Date of Review: 14th June 2023.
RCA Reviewer: The Wanderer.
Address: Staines Rd East, Sunbury-on-Thames TW16 5AQ.
Phone: 01932 782292
Hotel Accommodation: https://www.booking.com/landmark/gb/kempton-park-racecourse.en.html
Track Layout: (image courtesy of & acknowledged - At The Races)
Course Information: Geographically, Kempton Park is the closest racecourse to central London, being only 15 miles away. The site is some 210 acres in total and it is the home of two separate tracks. The flat inner course is all-weather, oval-shaped, right-handed track with two loops. It measures approximately a mile in circumference. The turf outer jumps track is triangular in shape, has nine fences in each circuit and three fences in the final straight. Flat racing on turf ceased at Kempton in 2005 and was replaced by the all-weather course the following year. This setup enables racing to be held all year round and is one of England’s busiest courses, with around 100 fixtures each year. It is also one of the very few UK racecourses that can host floodlit meetings in the winter.
Both courses are pan-flat, with virtually no undulations. This makes it a very fair track. However, it is worth noting that both tracks are somewhat sharp, so horses that are agile tend to do well. The flat sprint races have a very short run in to the winning post, which suits horses that lead from the front. Kempton Park is the UK’s only right-handed all-weather track, so horses with previous good form here should be noted.
Kempton Park hosts a number of major National Hunt races, which include the Grade 1 King George VI Chase, which is run on Boxing Day each year and is only second to the Cheltenham Gold Cup. This famous race was won no less than five times by Kauto Star and four times by Desert Orchid. Both are National Hunt legends in their own right. This famous race was first run in 1937 and was named in the honour of the then new King George VI. On the same day, the Kauto Star Novice’s Chase is also run. The Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase is run on the following day, and the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase is run on the last weekend in February.
Kempton Park Racecourse was the brainchild of a local businessman named S. H. Hyde, who in 1872 was on his way home after watching the Epsom Derby and came across Kempton Manor, which happened to be for sale. He decided he liked it, so he bought it on the spot. He then went about transforming the site, and the first ever race meeting took place in 1878. The course was closed during the First World War, when it was used as a transport depot, and again during the Second World War, when it was used as a prisoner of war camp.
Regular readers of Racecourse Advisor will know that we do like a little bit of trivia, so here goes.
In 1966, the legendary racehorse Arkle finished his career at Kempton Park after sustaining an injury while running in the King George VI Chase. In 1956, the film Dry Rot, starring Sid James (as Flash Harry), Ronald Shiner, Peggy Mount and Lee Patterson, was made at Kempton Park. It’s about a trio of not particularly bright bookmakers who try to fix a horse race by bringing in a ringer. IMBD rated it 5.5/10 so maybe it’s worth a watch! Also, the TV series The Optimist, which ran from 1983 to 1985, had parts filmed at Kempton Park. It’s about a guy who has big dreams in life yet somehow creates confusion and problems wherever he goes, leaving a trail of total chaos behind him. Funny, isn’t it, how we all seem to know someone like that…
The Racecourse Advisor Guide to Kempton Park Racecourse:
By Road: Kempton Park Racecourse is located on the A308 between Sunbury on Thames and Hampton Court. It is immediately off Junction 1 of the M3, so access is excellent. If approaching from the M25, leave at junction 12 onto the M3. It is well signed.
By Rail: Kempton Park Racecourse has its own train station directly, next to the racecourse. It is situated 200 yards from the north entrance. Trains run every 30 minutes direct from London Waterloo, with the journey time being around 40 minutes. It is important to note that trains do not run on Boxing Day. Therefore, from London, take the underground train to Kew Gardens and then the shuttle bus to the racecourse.
By Air: The racecourse is approximately 25 minutes from London Heathrow and 45 minutes from Gatwick. Helicopter landings can be arranged by prior arrangement by calling 01932 782292 for further information. Rating: 9/10.
Parking: Free parking is available on all race days at Kempton Park. There is a £5.00 charge for parking in the Main Car Park on all National Hunt and feature race days. This is also the car park for owners’ & trainers. Blue Badge holders can park in the designated bays in the parking area. However, the Blue Badge must be on display at all times. It is a short walk of around 200 metres to the main entrance. Rating: 9/10.
Pricing: We attended an evening meeting on the all-weather course. Pricing in the Grandstand was £15.00 and allowed access to all areas of the racecourse. In our opinion, that is an absolute bargain for a course of this size and amenities. We had a quick look on their website, and for the evening meeting in August, tickets can be had for only £13.00. For a group of 10 or more, they are only £12.00. That really is excellent VFM (Value for Money) and cheaper than a lot of courses we have visited in recent times. We don’t often praise the Jockey Club, but a big pat on the back for them on this one. You can upgrade to the plush Panoramic Restaurant for £79.00, which gives you a three-course meal, tea & coffee after the meal, and a private table for the day / evening. They even throw in a free race card and a car park pass. It has a pay-as-you go bar, and excellent viewing, which overlooks the winning post. Again, very good VFM.
The racecard appeared on first impression to be not so good value at just 28 pages, and 25% of those were full-page advertisements. There was no map of the course layout, which to us is a must, as how else would you find your way around or locate any of the facilities? There was one page of additional information showing the coloured saddle cloths that relate to the horse’s number, which proved useful, along with the standard and record times for the course. But the saving grace for the card is the price; at just £2.00, it is the cheapest race card we have come across, meaning it was good value even if just for the runners and riders, along with the Timeform comments.
Catering: At Racecourse Advisor, 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.
On the ground floor of the main Grandstand is the “Food Court, “which has a good selection of food options. This includes a pizzeria which knocks out a Margherita for £10.00. A spicy BBQ pulled chicken (not pork) or the old classic that is a pepperoni for £12.00 a pop. Other options in the Food Court are fish & chips with mushy peas and curry sauce for £12.00. Crispy battered pork sausage, again with mushy peas & curry sauce (or a plant-based sausage alternative) for £11.00. Cod & spring onion fish cakes, again with the obligatory mushy peas and curry sauce, cost £10.50. A portion of chips will set you back £4.00. Kids’ meals of chicken or fish goujons, served with chips and beans, are £4.00. Hot drinks were served at a Café Nero concession named “Kempton Coffee” and were more than reasonably priced at £3.70 for a mocha (£3.90 for a large cup). Hot chocolate £3.50 (£3.70 for a large). Tea and speciality tea at a mere £2.50. Coffees were £3.50 for a cappuccino, flat white or latte (£3.70 for large cups). An Americano was £3.20 (£3.40 if you go large).
The Food Court - Kempton Park
Eventually, we went for the fish & chips, and we have to say, they were very good. Also, commendably, the large table / seating area within the Food Court is kept very clean and tidy by the staff. After we finished our meal, we nipped out to watch, a race and when we returned around seven minutes later, the remnants of the meal had gone, the table had been wiped down, and everything was spick and span. All credit goes to the catering staff for that. It doesn’t happen that often at a lot of racecourses, in our experience.
The main bar area in the hall is called “Kings of Kempton” and serves a good selection of drinks. The prices were: Guinness, Staropramen, Madri larger, Atlantic Pale Ale all for £7.20 a pint. Again, not too unreasonable. Bottled beers (500ml) of Doom Bar, Cider and Berry Cider are £6.20. And 330ml bottle of Staropramen at £5.80. Vodka, Jack Daniels, Gin, Southern Comfort, whisky, rum and even Courvoisier and Malibu all for a straight £5.20 for a 25ml glass. Red and white wines by the glass (125ml) ranging from £6.00 to £8.00 depending on your choice. By the bottle, the red and white wines will cost you £31.25 each, and Rose £32.50.
Outside of the Grandstand there is a coffee shop selling takeaway tea and an americano coffee for only £2.00. Cappuccino, filter coffee and hot chocolate for £3.00 a cup. It also sells hot Belgian waffles for £5.00 and if you really are feeling extravagant, you can add cream and / or a selection of toppings for an additional £1.00. If you are still hungry after that, then there is “Hot Cookie Dough” served with ice cream and flavoured sauce for £6.00. Just nearby there is confectionery / sweet shop outlet selling all manner of ice creams, chocolate, crisps, milkshakes, flapjacks, etc.
We also got the opportunity to go upstairs and have a good look around the Panoramic Restaurant (mentioned above), and we have to say, it is impressive. It has tiered tables, all of which directly overlook the track, which offers excellent views. We also, had a quick chat with some of the staff, and they were very friendly and informative. At £79.00 each, relative to some other racecourses we have visited, it really is VFM, and we highly recommend it if a hospitality option is your thing.
The Panoramic Restaurant - Kempton Park
Overall, there was a more than adequate selection and variety of food and drink options, and for once, in our opinion, they were not ridiculously overpriced. Rating: 8/10.
Guinness Standard: Draught Guinness is available for £7.20 a pint, so it is near the upper end of the racecourse Guinness pricing scale. As is the case with Jockey Club racecourses, it was served in those flimsy plastic pint pots where, you need at least two of them together, to make drinking it possible. That said, it was a decent and enjoyable pint. And we are more than happy to report that it wasn’t served in those dreadful biodegradable, paper pint points like we had at Newbury. Note to the Jockey Club: don’t even think about it – please! Rating: 8/10.
Viewing: The viewing at Kempton Park is very good. It does help that both courses are absolutely pan flat. So, no hills or undulations to worry about. The turf jumps track is on the outer and you can see the horses around 80% of the time. You can also get close to the track by standing on the rails, which offers excellent views of the horses, as they come down the home straight, towards the winning post.
The all-weather flat course is on the inner side of the jumps course, so it is further away. However, from the Grandstand you can see the horses 100% of the time. The stand itself is large. There are around 10 rows of plastic seats at the back, and plenty of standing viewing is in front of them which is sloped with plenty of crash barriers. Just in front of this, on the grassed area leading down to the rails, there are a good number of wooden benches for seating, which is a nice touch.
The Grandstand - Kempton Park
There is a large TV screen, that is situated just before the winning post on the inner, all-weather track. The roof of the stand is absolutely huge! So, it offers plenty of cover and shelter from the elements.
The Festival Stand - Kempton Park
There is another large, covered stand called the Festival Enclosure, which is situated to the right of the Premier Enclosure, which was closed on the day of our visit. This is in front of the last fence, around a furlong from home. The top half of the stand has plenty of plastic seats, and the front half is a tiered standing area. In front of this, on the grass next to the rails, is a large picnic area with around 20 wooden benches with parasols. On a busy day, with the stand behind you and the course immediately in front of you, this really would be a great place to watch the racing from. Overall, we scored the viewing experience 8/10 for the turf, jumps track and 10/10 for the flat, all-weather track. Therefore, an overall Rating: 9/10.
Parade Ring / Winners Enclosure: The parade ring is situated directly behind the main Grandstand, away from the racecourse itself, and is adjacent to the car park, and next to the south entrance area. The winner’s enclosure is situated inside, on the right. The parade ring itself is large in size and the viewing is very good. The area around the ring is a neatly trimmed hedge, with stools situated around a large part of the circumference. Behind them is a flagged standing area.
The Parade Ring - Kempton Park
So, there is plenty of access and plenty of space to see the horses. Slap bang in the middle of the ring is a life-size statue of Kauto Star, and to the left of the ring is a statue of the famous Desert Orchid. It’s nice to see such legendary horses honoured in this way.
The pre-parade ring is some distance away on the right-hand side, past the clubhouse, weighing room and annual member’s bar. However, it’s worth the walk. Again, the viewing is excellent. The added bonus is that the horses walk from the pre-parade ring to the parade ring, then walk all the way back again to go out on to the course to race. This means there is more than ample time and opportunity to see and watch the horse, jockeys, and connections. Overall, the setup is very good. We liked it. Rating: 8/10.
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: The main bookmakers’ pitch is directly in front of the main Grandstand on a large, tarmacked area / concourse, that leads down the course itself.
The main bookmakers pitch - Kempton Park
On the day we attended, there were around 10 bookies plying their trade. This, coupled with the William Hill facilities on the course and also the Tote counters, made getting a bet on was absolutely no problem. Rating: 8/10.
Friendliness of Course Staff: Absolutely top notch! The best course staff we have encountered during our many racecourse reviews. Nothing was too much trouble for any of them. Friendly, helpful, and cheery. A special mention goes to Ron, who was on meet & greet duties on the day. An absolute mine of information and super helpful. Ron, we salute you! Rating: 10/10.
Pros & Cons: Kempton Racecourse has a lot going for itself. The access, parking, and ticket pricing are very good for a course of this size and stature and certainly offers VFM. The same can be said for catering facilities, which deliver a good variety of options and choices. Again, the pricing is also fair and reasonable, which is a refreshing change seeing as it is so close to London. The viewing is good on both courses, with good vantage points from the main Grandstand, and plenty of seats and cover if required.
The parade ring is large, accessible, and offers excellent viewing of the horses both before and after the races. The pre-parade ring is also worth a visit. The course staff are the best we have come across and deserve a special mention. What is also worth mentioning, is that Kempton Park has a very large fishing lake at the back of it, and annual membership can be had for £350 per year.
Overall, a very enjoyable evening of racing was experienced. We will definitely return, but not to go fishing. Rating: 8/10
VIP Watch: No VIPs were spotted during the visit.
Wi-Fi / Internet Connection: Free Wi-Fi is available once you have registered and logged in with the Jockey Club portal. This requires you to enter all of the usual questions, such as: name, age, gender, email address etc. However, once you have registered, Wi-Fi is immediately available at all Jockey Club racecourses. The connection was fast and reliable. No issues whatsoever.
Overall Racecourse Advisor Rating: 8.7/10
The full day's racing results can be found here:
Facilities & location layout of Kempton Park Racecourse:
(Image: courtesy of & acknowledged - The Jockey Club)
Video Flyover of Kempton Park Racecourse Here:
Aerial View of Kempton Park Racecourse:
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