Monday, 20 July 2009

World's Weirdest Racetracks: #8

If ever there was a region tailor-made for horse racing, it’s Yorkshire. This Northern England (ceremonial) county has the gentle hills, vast countryside and soils that just scream “build a grandstand, paddock and some rails here, or at least a stud farm and gallops”. Not surprisingly, it was one of the cradles of modern thoroughbred racing, and remains a stronghold for thoroughbred racing, training and breeding.

For a detailed history of racing in Yorkshire, this great site (one of my all-time favorites) offers everything you need to know, and then some. Other Yorkshire contributions to sports history: Sheffield is home to the world’s oldest Association football (Soccer) clubs, while industrial West Yorkshire was the birthplace of Rugby League.

Today, Yorkshire offers the highest racecourse concentration of any British county, ranging from top-level tracks York and Doncaster to the charms of small-town racecourses such as Thirsk, Catterick or the WWR’s #8.

While it may not look like a true World’s Weirdest Racetracks contender at first glance, the beauty of Pontefract Racecourse is in the dimensions. It’s home to the world’s longest regular flat Hcp race, the 2m 5f 122y Pontefract Marathon Hcp (held in April) as well as probably the only remaining track in the world to frequently schedule lower-level races over 18 furlongs. In a way it has to, given that the course itself is also the world’s largest thoroughbred racetrack. Thanks to a circumference of no less than two miles, the entire town park fits into its infield. Extra points are awarded for the unusual feature that the stretch is barely half as long as two other straights (it’s still slightly longer than 2 furlongs).

("I really wouldn’t want to be the track announcer on a foggy day"; Panoramio image by Lee Collings, not even showing the full extent of the Pontefract infield)

1 comment:

  1. Correction to the original article: I forgot the Class 2 Queen Alexandra Stakes, which traditionally close the Royal Ascot meet.

    That race is run over 2m 5f 159y (4.103 meters), and thus 37 yards longer. It was 2m 6f 34y long until 2005.

    The Pontefract Marathon is the longest Hcp race though.