Horse Racing in the Lake District and Cumbria

Cumbria and the Lake District provide plenty of entertainment for visiting horse racing enthusiasts. Cartmel racecourse is based in one of the prettiest villages in England, centred around a 12th century priory. Racing at Cartmel definitely dates back to 1856, but it appears that racing may have taken place as early as the mid-15th century, with local monks organising mule racing.

By the early 20th century the course had become a 'jump only' venue, in keeping with the hunting interests of the local population. Racing took place on just one day per year (Whit Monday) until the addition of the Saturday in 1947 and an August meeting introduced in the 1960s. Subsequently an extra Wednesday meeting in May and a Thursday in July were added.

Prior to the 1960s, few professional jockeys visited the course. However, the efforts of Colonel Davy Pain and Clerk of the Course, Tim Riley propelled the course from a small, holiday 'fun' venue to the forefront of National Hunt racing. Shrewd scheduling of race meetings for the May and August Bank Holiday periods has led to the small course rivalling major venues such as Aintree and Cheltenham, in terms of aggregate attendance.

Cartmel Races
Racing at Cartmel Racecourse, near Grange-over-Sands, where there's 6 days of quality racing per year

The old Grandstand was demolished in 2004 and the new development provides excellent facilities for jockeys and officials, along with updated restaurant and hospitality facilities. Whilst the management are anxious to continue Cartmel's development as a corporate venue, they also recognise that it is essential for it to retain its unique charm. Cartmel racecourse is about 10 miles from junction 36 of the M6, along the A590 / A591 towards Barrow in Furness. It is well signposted from the motorway, but the last few miles are through narrow country lanes, so racegoers are advised to allow plenty of time for the journey.

Whittington Races logoFans of National Hunt racing may also enjoy point to point steeplechasing at Whittington Races, near Kirkby Lonsdale (between junctions 35 and 36 of the M6). The point to point course for the Vale of Lune Harriers and Holcombe Harriers hunts, Whittington has hosted racing since 1936. Its setting is idyllic in the heart of the Lune Valley and the course hosts two or three meetings a year around Easter. Admission is charged per car, rather than per person, making for excellent value entertainment. The entire course can be viewed from the main car park, which makes it popular with picnickers. There are plenty of bookmakers and a Tote outlet for those fancying a flutter, while other attractions include a champagne / seafood bar, licensed bar, refreshment stalls and a children's fairground.

Carlisle RacecourseFurther north, just off junction 42 of the M6, Carlisle Racecourse provides racing every month of the year, staging national hunt meetings from September to April and flat meetings between April and August. Horse racing in the historic border city of Carlisle dates back to at least the 16th century and the annual Cumberland Plate and Carlisle Bell races carry on a tradition dating back to that era. Notably, Carlisle launched the first operational Tote on a British racecourse in 1929. Interestingly, Red Rum was successful at the Carlisle September meeting preceding each of his three Aintree Grand National successes.

Horse racing in Cumbria and the Lake District can provide an entertaining way of whiling away an afternoon with family and friends. Armed with the appropriate horse racing betting tips, it can be profitable, too.

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