Date of Review: 22nd February 2023
Address: Leger Way, Doncaster, DN2 6BB
Phone: 01302 304200
A Virtual tour of the course can be found here: https://www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk/visitor-experience/virtual-tours/
Track Layout: (Image: courtesy of & acknowledged to At The Races)
Doncaster Racecourse is a pear shaped, left-handed racecourse of almost 2 miles in circumference. It holds both flat and jumps meetings and conducts 36 meetings a year between them. It is an extremely flat course with excellent drainage, so the going is often good. Therefore, horses should run at their best without any excuses. There is an extension to the home straight for sprint races of 1 mile or under and a run in from the home turn of just over 4 furlongs. The jumps course has 11 fences and a run in of around 1 furlong.
Punters have to be wary at this track in the 5 & 6 furlong races due to the draw bias. The stalls can be positioned on both the stand rail and the far rail, or sometimes in the middle of the course. When the stalls are positioned on the far rail, statistics show it is very difficult to win from a low draw. It is also very difficult for horses that like to be prominent and lead. Hold up horses that come from behind are preferred. Doncaster is unique in that it stages both the first and last turf race meetings of the season. The season commences with the Lincoln meeting in March and concludes in November with the Handicap Day meeting. When it comes to horse racing history, Doncaster is the Daddy! It is one of the oldest racecourses in Britain and dates back to the 16th century. There is evidence of a track in 1595 at Town Moor. It also holds two of the world’s oldest races: the Doncaster Cup, first run in 1766, and the St. Leger Stakes, which was first run in 1776, when the course moved to its current location. The old, imposing stone Clocktower Stand from the 1800s is still in use to this day. A new, huge five tier grandstand with a cost of £34m was opened in 2007. The course also has a 4-star Hilton hotel on site. Doncaster made even more history in 1992, when it had the honour of staging the first ever Sunday meeting on a British racecourse. In those days, no betting was allowed on a Sunday; however, a crowd of 23,000 rocked up, and from then on, Sunday horse racing was well and truly established.
The Racecourse Advisor Guide to Doncaster Racecourse:
By Road: Doncaster Racecourse is not as easy to get to as some would like you to think. From the M18 motorway, exit at either junction 3 or 4 and follow signs for the Doncaster Exhibition Centre, or ‘Racecourse’. The racecourse is next to the junction of the A18 and A638 roads. Taking this route, it is approximately a 15-minute drive after leaving the motorway. Alternatively, you can get there via the M62 / A1(M). Follow the A1 and exit at junction 36 onto the A630 (High Road into Warmsworth). Turn right onto the A18, following the signs for "Racecourse & Lakeside". Cross over the roundabout onto the A630, and the racecourse is on the right-hand side. This is approximately a 25 minute drive after leaving the A1(M).
By Rail: Doncaster railway station, which is on the main London to Edinburgh line is circa 2 miles from the course. A shuttle bus runs on race days, running at ‘regular intervals’ for a cost of £2.50 return. Rating: 6/10.
Parking: There is plenty of free parking at the course in Car Park C. This car park is situated at the end of the racecourse and is about a 4-minute walk to the main entrances. There is also car park A directly across the road from the course, however, this is reserved for Owners & Trainers. Rating: 7/10.
Pricing: It has to be said that Doncaster does deliver value for money. For a mid-week meeting, we paid for a £20 ticket and a £10 concession ticket into the Grandstand, and that allows access to all areas. For a course of this size and stature, that’s pretty good. The only downside is the race card, which at a cost of £4.00 is one of the most expensive we have encountered on our travels. It is heavy on the advertising, and it doesn't even contain basic details such as a map of the course facilities. Overall, it is poor. For this, we have deducted one point from the score. Rating: 9/10
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.
There is no shortage of catering outlets and bars at the racecourse. However, a good number of them were closed when we visited midweek. The County Enclosure on the ground floor has a couple of bar areas and a traditional Piglets Pie Shop. It also has a Gin & Fizz bar for those wishing to celebrate in style. It also keeps up the Yorkshire tradition of having an old-fashioned sweet shop. On the first floor, there is a food court where you can sit down and eat. This has a number of concessions with a variety of cuisines, including burritos & nachos, burgers, pizzas, and another traditional Piglets Pie Shop. The pies were priced at £7.50 each or £9.60 with mash, peas & gravy. To be fair, they looked good! They looked much better than the sausage rolls priced at £5.00, which we thought was a bit steep. We did indulge in a three cheese toasted sandwich for £5.50. The verdict? In a word: soggy. We have had better. There is also a small outlet selling sandwiches, rolls, coffees etc called Gigi’s. No alcohol is allowed in the food court. There is however, a large bar area situated immediately next to it. We couldn’t find any of the usual racecourse standard burger or fish & chip shop vans, which was both surprising and disappointing. However, here’s a good tip to paste in your hat: Directly across the road from the racecourse is a huge dine in fish & chip shop called Whitby’s, which was rather busy when we walked past. They do a regular sized portion of cod & chips for £11.95 and a smaller version for £9.95. They even do scampi or a prawn cocktail. What more do you need for a pre-or post-race feed? Rating: 7/10.
Guinness Standard: Draft Guinness is available (in eco-friendly glasses) at £6.65 a pint, which includes a £0.50p surcharge on the plastic glass. The £0.50p is deducted from your next pint, and all the money goes to local charities. It has to be said that it was the finest pint of Guinness we have had at a racecourse for a very long time, and we’ve had a few. Rating: 9/10
Viewing: Unfortunately, for a track as big as this, the viewing of the races here is poor at best. In races of two miles or more, you lose sight of the horses for circa 40% of the time behind trees and bushes as the horses go up the back straight. You only see them again as they come out at the top of the home turn, which is around four and a half furlongs from the finishing post. Not good. There is one large TV screen at the finishing post, and that is not the biggest. The main Grandstand is genuinely magnificent. It is five floors high, and contains all manner of different levels of corporate hospitality and restaurants on each floor. It has plenty of cover if required and plenty of seats. Further along there is the Leger Stand, which again is large, well-covered, and has plenty of seats. To the left of the main Grandstand is the old Clocktower Stand, which was originally built in the 1800s and is still in use today. It is, however, on the verge of being derelict, which is unfortunate. It is a genuine monument to Doncaster racecourse history, and it wouldn’t take a lot to clean it up and make it attractive once again. Just to the left of this is the Family Stand, which has a large picnic area directly in front. This stand does not serve alcohol, so is it excellent for the kids. So, there is no shortage of viewing areas at Doncaster, that is for sure. While the facilities are excellent, as stated above, the actual viewing of the horses during the races is not good at all. For this reason, we have had to deduct points Rating: 6/10
Parade Ring / Winners Enclosure: s somewhat sparse, to say the least, and pretty it isn’t. The owners could pick up a few tips on how to make a parade ring look attractive from other local courses like Wetherby or Ripon. However, it is situated immediately off the racetrack in front of the main Grandstand. This means you can see everything from your seat without having to move anywhere, which is excellent. There are plenty of raised steps for viewing and a number of raised wooden platforms for the disabled. Due to its location, you can see the horses parade before the race, watch the jockey’s mount, watch the race and then watch them dismount. Then watch the winning and placed horses go into their respective positions – all without moving from your seat in the Grandstand. The pre-parade ring is situated directly behind the old Clocktower Stand. Rating: 7/10
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: The main bookmakers' pitch is located immediately in front of the main Grandstand along the rails. A decent sized area with circa 15 bookies and a further 10 additional pitches that would be active on the bigger race days. There are plenty of Tote betting facilities located around the course, and a large BritBet concession is situated on the ground floor of the main Grandstand. No problem to get a bet on and pick up. Rating: 8/10.
Friendliness of Course Staff: Friendly and helpful course staff are dotted around the racecourse at various points and are happy to offer help and advice if required. Rating: 9/10.
Pros & Cons: Overall, Doncaster is steeped in horse racing history and is a very good racecourse that boasts top class facilities. Getting there by road is not as easy as it sounds, but the railway station two miles away from the course is very handy. There is ample free parking in Car Park C. For a track of this stature and facilities, the pricing is excellent. The big downside for us is the viewing of the races. You lose sight of the horses for circa 40% of the time, with races of 2 miles or more in distance: that is not good. The £4.00 race card could and needs to be improved, too. The catering is plentiful, with a good choice of concessions that serve a variety of foods to suit all tastes. The parade ring while superbly located in front of the main Grandstand lacks character or decoration of any form and could easily be improved. No problem for people who like a bet with bookmakers: Tote and BritBet facilities are aplenty. There is no shortage of friendly staff on duty if and when needed. For us, the only other issue is the old chestnut of the course having a ‘credit card only’ policy, which goes against the grain for us at any racecourse. That said, a very good day out at a Premier League racecourse. Rating: 7/10.
VIP Watch: No VIPs were spotted by us during the day
Overall Dave & Ray Rating: 7.4/10.
The full day's racing results can be found here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/2023-02-22/doncaster/95947
Facilities & location layout of Doncaster Racecourse
Aerial View of Doncaster Racecourse
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