In an unprecedented move for spectator sport, 25 of Britain’s racecourses are to open their doors in April and give the public the chance to watch horseracing free of charge.

Following on from the success of last year’s ‘free racing week’, the venture by Racing for Change, the racecourses and in 2011 has been extended to a whole month. So successful was the free week in April 2010 that an additional 40,000 visitors flocked to the races.

This year, it means that even more followers of the sport in England, Scotland and Wales can enjoy a complimentary day at the races during a period which includes the spring school holidays and Easter. There’s also the public holiday for the Royal wedding on Friday 29th when admission will be free at Doncaster Racecourse.

Some of Britain’s most famous racecourses are involved, including Ascot, Epsom Downs, Newbury, Newmarket and Sandown Park.

Seventeen fixtures are entirely free in at least one major enclosure at each racecourse, while there are a total of 5,500 free tickets available in advance at a further 11 meetings. However, these are expected to be snapped up quickly.

All racecourses already admit accompanied under-16’s free of charge – and many extend that to under-18’s – so racing is offering tremendously affordable afternoons and evenings out. It helps to make horse racing the second most popular spectator sport in Britain, with only football watched by more people.

Rod Street, chief executive of Racing for Change, which is leading the initiative, said: “This ground-breaking move in April is being organised in a bid to attract record numbers of new customers to the fun and exciting sport of horseracing. It’s also a great way to reward existing fans of the sport.

“The aim of the month is to appeal to people who have been infrequent visitors to horse racing in the past or who have never been to a racecourse. At many of the meetings, there will be staff, literature and displays to explain more about the sport.” 

The month of free racing provides a mix of both afternoon and evening meetings as well as a choice of racing over jumps and on the flat.

Among the free highlights are: 

  • The opening day of Newmarket’s Craven meeting (500 tickets)
  • An opportunity to visit the Queen’s racecourse at Ascot on the day when the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes is run
  • The Easter Day fixture – the bet365 Gold Cup Easter Festival – at Sandown Park (500 tickets)
  • A chance to go to Epsom Downs, where the Investec Derby is run, for the Investec Spring meeting (500 tickets – plus anyone named William, Kate or Catherine)
  • The first day of the Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials weekend at Newbury
  • The high class Saturday afternoon fixture at Kempton Park at the start of the month (500 tickets)
  • The first day of the ‘Royal Wedding meeting’ at Britain’s most northerly racecourse – Perth (500 tickets)
  • The finale to the ‘Free Racing Month’ at Doncaster, the home of the St Leger

Bookings will be taken at from Friday 4 March.

The free admission fixtures in April – with restrictions listed – are:

  • Friday 1st – Musselburgh, East Lothian
  • Friday 1st – Wolverhampton (evening), West Midlands
  • Friday 1st – Newcastle, Tyne & Wear
  • Saturday 2nd – Kempton Park, Middlesex (first 500 applications – maximum of two tickets per application)
  • Sunday 3rd – Market Rasen, Lincolnshire (first 500 applications)
  • Monday 4th – Windsor, Berkshire
  • Tuesday 5th – Pontefract, West Yorkshire (first 500 applications)
  • Wednesday 6th – Nottingham, Nottinghamshire (first 500 applications)
  • Thursday 7th – Hereford, Herefordshire
  • Thursday 7th – Ripon, North Yorkshire (first 500 applications – Paddock Enclosure)
  • Monday 11th – Ffos Las, Carmarthenshire
  • Monday 11th – Wolverhampton, West Midlands
  • Tuesday 12th – Towcester (evening), Northamptonshire
  • Wednesday 13th – Catterick, North Yorkshire
  • Wednesday 13th – Southwell (evening), Nottinghamshire
  • Wednesday 13th – Newmarket, Cambridgeshire (first 500 applications)
  • Thursday 14th – Sedgefield (evening) – County Durham
  • Thursday 14th – Beverley, East Yorkshire (first 500 applications)
  • Friday 15th – Newbury, Berkshire
  • Friday 15th – Brighton (evening), East Sussex
  • Monday 18th – Redcar, Tees Valley (first 500 applications – maximum of two tickets per application)
  • Monday 18th – Towcester, Northamptonshire
  • Wednesday 20th – Epsom Downs, Surrey (first 500 applications – maximum of four tickets per application)
  • Wednesday 20th – Kempton Park (evening), Middlesex
  • Easter Day – Sunday 24th – Sandown Park, Surrey (first 500 applications)
  • Wednesday 27th – Ascot, Berkshire
  • Wednesday 27th – Perth, Perthshire (first 500 applications)
  • Friday 29th – Doncaster, South Yorkshire

There are already nearly six million visits made by people each year to Britain’s 60 racecourses. However, the sport wishes not only to improve the experience of going racing for current followers but also raise the sport’s appeal among potential new ones.

The aim of Racing for Change is to broaden the appeal of British horseracing, with the objective of increasing participation, revenues and protecting the thousands of jobs that exist within the sport.

Picture: Courtesy of Ascot Racecourse

Allison is the Publisher of Eclipse Magazine. She loves going to the Races and is learning to bet (despite being officially the worst bettor in the History of the Universe), there's a lot more to learn...

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