Date of Review: 13th June 2023.
RCA Reviewer: The Wanderer.
Address: Freshfield Road, Brighton, Brighton and Hove, BN2 9XZ
Phone: 01273 603580
Track Layout: (Image: credited & acknowledged to At The Races)
Course Information: Brighton Racecourse is a peculiar track and one of the very few racecourses in Great Britain where it is not a full circuit (can you name the other three?). It is around 12-furlongs in length, a horseshoe shaped, left-handed track that has a number of pronounced gradients and sharp turns. It has been compared to Epsom, with a left-handed, dog leg turn, and one of the steepest descents of any British track.
Both horse and jockey must be able to handle sharp declines, uphill sections, and both left- and right-hand turns. Due to the camber towards the inside of the track, horses bunching up on the rail frequently occurs, which can cause inexperienced horses to hang, which will make them unbalanced.
Due to these characteristics, small, agile, front-running horses are best suited to Brighton. Due to its elevated position and the chalk foundation on which it is set, the going is frequently firm, making it unsuitable for horses that like a little bit of a cut in the ground. Due to the above, it is very much a course for specialists, and this holds true for both jockey and horse. Therefore, keeping an eye out for horses with previous course form is always a good idea.
Brighton has some interesting history. In 1783, the Duke of Cumberland organised the first public race meeting at the current location. However, racing had been taking place in the area, prior to this, as early as 1713. The main meeting was in August, to coincide with the nearby Whitehawk Fair. Legend has it that hurdle racing was invented in Brighton by King George IV, when he was still the Prince of Wales, when he was riding out with friends, and they started to jump over some sheep pens on the land. How true that is, we don’t know, but it’s a good story, so we will go with it.
The first grandstand was built in 1788. For many years, the course hosted elite racing, which was attended by the most fashionable of society, but fell out of favour in 1816 when the Prince stopped attending. The course picked up again in 1850 when Brighton railway station was built, which allowed people from London to attend. Around this time, a new stand was built, and the Brighton Cup meeting was introduced.
In the years immediately after the Second World War, attendances reached over 20,000. Due to the course’s similarities to Epsom, the course ran a Derby Trial meeting for a number of years in the 1960s. A new stand was built in 1965, but attendance declined in line with the Brighton tourist trade.
In 1998, a £4 million renovation project was put in place by the then-owners Northern Racing Ltd. This company merged with Arena Racing in 2012, and a new company was formed named Arena Racing PLC, which is the current owner of the racecourse.
The Racecourse Advisor Guide to Brighton Racecourse:
By Road: The recommended route to avoid traffic is to take the A27 Brighton Bypass. If approaching from Brighton, head east and follow the signs for Sussex University, then take the B2123 to Woodingdean. At the traffic lights, turn right, and the racecourse is about a mile on your left-hand side. However, during our visit to the track after coming off the A23, we needed to navigate through a number of built-up areas.
We had two separate sat-nav systems going and still found it relatively difficult. Further to this, we didn’t see a single, solitary sign pointing us towards the racecourse after we left the A23. Access was more difficult than we anticipated. Driver beware.
By Rail: Brighton is around an hour from London by train. Services run from Victoria, London Bridge, and Kings Cross. There are also frequent services operating from Eastbourne, Lewes, Hastings, Worthing and Portsmouth.
The racecourse provides a courtesy bus that operates from Brighton Station to the racecourse from approximately 2 hours prior to the first race. The bus can be picked up 200 yards south of the station (at the top of Queens Road). There are return trips to the station after racing.
By Air: Light aircraft and helicopters may land at Shoreham Airport with prior permission, 6 miles west of the Racecourse. Please contact the airport for approval on 01273 296900. Rating: 5/10
Parking: Once you eventually get to the racecourse, there is ample free parking on a large grassy, sloping field immediately next to the entrance. Both entry and exit are quick, without too many problems. The car parking attendant was very helpful. Rating: 8/10.
Pricing: On the day of our visit, pricing into the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure was £21.00 with £5 off for concessions. If booked online, in advance tickets can be had for £16.00. However, beware of the sneaky £3.00 “Fulfillment Fee” administered by Arena Leisure PLC, who own and operate the track. That said, in our opinion, the pricing here is good VFM (Value for Money).
If you are feeling a bit flush, then a hospitality package at Silks Restaurant can be had for £93.00 per person. This brings you a private table on a private terrace, which offers panoramic views of the course and the surrounding area. Together with a three-course meal and a race card thrown in for good measure.
The Brighton race card was light at just 28 pages, although it was a 7-race meeting. It had a large double page aerial map of the course and facilities, which makes it easier to navigate your way around the course.
However, there were 8 full pages of advertising, or almost 30% of the total, which makes it more of a promotional than informational card. The cost at £3.50 seemed high for the benefit gained. Rating 6/10
Catering: At RCA we enjoy doing “racecourse reviews” and not restaurant reviews or pretending to be food critics; our aim is just to give you an overall idea of what’s on the menu at the track on race days and not turn this review into a food blog.
To give credit where credit is due, the catering options on Arena PLC racecourses are usually more than acceptable, and Brighton is no exception. A good selection of offerings including steak & ale pie, beef brisket pie, chicken, gammon & leek pie, butternut, bean & cheese pie, and a traditional sausage roll at £5.50 each. A chilli hot dog with onions and cheese for £6.50.
A sweet chilli beef noodle salad, chicken Caesar salad, tuna-lime and coriander salad, and a char-grilled vegetable and falafel salad at £8.00 each. A selection of sandwiches or wraps, priced at £3.50 each, are available at the 1783 café.
Food & Catering Facilities - Brighton
If you need more than a light snack for sustenance, then the Premier Lounge is the place to go. There are plenty of tables and seating areas where a roast turkey with stuffing or roast pork loin with apple sauce served in a baguette, roll, or Yorkshire pudding with a side of roast potatoes can be had for £10.00 each.
Outside near the parade ring was a burger van that had a “classic burger” with onions for £6.00. Add a rasher of bacon to that for an extra £0.50p. Add cheese to that, and it’s £7.00. A hot dog with onions sets you back £6.00.
As for the drinks, a pint of Guinness was £6.70. San Miguel Larger and Shipyard IPA, £6.30 a pint. A pint of Carlsberg is £6.10 a pint. Somersby Cider is £6.00. So pretty reasonable. However, there is a £0.50p surcharge for your plastic pint point when buying your first pint. A selection of spirits is available for £4.40 for a 25ml serving. As for the wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Rose Sauvignon Blanc are £7.00 for a 200ml glass, as is Malbec red wine.
If you want to get “Fizzicle” then a glass of Prosecco is £9.00 which we feel is a tad on the high side. A 330ml can of Koppaberg comes in at £5.40 and a can of Estrella of the same size is £5.20. Soft drinks are £3.00 each.
Overall, for a track of this size, there is a good variety of food and drink outlets that are reasonably priced, and the service appeared to be good at all of them. Rating: 8/10.
Guinness Standard: Draught Guinness is available at a more than reasonable £6.70, so pretty much standard racecourse pricing, and was a more than decent pint. However, as mentioned above, there is a £0.50p surcharge on your first pint for the plastic pint pot that is used.
That said, it is at least a decent thick plastic pint pot and not one of those flimsy plastic pots, where you have to double up just to carry it. And, god forbid, not a biodegradable paper pint pot like we recently encountered at another racecourse. Rating: 8/10.
Viewing: Unfortunately, it has to be said that the viewing is poor at Brighton. This is due to the course not being a full circuit. In the longer races the horses have to travel a significant distance to get to the start. Therefore, at the 1 mile-one one furlong start position the horses are over a mile away from the grandstand.
The horses are literally, specs in the distance which you can see. They only start to come into view at the top of the home turn, as they come down the hill towards the home straight which is around the 5-furlong mark. There is one large TV screen situated just before the winning post.
The Viewing Experience - Brighton
The good news is that the racegoers can get very near to the rails and the racetrack itself, virtually, for the whole length of the home straight all the way down to the winning post to watch the horses very close up.
The grandstand is large, with ample cover from the elements, plenty of tiered viewing space, and around eight rows of plastic seats higher up at the back. You can actually see the sea from this vantage point. The overall sea view and aspect from the stand is excellent. It’s just the viewing of the horses while in racing that is the problem. Rating: 6/10.
Parade Ring / Winners Enclosure: The parade ring at Brighton is rectangular-shaped, more than a decent size, and is located very close to the track, which is always a bonus. There is access to around 80% of the ring, which is more than adequate. The barriers surrounding the ring are very close to where the horses perambulate, so the viewing really is excellent.
The Parade Ring - Brighton
The saddling enclosure and pre-parade ring, which are adjacent, do not permit access to the public. The winner’s enclosure is located within the parade ring.
The weighing room and the owners’ & trainers’ lounge are positioned immediately behind it. Next door to the parade ring, is the Annual Members Lounge and Gardens, which has plenty of outside seating and even has sea views at the back of it. On the day of our visit, it was a bright, sunny day, and the ambience was good. We liked it. Rating: 8/10.
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: The main bookmakers’ pitch is located directly in front of the grandstand. On the day of our visit, there were around 10 bookies plying their trade, which was more than adequate for the size of the meeting.
The Bookmakers Pitch - Brighton
There are also a number of BritBet concessions in operation, along with a good number of Tote outlets. No issues placing or picking up bets here. Rating: 8/10.
Friendliness of Course Staff: All of the course staff we encountered, both outside and inside the racecourse were super friendly and very helpful. After a bit of a chat, one of them even managed to procure two free race cards for the day, which were gratefully received. Rating: 10/10.
Pros & Cons: We found Brighton to be a very friendly and welcoming racecourse. The free car parking is good, the catering facilities are fine, and we liked the parade ring / winner’s enclosure area. The grandstand has plenty of seats and protection from the elements. The only real downside is the actual viewing of the horses when racing.
Due to the track not being a full circuit, you really don’t see a lot until they hit the five-furlong mark. The upside is that if you are situated on the rails when they do hit the straight and head for home, then you really are close up to the horses as they go past.
The acid test, as always, is: would we return to Brighton Racecourse? The answer is most definitely yes. Rating: 7/10
VIP Watch: No VIPs were spotted during the visit.
Wi-Fi / Internet Connection: Arena PLC owned racecourses have an arrangement in place with SKY for free internet access on course. The usual details, such as name, date of birth, gender, age, email address, etc. are required to be submitted before you have access.
However, once completed, you are automatically connected to the Internet at any other Arena Leisure PLC owned racecourse. On the day of our visit, there was no problem whatsoever with the connectivity or speed of the service provided.
Overall Racecourse Advisor Rating: 7.4/10
The full day's racing results can be found here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/2023-06-13/brighton/97903
Facilities & location layout of Brighton Racecourse: (Image: Courtesy & Acknowledged - ARC Ltd)
An Aerial Flyover View of Brighton Racecourse:
Aerial View of Brighton Racecourse: (Image: credited & acknowledged to Google Earth)
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