Date of Review: 16th November 2023
RCA Reviewers: The Apprentice, Mr Shrewdy & The Doctor
Address: Legsby Rd, Market Rasen LN8 3EA
Phone: 01673 843434
Hotel Accommodation: https://www.booking.com/landmark/gb/market-rasen-racecourse.en-gb.html
Track Layout: (acknowledged & credited to Timeform & At The Races)
Course Information: Market Rasen is a right-handed course, rectangular in shape. It is approximately 1 mile 2 furlongs in circumference, with tight bends, but a number of long, undulating, straight sections. The home turn is the trickiest part of the track as it is downhill, which then flattens out around two-furlongs from home.
Both hurdles and chases are held on the same course. The hurdles course is made up of 3 flights on the back straight and 2 flights on the home straight, with a decent run home after the final flight of around 250 yards. The chase course is made up of five plain fences and two open ditches. There are four obstacles on the back straight and three in the home straight. Once again, it is a short run home after jumping the last. The fences are generally regarded as being relatively easy.
The above course characteristics suit nippy horses, who are light on their feet, like to race on the pace, and can quicken as they come to the first fence in the final straight. Very few horses come from the rear and make up ground on the leaders to win races here.
Market Rasen is the only racecourse in all of Lincolnshire. It holds around 21 National Hunt only fixtures a year. Its most notable races are the Listed 188bet Summer Plate and Summer Hurdle, which are run on Ladies Day in mid-July.
Market Rasen Racecourse, in relative terms, is fairly new to the scene of English horseracing, with the current course only being established in 1924. However, racing in the surrounding areas dates back to the early 1800s, with the first meeting recorded in 1828. During these times, as many as five different racecourses were regularly used, as it was dependent on which local publican would host the racing for that year. Things changed in 1848 when the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company began serving the town and people from outside of the local area began to attend the meetings.
A significant name in the history of Market Rasen Racecourse is Victor Lucas, who was responsible for running the course from 1945 until his death in 1971. During this time, he planned the layout of the racecourse, largely as it still stands today. This includes the track, parade ring, paddock, weighing room, and also the stands. He also increased the fixtures from three meetings a year up to 12. There is a bar named in his honour at the course.
In 1967, the racecourse was acquired by the Racecourse Holding Trust, which was a direct subsidiary of the Jockey Club and is now part of the Jockey Club racing portfolio. The racecourse was closed during World War II, when it was used as a base by the Yorkshire Hussars. The Tote facility was introduced to the course in 1931 and a photo-finish camera was installed in 1964 for the first time.
Market Rasen has a history of being the starting place of many champion racehorses such as, Altior who began his illustrious career at Market Rasen when he went off as the 4/6 favourite to win a bumper race by some 14 lengths. He was ridden that day by jockey Nico de Boinville, who was a 3lb. claiming apprentice at the time.
The famous Tiger Roll, winner of two Grand Nationals, also began his career here in November 2013 when, ridden by Mark Quinlan, he won a juvenile hurdle race by almost 4 lengths. Weeks later, he was sold for £80,000 to Michael O’Leary and put into training with Gordon Elliott.
The legendary three-time Grand National winner Red Rum also graced the course in April 1970, when he ran in a three-mile handicap chase. He made the frame on that day by finishing fourth. Three months later, he was put into the Doncaster sales and bought for £6,000 by Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain. As they say, the rest is history. They have even named the milk after him in the Red Rum bar at the course!
As we do like a little bit of trivia at Racecourse Advisor… The former leading jockey, AP McCoy (now Sir AP McCoy), is the leading jockey at Market Rasen by statistics. He won 27% of the races he rode at the course. In 2014, he rode his 4,192nd winner, pipping his former colleague and friend Martin Pipe’s overall winning record. There is also a bar on the course named after him called AP’s Bar.
The Racecourse Advisor Guide to Market Rasen Racecourse:
By Car: The racecourse can be accessed from the A1, M1 and the A46. It is always well signposted, so once you’re in the vicinity it shouldn’t be hard to find.
From the M1, exit at junction 24. Follow signs for the A453 towards Nottingham, then the A52 and onto the A46 to Newark. From the A1, take the exit signed for Newark, Lincoln and the A46. Follow the A46 all the way which will take you to Market Rasen. The course is signposted some eight miles out, so relatively easy to find.
From the M18 (north of Market Rasen), exit to the M180 signed for Grimsby, Scunthorpe, and Humberside Airport. Then take the A15 exit signposted for Lincoln. After that, take the A631 exit towards Market Rasen.
By rail: Market Rasen very conveniently, has its own railway station and is approximately 1 mile from the racecourse. There are taxis available at the station or a brisk 30 minute walk if you are in the mood.
By Air: The nearest airport to Market Rasen Racecourse is Humberside (HUY) which 18 miles away and around a 30 minute drive. Private helicopter landings are available on the course, but prior arrangement is required. Rating: 6/10.
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.
Market Rasen Racecourse also has its very own caravan park and touring site, which has 53 pitches and 51 electrical hook ups. For those who do want to use the site, it is important to know that the park shower & toilet facilities are unavailable from 2.5 hours before the first race until approximately 1 hour after the last race. Rating: 10/10.
Pricing: On the day of our visit, the course was operating as one-enclosure, with tickets into the general enclosure, which allows full access to the parade ring, racecourse viewing, pre-parade ring and winner’s enclosure for £12.00.
For a group of 10 or more, the price was reduced to £10.80 per ticket if booked online in advance. In our opinion, for a seven-race card and a full afternoon out at the races that is more than good value. Children under the age of 18 and accompanied by an adult go free.
Concessions are available, with racegoers aged 65 and over receiving a £5 discount for entry into the Tattersalls or General Enclosure. These tickets cannot be booked in advance. Complimentary entrance tickets are available for free to personal assistants and carers.
There were a couple of upgrade options in the Altiors restaurant, which is situated on the first floor of the main grandstand. It has a balcony overlooking the home straight, and TV viewing also. For £65.00, you get the “Best of British Experience” which consists of admission to the course, a 2-course roast meal, tea & coffee with your table reserved for the day.
For £89.00 per person, you get the ‘Premier Restaurant Experience” which also in the Altiors restaurant which brings admission to the course, a 3-course a la carte meal, tea & coffee, and to make sure you don’t go home hungry, a full afternoon tea thrown in for good measure. Once again, your table is reserved for the day.
In our opinion, the general admission pricing is VFM (value for money), and the upgrade options are also well priced. Be aware that this being a Jockey Club owned racecourse the dreaded and highly unpopular ‘credit card only’ policy is in place, and cash can only be used for betting.
The Race Card: We really have got to the point of wondering why a lot of racecourses actually publish and sell race cards at their meetings at all. Unfortunately, we have to report that Market Rasen was no exception. The race card was a thinnish 28 pages, with 10 of those pages (35%) dedicated to full-page advertisements. The document didn’t even contain a map showing the course layout, facilities, or locations, nor did it contain a picture of the racecourse layout, showing the positions of the race starting points or the positions of the fences. In our opinion, both are very obvious and basic prerequisites for a dedicated race day document that is costing the racegoer £3.00.
Considering that on the day there was a Listed race being run with prize money in excess of £20,000, we feel that this was a missed opportunity for the course to sell and promote itself with at least a welcome note or introduction. We don’t believe, with a little ambition and effort, that this is something that can’t be improved at zero cost to the racecourse. So, for what it’s worth, either up the game or don’t bother at all and simply have a free race card on the day, which is downloadable by a QR code. But please stop taking dedicated racegoers for granted by selling a document that tells you absolutely nothing you cannot read for free online or elsewhere. Rating: 10/10
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.
The catering options on the day of our visit were somewhat limited to say the least. The only place serving food on the whole of the course was the Red Rum bar. All other bars and food outlets were closed. Also, no ‘street food’ vendors either were present. No burger van, no fish & chip van, no ice cream van, and the onsite Pizza concession (Antonio’s) – yep, also closed. There was however a traditional sweet shop which was good news.
That said, the food options available in the Red Rum bar were more than decent to be fair. The bar area is large in size, plenty of tables and chairs, TV screens and even a Tote betting concession situated at the back of it. As for the food, offerings such as: The Roast of the Day, which was beef or chicken breast, served with garlic & thyme roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, roasted root vegetables, fine green beans, and rich gravy for £9.75 a serving. A hot carved roast beef baguette, with garlic & thyme roast potatoes at £6.95. A selection of pies, such as, steak & ale, chicken gammon & leek or a Bombay potato pie all at £5.65 each, and a red Leicester sausage roll was the same. A serving of chips was £4.00 and add £0.50p if want to add gravy to them.
Top: The Red Rum Bar. Bottom: The Tiger Roll Bar – Market Rasen Racecourse.
We did help ourselves to a steak & ale and a chicken, gammon & leek pie, and very good they were too! The only negative being the miniscule amount of gravy that was served with them. They also had a decent selection of sandwiches on sale also.
As for hot drinks, a Cappuccino, Mocha, or double espresso was £2.95 and a latte £2.85. Decaf options available at £2.55. A cup of tea was £2.55. A selection of pizzas was also being served, which included a Margherita for £7.95 and pepperoni and BBQ Jackfruit options for £8.95.
The Altior Restaurant - Market Rasen Racecourse.
There is also the snazzy Tiger Roll bar which is decked out with comfy sofa’s and a few tables and chairs which was serving Madri larger and Aspall cyder for £6.20 a pint. Black Fruit cider for £6.30 and Guinness at £6.50 a pint. Wines: Red, white, and rose at £7.70 a glass (187 ml). A bottle of the fizzy stuff, Prosecco was £45.15 a bottle and the real fizzy stuff, Champagne would set you back £62.65. Standard spirits are £4.90 and premium spirits (Jack Daniels & Courvoisier) £5.20.
Soft drinks such as Coke, Fanta & Sprite for £2.70. A bottle of water is £2.50 a bottle and a couple of non-alcoholic beverages such as Becks Blue for £3.80 a bottle and a pint of Guinness 0% for £5.80. There is a coffee shop situated inside this bar also.
The Traditional Sweet Shop (cash only) - Market Rasen Racecourse.
We also frequented the traditional sweet shop later in the day to stock up in readiness for the journey home. The Doctor has a particularly sweet tooth, so he decided to go large and ordered numerous bags of sweets to the value of £7.00. On handing over his credit card to pay (it is a cashless course), he was told it was cash only! So, there you have it. A racecourse that has a strict (and unpopular) policy of credit card only, and you can’t pay for sweets with a credit card. It has to be cash. Confused? So were we. The good news being that Mr. Shrewdy, who always has a decent sized wedge on him, stepped in, paid for the sweets in cash, and saved the day.
Overall, a very limited number of catering options on the course, as both the Exacta bar and the Victor Lucas bars were closed. But we are pleased to report from what we did see and have, that the food was good, and the prices were more than reasonable. However, that said, not having a burger and/or a fish & chip van, or any other outside catering outlet on site does seem somewhat remiss. Rating: 5/10.
Guinness Standard: The good news is that draft Guinness is available on course at both the Tiger Roll and Red Rum bars. We made ourselves comfy on a sofa in the smart Tiger Roll bar and ordered three pints of the black stuff. It seemed to take an eternity to poor them; however, we fully understand that you do have to be patient when it comes to pouring Dublin’s finest produce. And then we tasted it. It was warm. Very warm. Another racegoer at the bar obviously had the same problem and said, “It’s as warm as a cup of tea”. Which it was. Not good. After some discussion with the bar staff, they decided to hunt down the bar manager. He eventually arrived and informed us that the chiller was not hooked up and that it would take around 30 minutes to chill the Guinness down. We had all had a long drive, so we opted for a pint of lager instead.
To be fair, the bar manager did very kindly offer to go across to the Red Rum bar and bring us back three pints of Guinness himself, which was great. As we knew we would be going there ourselves later in the day, we declined his more than generous offer.
Eventually, we did get to the Red Rum bar and ordered a pint of Guinness. It came in those super-flimsy plastic pint pots, where you need at least two of them inside each other before you can pick it up. However, it was nicely chilled and more than a decent pint. Due to the issues we experienced at the Tiger Roll bar, we have deducted a couple of points from our rating. Rating: 6/10.
Viewing: The viewing at Market Rasen Racecourse is very good indeed. One of the best we have had the pleasure of experiencing while on our travels. As the course was operating a “one-enclosure” policy on the day of our visit, we situated ourselves in the County Stand, which is a large, well-covered stand of around 20 concrete steps with a number of crash / leaning bars should they be required. The only downside is that there is no seating, with the exception of a couple of benches at the very rear of the stand. From here, you can see the horses racing for virtually 100% of the time, which doesn’t happen very often on the racecourses of Great Britain. There is a large mobile TV screen situated on the far side of the course, approximately 100 yards or so from the winning post.
The Viewing Experience – Market Rasen Racecourse.
The “one-enclosure” policy meant that you were free to wander virtually anywhere on the course. At busier fixtures, the tattersalls enclosure would also be in operation, and if you chose to purchase a ticket for this stand, you would not have access to the rails next to the winning post or the chute where the horses enter and exit the track (a little like Sandown Park), which we feel is a tad unfair. However, for us, the overall viewing experience at this racecourse is top-notch. Rating: 10/10.
Parade Ring / Winners Enclosure: At Market Rasen, the parade ring and winners enclosure are completely separate from each other. The parade ring is located directly in front of the County Stand, next to the running rail of the racecourse itself. It is almost rectangular in overall shape, and the good news is that it is large.
Access is only available on three sides due to its position next to the running rail. However, due to its overall size, this is not a problem. It is well tended, with a hedge and rail around the perimeter. There is a stepped viewing area at each end of the ring, but there are no seats apart from a few pub-style wooden benches on the grassy area leading down from the stand.
The Parade Ring – Market Rasen Racecourse
Both the winners enclosure and pre-parade ring are located at the back of the stands, away from the racecourse. The winners enclosure is immediately adjacent to the jockeys weighing room. It is neat and tidy with a rail and hedge around its perimeter. Not exactly pretty or decorative, but more functional than anything else.
The Winners Enclosure & Pre-Parade Ring – Market Rasen Racecourse
The pre-parade ring is located to the right of the winners enclosure. The good news being that it is large in size and access is allowed around most of it.
What we liked and thought were a nice touch, was the pictures and descriptions / explanations of each of the winner’s enclosure, weighing room and pre parade-ring. For the uninitiated and non-regular racegoers, this is really useful and interesting information. Rating: 6/10
Signage around the winners enclosure, weighing room and pre-parade ring – Market Rasen Racecourse
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: The main pitch for the independent bookmakers is directly in front of the stands, on a gradual sloping apron / concourse towards the track. On the day of our visit, there were around 12 bookies in total in operation.
The Bookmakers Pitches – Market Rasen Racecourse
Eight were on the rail, and another four situated at the entrance of the County Stand. There was also a large and very busy William Hill facility at the back of the stands. This coupled up with a more than healthy number of Tote concessions in various locations around the course, placing a bet and picking up can be done with ease. Rating: 10/10.
Friendliness of Course Staff: Plenty of stewards and staff on duty during the day of our visit. All very friendly, chatty, informative, and helpful. Rating: 10/10.
Pros & Cons: Overall, we liked the course and enjoyed our visit to Market Rasen. As we have stated, on the day of our visit, the course was operating a one-enclosure policy, which was excellent. However, racegoers need to be aware that on busier days, a premium will be charged to enter the County Enclosure and the additional facilities that this brings.
The pros: Road access and signage to the course are good. It has a railway station less than a mile away, which is always a big plus. The pricing of the tickets on the day was excellent, and in our opinion, VFM (value for money). Parking is a cinch; hop out of your car and take the short walk to the main entrance. The overall viewing of the horses in racing is superb and one of the best we have come across during our travels to racecourses across the length and breadth of the country. We liked the Tiger Roll bar, and the food being served up in the Red Rum bar was good at decent prices, and we know for a fact that this isn’t always the case. The staff are great, friendly, helpful, and there are plenty of them.
The cons: After some discussion, we agreed that the racecourse generally had a “down at heel” feel about it, which is a shame, as it really does have a lot going for it. We did mention previously that on the day of our visit, the course was operating a “one-enclosure” policy due to improvements being made on the course, This is obviously good news, and we look forward to seeing them. However, we feel that this doesn’t excuse things like the lack of outside catering facilities and the disabled toilets being out of order on the day and therefore closed. Further to this, the area at the back of the course, next to the stabling area and where the horses come up and down the chute to enter and exit the track, is badly run down and urgently needs some attention and investment to spruce it up. We feel it wouldn’t take much, and the overall raceday experience at the course would be considerably improved.
Enough said already about the race card (above). Keep your £3.00 in your pocket or spend it at the sweet shop.
As ever, the big question is: would we return? The answer is, yes but probably to one of the summer jumps meetings. When we think, this course would excel due to its large grassy areas, outside seating, and overall viewing experience. It also has a children’s outside play area at the back of the Exacta Bar, which would be great when the sun is shining. It really does have the possibility of being an excellent family day out. Rating: 6/10
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, on the day, we did experience some issues. A couple of us had issues when trying to log on to the Jockey Club WI-FI App, and when we switched the Wi-Fi off to use data, it did on occasion drop down to 3G coverage.
Overall Racecourse Advisor Rating: 7.9/10
The full day's racing results can be found here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/2023-11-16/market-rasen/101139
Facilities & location layout of Market Rasen Racecourse: (Image: acknowledged & credited to The Jockey Club)
Aerial View Market Rasen: (image acknowledged & credited to Google Earth)
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