Which British racecourse was the first to stage National Hunt racing?
In the summer of 2014, Jockey Club Racecourses, which owns Warwick Racecourse, announced that, from 2015 onwards, only National Hunt fixtures would be staged at the picturesque West Midlands venue. While not quite going full circle, Warwick was, in fact, the first British racecourse to include a hurdle race in its programme, as recorded in the Racing Calendar, in 1831.
Established in its current location in 1707, in recent years Warwick Racecourse has been better known for its National Hunt races, especially steeplechases, in any case. Seasonal highlights include the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase, run over 2 miles in February, and the Grade 3 Classic Chase, run over 3 miles 5 furlongs in January; the latter serves as a trial for the Grand National.
Ian Renton, Regional Director at the Jockey Club, said that Warwick could ‘now benefit from a clear identity’ but, following the fatal fall of Artful Lady in a six-furlong handicap in May, 2014, racecourse officials had already said that they had ‘lost confidence’ in portions of the Flat course. Veteran National Hunt trainer Nicky Henderson described Warwick as the home of ‘good, competitive jumps racing’ and welcomed the Jockey Club Racecourses’ decision as ‘a huge benefit’ to the sport.