According to official records Chester Racecourse is the oldest course still in use in England. Horse racing on the English/Welsh border dates back all the way to the early 16th century on the banks of the River Dee.
The track, known as the ‘Roodee’ is also very unique in that it’s the country’s smallest flat racecourse of significance at just 1 mile and 1 furlong long (1800m). There is so much history on every bend here: its intimate size means racing enthusiasts can get a fantastic view of the action whether it’s from the Roman walls overlooking the course or the redeveloped County Stand.
The most notable races on the flat racing calendar at Chester are the Chester Cup – a 2 mile 2 furlong handicap race – the Cheshire Oaks – a listed race open to three-year-old fillies and the Chester Vase – a Group 3 flat race for three-year-old colts and geldings.
The key characteristic of Chester Racecourse is arguably its unusually short straight (only 239 yards). Runners and riders are almost on the turn throughout any race at Chester and its tightness, coupled with the brief run-in, mean that only prominent front runners stand a chance of prevailing here.
David Probert says: “Chester is a very tight 'bullring' of a track. On fast ground, horses with early speed exiting inside stalls have a big advantage, especially over five and five-and-a-half furlongs. For whatever reason, the speed doesn't seem to hold up as well over six - maybe horses get racing too early and tire in the last furlong - but over seven that pace advantage is there again. The ten furlong start, in a chute at the top of the home straight, is the fairest as all riders have a chance to take the position they want.
Over longer trips it's still a plus to be handy as a rule, but that pure gate speed is not quite such a necessity.
The pace and draw biases are much less relevant on softer ground. When it's wet, plenty of races fall apart with horses tiring significantly in the straight. You might also find more jockeys coming towards the stands side when the going is soft, whereas on quicker turf the far rail is usually the place to be.
Over longer trips I like to try to make my move about half way down the back 'straight' - it's more a dogleg than a straight - about half a mile from home. From there it's a case of getting my horse balanced and on the right lead before the charge for the line from the top of the lane.”
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