Jump racing has taken place at Huntingdon Racecourse near Brampton since 1886.
The inaugural meeting was held over Easter that year, with the very first race being a three-mile steeplechase which was won by a horse called Catherine The Great.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, there had been races at a variety of tracks in Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire, including Wisbech and St Ives. By the 20th century, just a few survived, at Huntingdon, Oakley Hunt at Kimbolton (until 1907) and Cottenham, the latter staging its final official meeting as Cambridge Racecourse in 1925 though it has continued since as a very successful point-to-point track.
Today, Huntingdon Racecourse is part of The Jockey Club, which has been at the heart of British racing for more than 260 years and is the largest commercial group in the sport. Governed by Royal Charter, every penny The Jockey Club makes it puts back into British racing.
Many famous horses have graced Huntingdon Racecourse over the years, most notably the legendary Desert Orchid.
The foremost race run at the racecourse is the Peterborough Chase which is now staged in December. The race was first staged in 1969 at a new meeting as Huntingdon Racecourse’s fixture allocation was increased from six to nine for the 1969/70 jumps season.
Over the years some of the most famous names in jump racing have won or taken part in the Peterborough Chase. Horses like the aforementioned grey Desert Orchid, Remittance Man, Dublin Flyer, One Man, Best Mate, Edredon Bleu and Monet’s Garden have been associated with it over the last quarter of a century.
The dominant force for many years was retired trainer Henrietta Knight who saddled the winner no fewer than eight times in the space of ten years between 1998 and 2007. Her triumphant horses were Edredon Bleu (4 victories), Racing Demon (2), Impek (1) and Best Mate (1).
Today, the Peterborough Chase attracts an enthusiastic jumps crowd to Huntingdon, though the most popular meeting of the year is usually the Boxing Day fixture which in 2015 attracted the largest crowd for almost ten years.
There is a buoyant programme of 18 annual fixtures, with the season running from October to May. Some of the races in the opening two months of the New Year are key contests looking ahead to the Cheltenham Festival, including the Listed 32Red Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle, the 32Red.com Chatteris Fen Juvenile Hurdle and the Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase.
Huntingdon Racecourse was voted ‘Best Small Racecourse’ in the South Midlands and East Anglia by the Racegoers Club in 2012 and 2014.
And finally ….
What else happened during the year – 1886 – when racing began at Huntingdon?
Arsenal football club was founded, the first Crufts dog show was held and Yorkshire Tea merchants was formed. Queen Victoria was in the 49th year of her 64-year reign. The year started and finished with Lord Salisbury as Prime Minister, with William Ewart Gladstone in Downing Street between February and July.
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