Where, and what, was Hurst Park?

Where, and what, was Hurst Park? Between 1890 and 1962, Hurst Park was a racecourse on the banks of the River Thames at Molesey Hurst, near West Molesey, in Surrey. Built during the Victorian ‘leisure revolution’, along with nearby Sandown Park, which opened in 1875, and Kempton Park, which opened three years later, Hurst Park was initially a National Hunt venue. However, the layout of the racecourse was soon modified to accommodate Flat racing and staged its first meeting in that sphere just over a year later.

In 1913, Hurst Park survived an arson attack by suffragettes Kitty Marion and Clara Giveen, which gutted the grandstand, and continued to flourish throughout the twentieth century. Indeed, Hurst Park was still a popular venue at the time of its closure but, despite significant opposition, its owners opted for property development, rather than horse racing, on the site.

Perhaps the most famous race run at Hurst Park was the Triumph Hurdle, first staged in 1939. Following World War II, the Triumph Hurdle continued, uninterrupted, between 1950 and 1962, when Hurst Park closed. After a brief hiatus, the race was transferred to Cheltenham in 1965 and became part of the Cheltenham Festival three years later.

How long is the run-in on the Grand National Course?

How long is the run-in on the Grand National Course? The Grand National Course consists of sixteen fences, fourteen of which are jumped twice, making thirty obstacles in all. However, even after four miles and thirty fences, the Grand National is still far from over, because runners and riders still face the physically and psychologically exhausting run-in. At 494 yards, or over a quarter-of-a-mile, long, the run-in on the Grand National Course is already the longest in Britain and made more challenging still by a a right-handed dog-leg – the infamous ‘Elbow’ – at halfway.

Indeed, it was at that point that jockey Richard Pitman made the ‘schoolboy mistake’ of reaching for his whip, causing his mount, Crisp, to veer left, thereby losing two or three lengths – or, in other words, further than the threequarters-of-a-length he was beaten by the eventual winner, Red Rum – in the 1973 Grand National. Of course, Crisp wasn’t the first, or the last, horse to suffer a reversal of fortune on the run-in in the Grand National. In 1954, Devon Loch, owned by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, inexplicably collapsed yards from the winning post, with the race at his mercy, handing victory to his nearest pursuer, ESB.

How steep is the ‘Cheltenham hill’?

How steep is the 'Cheltenham hill'? Cheltenham Racecourse, in Prestbury Park, Gloucestershire, is home to the four-day Cheltenham Festival, staged annually in March and, undoubtedly, the highlight of the British National Hunt season. During the Festival, most of the racing takes place on the Old Course, on the Tuesday and Wednesday, and the New Course, on the Thursday and Friday. Both courses are left-handed, undulating and feature a stiff, uphill finish, known colloquially as the ‘Cheltenham hill’.

On the New Course, in particular, where the emphasis is on stamina, rather than speed, conversation invariably turns to the severity of the ‘hill’, which has taken on mythical proportions and garnered a fearsome, if not entirely warranted, reputation. The stiffness of the finish is, no doubt, exacerbated by the pronounced downhill run to the home turn, but the ‘hill’ is not, as some commentators suggest, the ‘north face of the Eiger’. In fact, over the last three furlongs, the ground rises just 10 metres, or 33 feet, with a percentage slope of just 1.67%. Indeed, the angle between the horizontal plane and the surface of the ‘Cheltenham hill’ is less than 1º so, while it has been the scene of many iconic finishes, it is nowhere near as steep as folklore suggests.

Which was the last British racecourse to close permanently?

Which was the last British racecourse to close permanently? The last British racecourse to close permanently was Towcester Racecourse, a National Hunt-only venue near the market town of Towcester in Northamptonshire in the East Midlands, which closed in October, 2019. In fact, it was first British racecourse to close since December, 2012, when Folkestone Racecourse ‘temporarily’ shut its gates, but has been left in a derelict state of neglect ever since.

Towcester Racecourse entered administration, with debts in excess of £1.3 million, in August, 2018 and was sold to Fermor Land LLP, a local company linked to Lord Hesketh, chairman of Towcester Racecourse Company, the following November. However, racing never resumed and, in October, 2019, the new owners announced that, after considering options for the future of Towcester Racecourse, the 93-year-old track was to close permanently.

With the assistance of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Fermor Land LLP sold the remaining ten National Hunt fixtures in its ownership, scheduled for 2020, to Arena Racing Company (ARC), with host venues to be confirmed at a later date. Richard Wayman, chief operating officer of the BHA, said at the time, ‘We had hoped, following the course going into administration, that the new owners might find a solution which allowed racing to resume, and it is disappointing that has not proved possible.’

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