Chester Racecourse Guide

The ‘Roodee’ AKA Chester Racecourse is one of the most famous in the country, not least because of it’s unique layout but also it is one of the most picturesque courses hosting some top class flat racing action throughout the season. Located in Cheshire it is the oldest racecourse still in operation and the course sits amid the city walls surrounding the city and the River Dee.

While it may be the oldest recognised racecourse it is also the shortest; but what it lacks in overall size it more than makes up with high-class racing and it is amongst the most popular courses in the country.
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Chester Major Meetings

Chester operates between May and September with its’ feature fixture coming early in the shape of the three-day May Festival which sees some cracking racing taking place including Classic Trials with the Cheshire Oaks - won by the likes of Enable in recent years - and the Chester Vase both offering clues towards the Epsom Oaks and Epsom Derby respectively. Add in the likes of the Huxley Stakes, Dee Stakes and Chester Cup over a trip in excess of two miles it is little wonder the early season Festival remains one of the most popular and key fixtures of the flat racing season.

Chester Track Characteristics

Chester is a flat left-handed track, oval in shape and horses are almost always on the turn as a consequence. The bends at Chester are very sharp with a complete circuit of the track measuring little over one mile. The track boasts the shortest straight of any course in the country at just 239 yards from the last bend leaving precious little time for horses to make up ground.

The ground at Chester unfortunately doesn’t drain particulary well well due to it’s proximity to the River Dee and the problematic drainage means the ground can become soft quite quickly given sufficient rain. Conversely, the ground doesn’t get too firm either resulting in for the most part perfect racing ground for much of the season.

Chester Draw Bias

Alongside Beverley racecourse, the draw bias at Chester is one of the most pronounced in the country and given it’s sharp turns and almost constant cornering it pays to be drawn low against the far rail, especially for prominent racers in sprints over the minimum trip who can gain an advantage especially on quicker ground. This is even more important in larger fields due to the high probability of meeting trouble in running with the constant cornering also allowing for few gaps to develop. Once into the straight the rail does cut away and give room to runners but by then it can be too late.

The bias becomes less profound as race distance increases and over longer races on softer ground those drawn higher see their chances increase as the pace can often collapse, while the ground towards the inner can become significantly chewed up leaving them with fresher ground to race on. On softer ground it isn’t uncommon to see jockeys steer their mounts towards the stands-side rail.

Chester Leading Trainers

While looking at the top trainers at Chester over the past five years it catches the eye that none have managed turn a profit in the period; but it is noteworthy that Andrew Balding is closest to doing so with only a small loss to £1 level stakes. Backing all the trainer’s runners at the Roodee over the past five years would leave punters less than £4 out of pocket with the trainer boasting a solid strike-rate of 21% from his runners.

Balding has saddled the same amount of winners at Chester as Richard Fahey, but importantly he has done so from half as many runners at the track, a statistic that clearly makes him the man to follow. Fellow trainers Tom Dascombe and Mark Johnston are also worth noting at Chester with their runners.

Aidan O’Brien often sends over a strong team of runners to Chester’s May Festival in preparation for the Epsom Derby and Epsom Oaks respectively. Such luminaries as Ruler Of The World and Wings Of Eagles have both won at Chester enroute to Classic success for the Ballydoyle maestro.

Chester Leading Jockeys

Ryan Moore is the man to keep onside when looking for the top jockey at Chester, with the former champion jockey operating at a near-40% strike-rate from his rides over the past five years and showing a profit of 15 points if backers had a pound on all of Moore’s rides over the period. 

Moore is well clear of his peers in the Chester Leading Jockeys table and is clearly the man to follow at the Roodee although Paul Hanagan, David Probert and Richard Kingscote also ride the track well and bag their fair share of winners. Local lad and veteran of the weighing room Franny Norton has had the most rides at Chester over the past five years and also weighs in with a healthy haul of winning rides.

Chester Track History

The venue for Chester racecourse was once home to football and the site hosted the infamous Goteddsday football match, a particularly violent affair that was ultimately banned in 1533 due to its’ brutality and replaced with horse racing. The first racemeeting to be held at Chester took place in 1539.

Races would be held on Shrove Tuesday until 1609 as a replacement for the football match and on St George’s Day thereafter. The famous May Festival was introduced in 1766 and the course received its’ first Grandstand in 1817 although it was rebuilt at the turn of the 20th century. The stand required to be demolished and rebuilt in 1985 following a devastating fire.

The location of the racecourse was once a harbour in Roman times  although silt buildup made navigation of vessels up the River Dee difficult and it fell into disuse.

Chester Racecourse Address

The official racecourse address for Chester racecourse is:

Chester Racecourse

How to get to Chester Racecourse

If you’re planning to visit Chester Racecourse here’s how you can get there. 

By car: Chester Racecourse lies within the city limits but it is easily accessible by car and is sign-posted from all major routes. The course is well-served by motorway links with the M53, M56 and M6 all in close proximity to the course allowing for excellent road links north and south.

By train: The course is easily accessible by rail with Chester Station situated just a 20-minute walk away. Taxis are available outside the station taking approximately 6 minutes to get to the course. 

By bus: Chester racecourse is well-served by buses in the city and also by the  Wrexham Road Park and Ride service where service PR1 calls at the racecourse.