Sunday, 19 July 2009

World's Weirdest Racetracks: #9

This Glasgow area racecourse demonstrates how you can effectively cram a track into just about any location, even if there really doesn’t seem to be enough space, or suitable terrain. It’s not technically featuring a unique layout since Salisbury (a few hundred miles to the South) uses a similar one, but Salisbury’s is larger, and its uphill stretch pales by comparison.

One of five racecourses in Scotland, Hamilton Park is the only one to exclusively conduct flat racing (Perth and Kelso are National Hunt courses, Musselburgh and Ayr offer both modes). In 1947, Hamilton conducted the first evening meeting in British racing, now a staple of British and Irish racing during the summer months. In 1971, it also premiered morning racing, which was not picked up as a regular feature.

(Graphic from

Basically, this 18th century racecourse is nothing more than a six-furlong straight, with a loop near one end of it. Undulations are hefty even by British standards, the 6f start is at 61 meters above sea level, dropping to a low point of 47m, then uphill to 58m about hundred yards in front of the Winning Post (which is at 56m). The loop is even more extreme, going downhill from 48m to 38m, then steeply uphill until it joins the straight course at a height of 59m (measured using Google Earth, so it might be off by a meter or two).

This layout allows races of up to 13 furlongs, with those over the maximum distance actually starting some way in front of the winning post, going up the stretch, through the dip in the loop, up the hill and then back down the stretch.

For races over a distance of 11 furlongs and beyond, this layout means trouble whenever a horse unseats their jockey at the start. For the purposes of the World’s Weirdest Racetracks, it means #9.


  1. I've taken note of this track's unique layout before and thought it was a place I would really like to visit and watch the races someday. It certainly is weird, if not entirely unique.

    Somebody should build one like that over here in the States. That'd be a hoot! ... But I wonder whether trainers would avoid it. Other than for the fact it is a turf course.

    Keep 'em coming. This list is quite entertaining!

  2. One of the horses I bought at the sales won a race at Hamilton. It will be interesting to see how she handles something more "normal" in France. Great idea on the weirdest tracks. I hope Happy Valley in Hong Kong is on your list! And any of the mideast tracks - weird just because of the absence of betting windows.

  3. Thanks for the comments

    I thought about the Middle Eastern racecourses, but as I said in the intro post, the ranking is mainly based on physical features rather than atmosphere.

    Meydan came closest, but of course it's not even completed yet (and given the UAE's emerging crisis, it probably never will become what the Sheikhs had envisioned).