Date of Review: 13th June 2022.
Address: Durdar Rd, Carlisle CA2 4TS, Cumbria
Track Layout: (Image: credited & acknowledged to At The Races)
The course is best described as pear shaped and is 1 mile and 4 furlongs (2.41 km) in circumference. It holds flat racing in the summer and National Hunt racing over the winter months. Interestingly, it has three separate tracks: flat, hurdles, and steeplechase. The going can get very heavy in the winter. The course is galloping in nature, with a steep uphill finish of over three furlongs.
The turns at Carlisle are relatively easy, but stamina is required due to the climbs and often heavy going. In races over seven furlongs and further, a prominent position on the home turn can deliver a significant advantage. When the going becomes testing, jockeys usually switch to riding on the stand side of the straight.
Racing at Carlisle was first recorded way back in 1559 at Swift (the racing venue prior to that used today). In 1904, the racecourse was moved to its present day Blackwell location, with its first grandstand appearing not long after. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a gold bell was donated by Lady Dacre (believed to be Lady Jane Dacre, wife of Thomas Dacre of Naworth) and was first presented to the winner of the Carlisle Bell Handicap in 1599. The bell is inscribed with the words ‘The sweftes horse thes bel to take for mi lade Daker sake’, which translates to modern day English as "The swiftest horse may claim this bell in Lady Dacre’s name".
Later, a second bell was donated, and the Carlisle Bells have earned their place in history as the oldest sporting trophy still contested anywhere in the world today. The bells are now the prize for the winner of Cumbria’s most celebrated flat race: the Carlisle Bell. In 1763, Carlisle also had the King’s Plate, a race for five-year-olds in three mile heats developed by King George III.
However, interest in the race fell away when the prize money of 200 guineas was halved in 1839. Carlisle Racecourse also played another important part in horse racing history on the 2nd July 1929. This was the date that the newly formed Tote (Totalisator Board) operated their pool betting facilities for the first time on a British racecourse.
The Racecourse Advisor Guide to Carlisle Racecourse:
By Car: The track is well located and very easily accessed by car, with a 4-minute drive off the M6 at junction 42, and is well signed. It is approximately 3 miles from the centre of Carlisle.
By Train: The nearest train station is Carlisle, which is 2.2 miles away from the racecourse. Buses also run on race days 90 and 45 minutes before the first race and return to Carlisle 5 and 35 minutes after the last race. The cost for this service is £1.60 each way. Rating: 7/10.
Parking: Parking and access to the course are excellent. Plenty of free parking is available on a large flat field immediately opposite the main racecourse entrance. When departing, the exit at the rear of the field can also be used. Rating: 10/10.
Pricing: £19.00 entrance fee (£16 for concessions) into the main grandstand. Under-18's and children are free. A locally made. Excellent, and informative race cards cost £3. Rating: 8/10.
Catering: As we both enjoy doing "racecourse reviews" and not restaurant reviews, or pretending to be food critics, our aim is to just give you an overall idea of what culinary options are available at the track on race days.
The on course catering facilities are very good here. It goes from the upscale Swifts Restaurant in the grandstand (hospitality packages are available from £55 per person) to The Bell Hall Restaurant on the lower floor of the Grandstand which houses two bars and a traditional Fish & Chip Shop (Fish & Chips with Peas £8.00. Sausage & Chips, £7.00). In this area, there is a Champagne bar named Monet’s. It was very busy during our visit, however, it has to be said that absolutely no one was drinking any type of Champagne whatsoever. Guinness and Lager, clearly being the preferred tipple of the locals.
There is also The Coffee House, which sells pies, sandwiches, cakes, and hot drinks. Next to the parade ring there is the Red Rum bar, which was interesting during our visit, to say the least. As the afternoon progressed, a few of the locals had clearly imbibed a few pints too many, and it all kicked off with a good old-fashioned scuffle / punch up. Security had to be called in to calm it all down and maintain order. For us, that's not exactly a family day out at the races!
Next to this is Silk's Café, which caters to the more adventurous with slow roasted beef, chicken & chorizo Skewers, and pulled pork sandwiches. Finally, there is The General's Bar, situated next to the main entrance turnstiles (burgers £5.50 a pop and £1.50 for a portion of chips). There is also a traditional sweet shop on site. During the summer months, there is a local ice cream van in attendance, but unfortunately it does not sell Banana flavoured ice cream. Rating: 5/10.
Guinness Standard: £5.75 per pint. The lowest pint of a Guinness so far on our travels. Rating: 9/10.
Viewing: Unfortunately, the viewing of the actual races at this course is not good. The horses are out of sight when running down the back of the track due to buildings and trees. The sight line is also hampered as they approach the final bend again, due to trees. The horses only really come into sight at around the 2-furlong marker. Without the big screen above the winning post, watching most of the races would be difficult. Rating: 6/10.
Parade Ring / Winners Enclosure: This is very well located immediately outside the owners & trainers’ area near the racetrack itself. It is a good size, and full access all the way around it is possible. It offers excellent viewing for both pre & post race activities. Just behind is the pre-parade ring and saddling enclosure. Rating: 7/10.
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: Plenty of Tote betting facilities all around the course. Also, Coral has on-course betting facilities available if preferred. The main betting ring is directly in front of the grandstand / paddock areas and has approximately 20 bookmaker pitches. Rating: 8/10.
Friendliness of Course Staff: We didn't really notice too many course staff, but that doesn't mean they weren't there. The Tote staff were polite and helpful as always. Rating: 7/10.
Pros & Cons: A well-located racecourse just off the A1 Road. It is easy to find with well signed entry & exits. Plenty of free parking is available very close to the racecourse main entrance. Pricing is reasonable for both the grandstand and paddock area.
The locally produced £3.00 race card is genuinely excellent: packed with interesting and relevant information regarding the races, horses, trainers, and jockeys, and also highlights relevant trends and track statistics. The catering facilities are good, and easily accessible, and there are several picnic areas available for families. The viewing of the races is not good, with a restricted view on large sections of the track. The draw is important and should be considered. The track favours front running horses. Rating: 6/10.
VIP Watch: No VIPs of note, but it has to be said that watching the kerfuffle in The Red Rum Bar was at times like being on the set of the TV show Shameless.
Overall Dave & Ray Rating: 7.3/10.
The full day's racing results can be found here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/2022-06-13/carlisle/91289
Facilities & Location Layout of Carlisle Racecourse: (Image: credited & acknowledged to The Jockey Club)
Aerial View of Carlisle Racecourse: (Image credited & acknowledged to Google Earth)
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