Date of Review: 26th October 2023
RCA Reviewers: The Apprentice, Mr Shrewdy & The Doctor
Address: Bromfield, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 2BT
Phone: 01584 856221
Hotel Accommodation: https://www.booking.com/landmark/gb/ludlow-racecourse.en-gb.html
Track Layout: (image acknowledged & credited to At The Races)
Course Information: Ludlow Racecourse stages only National Hunt meetings between the months of October and May, holding around 16 fixtures during the season.
The majority of the meetings here are held midweek, during the afternoon. It is located in the heart of the picturesque south Shropshire countryside, with spectacular views of Clee Hill and the surrounding areas. It is a quirky but friendly racecourse that has worked hard to maintain its Edwardian characteristics, which most definitely gives it a certain charm.
Ludlow Racecourse is a right-handed track, virtually square in shape and has two separate but adjoining courses. The longer, outer course is used for hurdle races, which has undulations, and the inner course for chases, which is effectively flat.
Both courses are right-handed, with a sharp bend approaching the home straight. Both tracks are approximately a mile and a half in distance, with a long run to the winning post of around 3 furlongs.
One of the most notable features of this racecourse is that it is crossed no less than three times by the B4365 road. The other is that situated on the inside of the course is an 18-hole golf course, which is similar to Southwell, Wincanton, Newcastle, and a few others in that respect.
The obstacles are made up of six plain fences, a water jump, and two open ditches. On the hurdles course, races vary from 2 miles, 2 miles 5 furlongs and 3 miles. Padded hurdles are used to reduce the risk of injuries to the horses.
On the chase course, races are held over 2 miles, 2 miles-4 furlongs, 3 miles, and 3 miles-1 furlong. Mobile fences are used, which enables them to be moved to fresher ground when the turf gets cut up as the season progresses.
Ludlow is known to be ideal in wet weather as it is a free-draining track that has a 70% gravel base and 30% loam. This does tend to provide better going and allows trainers to avoid running their horses on heavy or testing ground.
It is generally considered to be a fair racecourse that can be navigated without too many problems. Due to the above features, it suits speedy types of horses who can jump accurately and economically. Stamina is not generally an issue here.
Ludlow Racecourse has a rich history: while legend has it that soldiers raced their horses here as far back as the fourteenth century, any real racing records date back to 1729, with meetings being widely reported after 1750.
However, up to around 1769, horse racing was a sideshow, with cock fighting being the main attraction. The first jumps / hurdles race took place in 1850, and in 1870, a steeplechase course was added. Ludlow stopped flat racing fixtures in 1868 and switched completely to National Hunt racing. A new Edwardian grandstand was built in 1904.
The golf club based on the inside of the course was founded in 1889 and is a separate entity from the racecourse. It was further developed in 1922 into an 18-hole, 6,277 yards course.
During World War II, the course was closed and used as a US Army camp, with over 2,000 soldiers based there. In 2001, the Jubilee stand was erected and opened.
As we do like a little bit of trivia here at Racecourse Advisor, how about this: On October 24th, 1980, the current monarch, King Charles III, rode a horse called Allibar at Ludlow into second place in the Amateurs riders Handicap Chase.
Also, Ludlow is one of only two racecourses in Great Britain where the horses parade anti-clockwise in the parade ring. This is to allow the trainer and connections, when giving the jockeys a leg up to mount the horse, to move away from the horse safely rather than coming out at the rear. Quiz question: Do you know which is the other course (the answer is at the very end of the review)?
The Racecourse Advisor Guide to Ludlow Racecourse:
By Road: The racecourse is located two miles from Ludlow town centre, off the A49. We drove in from the north, heading south through Church Stratton. The course is not signed at all along the A49 until you actually reach it. Once you do arrive, the signage and directions for parking are good.
By Rail: From London, Paddington station, take the train to Newport, then the local line to Ludlow. This will take approximately four hours, so it is a bit of a slog. A free bus service is available on race days from Ludlow station to the racecourse.
By Air: The nearest airport to Ludlow is Birmingham (BHX) Airport which is 41 miles away. Other nearby airports include Bristol (BRS), which is 69 miles away and Manchester (MAN) which is 71 miles away. The course does have helicopter landing facilities, which need to be booked by prior arrangement. Rating: 7/10.
Parking: Plenty of free car parking is available on a large, grassed field immediately next to the racecourse entrance. Plenty of stewards and staff are available if required. There is also a priority parking area next to the racecourse entrance that is reserved for Blue Badge holders. There is also a disabled toilet facility that is easily accessible next to the grandstand. Don’t bother taking your dog, even if it does like having a bet and enjoying a day out at the races. Unlike some racecourses, dogs are not allowed on the course or in the car park at Ludlow, with the exception of guide dogs. Rating: 10/10.
Pricing: On the day of our visit, tickets on the gate were £18.00 each into the Grandstand and Paddock areas and £21.00 for entrance into the Premier Enclosure.
Disappointingly, no concessions were available at all on the day. When we asked the staff why, they simply said they didn’t know, so that was the end of that. However, children aged 17 and under gain free entrance to the course when accompanied by an adult. A £2.00 discount can be obtained on the above prices by booking in advance online.
The course offers a couple of upgrades and hospitality options, such as the Plymouth Restaurant Package for £69.00. This is based on the ground floor of the members area, which is situated right on the finishing post. This includes car parking, admission to the course and a race card. A three-course carvery meal is served up with tea and coffee. Tables are for either 10 or 12 people or can be shared if the numbers are fewer.
The Jubilee Dine With a View option is a level up at £82.50 per person (a table next to the window will cost more), and for this outlay, you are situated in the restaurant located in the Jubilee stand. This option comes with car parking, admission to the course, a race card, a choice of three course menus with tea and coffee, waitress service, and a table reserved for the day.
Overall, the pricing is reasonable, but the total absence of any concession-priced tickets is a bit of a head-scratcher for us.
The race card for the day had all the usual information in the standard format. The obligatory page 3 introduction from the Clerk of the Course did mention the fact that the recent floods had not really affected the going, which was true and is worth a mention as we expected the going to be on the heavy side, but the free-draining ground provided perfect running conditions.
As it was an 8-race meeting card, it was a bit thicker than most, at 40 pages, and had 11 full pages of advertisements. It did have a fantastic 2-page full-spread map of the course and facilities, as well as a neat track layout showing the position of the fences and highlighting the fact that the run-in is 450 yards long, although it did appear further than that when watching them come up the straight (We did measure the straight on Google Earth, and it is actually 575 metres, or approximately 625 yards, so our eyes weren’t deceiving us). It’s a long run home, as Nico de Boinville will testify when riding his only mount of the day.
It also shows a little triangle section right on the entrance to the home straight where the Chase and Hurdle courses separate, and this did cause an issue with the runners in one of the races.
Overall, a worthy buy at £3.00 A free version of the race card is available and can be download via a QR code available at the course Rating: 7/10.
Catering: Here at Racecourse Advisor, we enjoy doing “racecourse reviews” and not restaurant reviews. Nor do we pretend to be food critics. Our aim is to give you an overall idea of what is available regarding the culinary options and prices at the track on racedays.
In our opinion, on the day of our visit, the catering options on course, were somewhat limited, however, they did offer VFM (value for money). Our first port of call was the Final Fence café at the rear of the Jubilee Stand. It served up traditional fayre such as a bacon or sausage bap for £4.00, a sausage roll for £3.00, or a pie or pastie with chips for £6.50. A basic burger was £4.50 and £4.80 if you added cheese. A hot pork roll with stuffing and apple sauce would set you back £4.00. Tea, coffee, and hot chocolate are all £2.00 per cup.
Some of the catering facilities – Ludlow Racecourse. Left to right: The Jubilee Restaurant, The Fairway café, the Final Fence café, the burger van, the tea & coffee van, the traditional sweet shop, and the ice cream van.
Later in the day, we ventured around to the Fairway Café Bar which is located in the Course Enclosure on the other side of the racecourse. The menu had classics such as chilli & chips or baked potato for £6.50. Soup of the day (vegetable) for £2.00 and add £0.50p if you fancied a bread roll to go with it. Sausage, chips, and beans were £6.50. A bacon or sausage bap for £4.00. Pie & chips for £6.00 or cheesy chips for £3.00. A sausage roll for £3.00 or a Cornish pastie, or a pie for £3.00 a pop. A slice of homemade cake costs £3.00. It was a Victoria Sponge, which is the specialist subject of one of our reviewers, and he rated it highly! Tea / coffee for £1.50 a cup. Hot chocolate is £2.00, and cans of soft drinks are £1.50. Once again, good old-fashioned racecourse grub being served up by friendly staff at decent prices.
Also located in the course enclosure and directly opposite the parade ring was a traditional burger van knocking out the old staples such as bacon or sausage bap for £4.00. Add £0.50p for an egg if that takes your fancy. A bacon & sausage bap was £5.00. A standard burger was £4.00 and a cheeseburger £5.00. From what we saw, it was doing more than a decent level of trade.
Also on this side of the course there was an ice cream van and a traditional sweet shop kiosk selling all of the sweets you had forgotten about, with a very friendly and helpful assistant. Overall, basic but good food options that were well priced.
On to the bar areas. In the same area as the Final Flight Café is the main bar area, which is run by the local Ludlow Brewing Co. so local ‘derailed’ keg beers are on sale, which makes things interesting. It’s a cosy-looking area with tables and chairs and a decent-sized bar. They were serving their own locally brewed beer, larger and cider, and Old Mout cider at £5.00 a pint. A bottle of Peroni was £4.00, with red, white, and rose wines at £5.50 per glass (75ml). If you fancied a glass of the fizzy stuff, then the Prosecco was £7.50 a glass (200ml) or £25.00 for the bottle. Spirits were £4.00 a shot (25ml).
The bar area in the Jubilee Stand – Ludlow Racecourse
On the other side of the racecourse in the Course Enclosure is the Fairway Café & Bar. A somewhat stark area, with white plastic garden furniture tables and chairs, so not exactly welcoming.
The Fairway Café & Bar – Course Enclosure Ludlow Racecourse
Being served here were local Ludlow bottled beer and Wye Valley bottled beer at £4.00 each. Bottles of Kronenbourg, Magners cider, and cans of Guinness are priced at £3.00 each, and bottles of Kopparberg at £2.50. Wines by the glass (187ml) at £5.00.
Overall, not a great deal of options on the catering front at Ludlow Racecourse, with a limited number of food options. That said, the food on offer was more than OK and, in our opinion, more than reasonably priced.
As a rule, of we don’t normally review the toilet facilities of any racecourse we visit; however, on this unique occasion, we will make an exception, as we believe it is deserved.
The Gents Toilets – Plymouth Stand at Ludlow Racecourse
The gents toilets in the Plymouth Stand are a sight to behold. They are a full-height, porcelain Edwardian set-up, complete with the original copper and brass pipe work. Another small example of what makes this racecourse quirky and different but very likeable, in our opinion. Rating: 6/10.
Guinness Standard: Unfortunately, it is disappointing to report that draft Guiness is not available on the racecourse. However, canned Guinness is. The local Ludlow Brewing Company does have their own stout, which, in the name of research, we did purchase and drink (see above photo). While it was tasty and acceptable, the simple fact is that it is not draft Guinness. Rating: 6/10.
Viewing: The viewing experience at Ludlow Racecourse is very good. However, there is an important caveat, that we feel racegoers need to be made aware of. Viewing from the terraces of the Jubilee Stand and Plymouth Stand is somewhat restricted. You lose sight of the horses for around 40% of the time as the horses travel down the back straight and begin the home turn due to the trees on the golf course, which is situated in the centre of the track.
The good news is that in both stands, there is plenty of cover from the elements should it be needed, and a small seating area is available towards the back of the Plymouth Stand. There is a large mobile TV screen located around 100 yards from the winning post.
Viewing at Ludlow Racecourse. Left to Right: The Jubilee Stand. The Plymouth Stand & Members Restaurant.
However, if you are able bodied enough to tackle a few flights of iron stairs, there is an open viewing area / terrace on top of the Plymouth Stand. If you can make it, then you should. The view from here is nothing short of spectacular. The open aspect of Clee Hill and the surrounding countryside beyond is very reminiscent of Cleeve Hill at Cheltenham.
This elevated position also improves the viewing of the horses when racing considerably, to around 85% of the course. The only downside is that there is no cover or shelter whatsoever, so in wet or very cold weather, things will be very different.
More good news is that everyone, regardless of the ticket purchased on the day, can walk down to the winning post to watch the finish. Once again, this is worth doing, as you really are close to the horses as they pass.
Located on the other side of the track is the Course Enclosure.
The Course Enclosure & the view of Clee Hill – Ludlow Racecourse.
This enclosure is situated across the course, facing the main viewing areas of the Jubilee and Plymouth stands. The overall view of the horses in racing from here is not great, but you are immediately next to the big screen.
The other advantage of this enclosure is that, once again, you can get very close up to the running rail to see the horses in action. The water jump is on this side of the course, which you can also get very close to, which allows you to watch the horses take off and land as they clear the fence.
Overall, the viewing at Ludlow is good, but only if you go up to the rooftop viewing area / terrace at the top of the Plymouth Stand. Failing that, it is average. Rating: 7/10.
Parade Ring / Winners Enclosure: Are located across the track near the entrance and the Course Enclosure. This means you have to cross over from the main viewing areas and return after each race. While this is not ideal, it was no big deal for us either.
The parade ring is large in size and, unusually, almost square in shape. In terms of decoration, it is somewhat ordinary, fenced off with rails and a Heather hedge. No seating is available; however, you can gain access to 100% of the ring around its perimeter, which we like.
The Parade Ring Ludlow Racecourse
The pre-parade ring is located to the right, towards the back of the ring, but on the day of our visit, access was not allowed.
The winners enclosure is separate from the parade ring and located to its right as you cross the track from the main viewing area / stands.
The Winners Enclosure – Ludlow Racecourse
Again, nothing out of the ordinary, but functional, neat, and tidy, with a hedge around the perimeter. Rating: 6/10.
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: On the day of our visit to Ludlow Racecourse there was around 25 bookies pitched up at various locations around the course. The main pitch is immediately adjacent to the Jubilee and Plymouth stands next to the rails. There is another handful located next to the parade ring, and couple more situated in the Course Enclosure
The Bookmakers Pitches – Ludlow Racecourse
There is also a more than decent sized britbet concession situated just next to the bar & café at the back of the Jubilee Stand. Absolutely no problem to get a bet on and pick up wherever you are situated on the racecourse. Rating: 10/10.
Friendliness of Course Staff: Plenty of stewards on duty during the day of our visit. All very friendly and helpful. Rating: 10/10.
Pros & Cons: It was the first visit for all three Racecourse Advisors who travelled to Ludlow Racecourse, and the unanimous decision is that we liked it. We found the staff in all areas to be helpful and friendly.
The pricing was reasonable, and the day was well attended. Yes, the racecourse has its quirks, but in our opinion, that’s what makes it different and gives it a sense of character. The catering options, while limited, were more than adequate, and we thought the overall pricing delivered VFM (value for money).
The viewing is excellent if you are watching from the roof-top terrace of the Plymouth Stand. It isn’t, however, that good if you are in the normal areas of the Jubilee or Plymouth Stands, due to the trees on the golf course in the middle of the racecourse.
The parade ring and winners enclosure could benefit from a little more decoration and colour. However, the access to and the viewing of these areas were very good.
Plenty of bookmakers and betting facilities also. Our only real negative is the total lack of concessions on the ticket pricing.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable days racing for the Racecourse Advisor team at an unusual, quirky, but distinctive racecourse. As always, the question is: would we return? The answer is, without a doubt, we would. Rating: 8/10
VIP Watch: No VIPs were spotted at the course during the day of our visit.
Wi-Fi / Internet Connection: Wi-Fi is available on the course. However, we have to say, we found the coverage somewhat patchy. Particularly when in the Course Enclosure.
Overall Racecourse Advisor Rating: 7.5/10
The full day's racing results can be found here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/results/2023-10-26/ludlow/765907/hazlin-of-ludlow-ltd-amateur-jockeys-handicap-chase
Facilities & location layout of Ludlow Racecourse:
(Image: acknowledged & credited to Ludlow Race Club Ltd.)
Aerial View Ludlow Racecourse:
(image acknowledged & credited to Google Earth)
Quiz question answer: Goodwood Racecourse.
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