in 1895, largely as a result of the popularity of horse racing in the Principality. Indeed, the inaugural running was watched by 40,000 spectators, many of whom overwhelmed the stewards and effectively gatecrashed the meeting. The Welsh National remained at Ely Racecourse until its closure, in the face of dwindling attendances, in 1939. After a brief hiatus for World War II, the race was transferred, briefly, to Caerleon and hence to Chepstow.
Historically, ‘Knares Myre’ and, later, ‘Knavesmire’, was the name given to one distinct portion of an area of open land, known as the Micklegate Stray, within the with the City of York, to the southwest of the city centre. Unsurprisingly, the name was derived from the sodden, waterlogged nature of the terrain but, nowadays, the Knavesmire is best known as the site of York Racecourse, a busy Grade One track, which stages some of the best Flat racing in the country. Consequently, in the horse racing world, ‘Knavesmire’ has become a byname for the racecourse.
Following major levelling and drainage work, York Racecourse staged its first meeting in 1731. In 1756, the first modern grandstand built anywhere in the world was opened on the Knavesmire. York Racecourse was originally a dual-purpose venue, patronised by the Yorkshire Union Hunt, but National Hunt racing ceased in 1885. Likewise, York Racecourse was originally horseshoe-shaped but, prior to the ‘Royal Ascot at York’ meeting in 2005, the original horseshoe was extended by three furlongs to create an oval, 15 furlongs in circumference, capable of accommodating the Gold Cup and other long distance races.
The Mildmay Course at Aintree was the brainchild of Anthony Bingham Mildmay, a celebrated amateur jockey, who rode in the Grand National before and after World War II. Indeed, he may well have won the National, but for his reins coming unbuckled on Davy Jones in 1936 and a debilitating attack of cramp on Cromwell in 1948.
Known to his friends as ‘Nitty’, Mildmay originally devised what became known as the Mildmay Course as a training ground for horses with Grand National aspirations, complete with the same idiosyncratic spruce fences, albeit on a smaller scale, as those on the National Course. In any event, Mildmay died prematurely in a swimming accident, once again caused by a crippling attack of cramp – the result of a neck injury, sustained during a fall at Folkestone in 1947 – off the coast of Devon in 1950; he was just 41.
The Mildmay Course did not officially open until 1954 and, when it did, the departure from traditional, birch fences did not go down well with trainers of the day, resulting in small fields. Nevertheless, the spruce fences remained until 1975, when they were replaced with conventional park fences and, in 1990, the water jump was removed and the layout modified to create the Mildmay Course as ut is today.
Scone Palace is a stately home situated to the east of the village of Old Scone – historically the capital of the Kingdom of Scotland – and to the north-east of Perth, overlooking the River Tay. The modern palace was completed, in Gothic Revival style, in 1807 and is surrounded by an extensive expanse of parkland, which dates from the Victoria era.
Scone Palace Park is home to Perth Racecourse, which has the distinction of being the northernmost racecourse, of any description, in Britain. Perth Racecourse, which exclusively stages National Hunt racing, consists of a right-handed, flat circuit, 1 mile 2 furlongs in extent, with a long run-in on the steeplechase course.
The first two-day meeting at Perth Racecourse took place on September 23 and 24, 1908. Nowadays, the highlight of the racing year at Perth Racecourse is the season-opening Perth Festival, which is staged over three days in late April each year. Outside the Perth Festival. is the Sam Morshead Perth Gold Cup, a handicap chase run over 2 miles 7 furlongs and 180 yards and worth £25,000 in guaranteed prize money. The race is named in honour of a former clerk of the course, who died of cancer in 2018.