When, and where, was the first evening meeting in Britain?
The first evening meeting in Britain took place at Hamilton Park Racecourse, in South Lanarkshire, on Friday, July 18, 1947. The meeting was staged on the Friday evening in anticipation of a visit by the Royal Family – King George VI, Princess Margaret, Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten – the following day and attracted a crowd of 18,000. History records that the first race was won by Culroy, ridden by three-time Derby-winning jockey Billy Nevett. On the whole, though, the meeting was regarded as something of a gimmick.
Nevertheless, an estimated crowd of 21,000 attended the Saturday fixture to see the future Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh, who were making their first public appearances together. It took a while, but the ‘gimmick’ eventually caught on. By the start of the twenty-first century, most racecourses staged at least one evening meeting during the year. Indeed, Hamilton has continued its tradition; in 2021, of the 18 fixtures scheduled for the course took place in the evening. On Saturday, May 8, 1971 Hamilton also had the distinction of becoming the first racecourse in Britain to stage a morning meeting, although it would be fair to say that that particular innovation has proved less popular elsewhere.