Exeter Racecourse Guide

Sitting atop Haldon Hill on the outskirts of Exeter and overlooking Dartmoor, Exeter racecourse is the highest racecourse in the country at 850 feet above sea level. The track holds National Hunt races although started out its’ life as a flat racing track until 1898 and it is considered to be one of the stiffest courses in the country.

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Exeter Major Meetings

Exeter’s biggest race day features the Group Two Haldon Gold Cup which is one of the early season highlights of the jumps racing calendar. Run as a limited handicap despite its’ status the race takes place either late October or early November and boasts a rich roll-call of winners including Viking Flagship, Best Mate, Edredon Bleu and Flagship Uberalles - all Champion Chase winners. 

More recently the likes of Greaneteen, Politologue and Cue Card have taken top honours in this prestigious contest. In addition to the classy contest Exeter also hosts the Devon National each February.

Exeter Track Characteristics

The track at Exeter racecourse is an elongated oval, right-handed and undulating as a result of its’ location atop Haldon Hill. A lengthy uphill run-in demands plenty of stamina and the course presents a stiff test for horses. Exeter lacks artificial watering facilities due to the amount of ground the course takes up - a circuit of the track being around two miles - so the ground in the early-summer can become very quick. 

Conversely, while the ground does drain quite well the going can become very testing in winter.The course is galloping in nature and turns are relatively benign, while fences are considered fair and not too stiff but still take some jumping. 

The run-in after the last obstacle is quite short but can look longer on TV due to the uphill finish and horses can often finish tired here.

Exeter Leading Trainers

Many of the top trainers have regular runners at Exeter racecourse and over the past five seasons it has paid to follow Harry Fry’s runners with the trainer showing a 20-points profit and a strike-rate around one in four. Paul Nicholls boasts a similar win-record over the period but operates at a loss; while Colin Tizzard and Philip Hobbs both have their fair share of winners but each trainer sends plenty of runners to the track throughout the season.

From last season only Colin Tizzard’s runners returned in negative figures; the other four trainers in the top five from last season all returned profit with Anthony Honeyball being the most profitable, followed closely by Evan Williams.

Exeter Leading Jockeys

Bryan Carver and Sean Bowen have been the jockeys to follow at Exeter over the past five seasons, both riders showing a healthy profit and respective win ratios in excess of 20%. Harry Cobden meanwhile boasts similar numbers although he has had more rides then either of those two jockeys and operates in the red across the five year period.

The 2021/22 season was good for a number of riders with all five of the top five riders at the track returning in profit; indeed Aidan Coleman while showing the least profit did win on half of his rides at the track; while Sean Houlihan won the least amount of his rides but shows the greatest profit. James Davies also shows a profit in excess of 20 points. 

Chester Williams and Brendan Powell were other jockeys to do well at Exeter last term.

Exeter Track History

King Charles II in a bid to increase the exposure and popularity of horse racing opened Exeter Racecourse in the mid-17th century although the first meeting to be run at the course under Jockey Club rules was 100 years later.

The course was previously refereed to as Haldon by locals and during its’ years as a flat-racing track - and when it hosted summer jumps racing - it was known as Devon and Exeter. Once the track’s focus shifted to attracting a higher quality of horse and moving to winter jumping the track became known simply as Exeter.

The course was the scene of an infamous duel between two warring men in 1833, the last to have been held in Devon. One of the shooters died of his injuries soon after while the other fled the country.

Several of the sport’s biggest names have graced Exeter’s turf including Desert Orchid who won his first chase at the track having won seven races over hurdles; while Best Mate also won over fences here at the first time of asking. Hen Knight’s star also won a Haldon Gold Cup here and went on to win three Cheltenham Gold Cups.

Best Mate had his final - and sadly fatal - run at the track, suffering a heart-attack during the 2005 Haldon Gold Cup having been pulled up by jockey Paul Carberry. His death became national news and a statue of the horse now stands proudly at Cheltenham with one of the enclosures at the track also bearing his name.

Denman in 2006 also made a winning transition to chasing here; but Kauto Star having made a winning chase debut at Newbury in December 2004 then suffered back-to-back defeats at Exeter although he was unfortunate on the first occasion having fallen two out when clear. Ruby Walsh remounted Paul Nicholls’ future star and almost plucked a win out of the air, failing by only a short-head. He was then beaten by Monkerhostin in the following season’s Haldon Gold Cup on his seasonal reappearance at the track.

Exeter Racecourse Address

The official racecourse address for Exeter racecourse is:

Exeter Racecourse
Haldon Hills

How To get to Exeter Racecourse

Here’s how to get to Exeter Racecourse if you’re planning a visit to the track.

By car: The course is at Haldon Hill, on the A38 Exeter to Plymouth Road, 5 miles south west of the end of the M5 motorway and 2 miles east of Chudleigh.

By train: Exeter station is the closest to the track and is reachable from many many major towns and cities through connections. There is a free bus from Exeter City bus station and Exeter St David’s station, to the course and back every raceday.

By air: There is an airport at Exeter servicing flights to and from some of the UK’s major cities including Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Newcastle and Belfast. Bristol International Airport is around 70 miles away and helicopters can land at the course on racedays with prior permission.