Date of Review: 16th June 2023
RCA Reviewers: Mr Shrewdy & The Doctor.
Address: Portsmouth Road, Esher, Surrey KT10 9AJ
Phone: 01372 464 348
Hotel Accommodation: https://www.concerthotels.com/venue-hotels/sandown-park-racecourse-hotels/278894
Track Layout: (Image: courtesy of & acknowledged to At The Races)
Course Information: Sandown Park is only 15 miles from the centre of London and is therefore, very much considered as London’s local racecourse. It is oval-shaped and has a distance of one mile and five furlongs. Both the flat and jumps courses are right-handed. The run-in for home is around four furlongs and it is uphill, all the way to the winning post. Sprint races are run on a straight track that runs directly down the centre of the course, and again, it is uphill all the way. The jumps course has 11 fences on each circuit, with a water jump halfway around the course. The three Railway Fences, down the back straight, which are taken quickly together, ensure there is a fair share of thrills and spills. There are few easy wins at Sandown in races over fences, as the home run in of 220 yards is all uphill and there are still two fences that need to be negotiated before the winning post is reached.
The course suits long-striding, galloping types of horses, who can handle the steep incline on the home straight. Therefore, horses with stamina often fair well. The statistics show a notable draw bias on the straight five-furlong course, with lower drawn horses being far more likely to succeed. In races on softer ground, with a high number of runners, the opposite is true.
On the flat course, the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse Stakes, which is run over 1 mile and two-furlongs, takes place in July, while the jumps course plays host to both the Bet365 Gold Cup steeplechase (Grade 3), run over 3 miles five-furlongs in April, and the Tingle Creek Chase (Grade 1), which is run over two miles in December each year.
Sandown was first opened in April 1875 and held a three-day meeting that included the Grand National Hunt Chase, which is now run at the Cheltenham Festival. It was the first ever closed course where all racegoers had to pay for entry. The admission charge on the day was half a crown. The first Eclipse Stakes race (now the Coral-Eclipse Stakes) was held in 1876, with prize money of £10,000. The Epsom Derby prize money at that time was £4,600, which highlights the importance of the race.
The course was closed during the First World War and was used for agricultural purposes. It was closed again during the Second World War, when it was used as a training ground for the Welsh Guards. The famous Brigadier Gerard won the Eclipse Stakes in 1972. The course was then closed for major refurbishment. It reopened in 1973 and introduced the Whitbread Gold Cup (now the Bet365 Gold Cup) and the Tingle Creek Chase. It is rumoured that Sandown Park was the favourite racecourse of both the Queen Mother and Lord (John) Oaksey.
As we do like a little bit of trivia here at Racecourse Advisor, remember this one, when you next go to a pub quiz: Sandown made history in 1947 as the first ever racecourse to have a race shown live on television.
The Racecourse Advisor Guide to Sandown Racecourse:
The good news is that the racecourse is very well signed if approaching from the main arterial routes of the M25 or the A3. However, the route we took on the A317 from Chertsey, via the A423 to Weybridge and Hersham, was very poorly signed, so be aware. If approaching from London, take the A3, then turn left onto the A307, then take a right turn following the signs to the track. From the M25, leave at junction 10 and take a left turn, following the signs to the racecourse. If using a sat-nav, do not use the postcode of the address but enter “Portsmouth Road”. The main car parking area is off the A307, immediately off Esher High Street.
By Rail: It is only a 10-minute walk to the racecourse from Esher railway station. There is a free shuttle bus before and after the racing directly from the station. Alternatively, you can take the 458 or the 715 bus to the course. Direct trains run to Esher from London Waterloo and also from Woking / Guilford.
By Air: Heathrow airport is approximately 12 miles away from Sandown Racecourse and Gatwick is around 25 miles away, so they are relatively close. The racecourse has a helipad. Call 01372 464348 in advance to make arrangements. Rating: 8/10
Parking: Free car parking is available in the centre of the racecourse, which can be reached from the More Lane entrance. Paid parking is also available in the main car park just off Portsmouth Road, which is directly in front of the main entrance. Parking for Blue Badge holders is allocated in the main Portsmouth Road car park. No issues with car parking at this course. Good, easy access and exits all round.
However, be aware that if you do park in the middle of the course, the entrance, and hence exit, involve going across the course and the grounds staff taking down a section of the running rail. Only an issue if you did decide to leave before the last race. Rating: 9/10.
Pricing: On the day of our visit, pricing into the Grandstand was £22.00 and £33.00 in the Premier Enclosure, which, after some discussion, we eventually plumped for as it gave us access to all areas of the course. For some unknown reason, no concessions were available on the day, and nobody was really sure why. Most unusual.
You can then choose from a vast array of upgrades / hospitality options, such as the 1875 Lounge, which has private, betting, catering, and bar facilities. A guaranteed Grandstand seat and a complimentary drink on arrival for £60.00.
For £179.00 per person, you can upgrade to the upscale Equus Premier Restaurant experience, which gives you a three course a la carte meal, tea and coffee on arrival, a free race card, a car parking pass, and views overlooking the winning post. For an extra £20, you get the VIP Premier Restaurant Experience, which gets you the additions of a champagne reception on arrival and an afternoon tea (or cheeseboard at evening fixtures). If you really want to push the boat out, then the Gallery VIP Experience is for you. This includes Prosecco or beer on arrival, full buffet dining, inclusive bar (house Prosecco, house wine, beer, and soft drinks), a race card, car parking pass, and reserved seating in the main Grandstand. All of this for just £209.00 per person. Why wouldn’t you?
Overall, there are a good number of pricing options to suit all pockets and all tastes, and plenty of hospitality options if that’s your bag. We have however, deducted a point from the rating score due to no concessions being available on the day. Rating: 7/10.
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.
There is no shortage of food options at Sandown Racecourse. The main food hall is called the “Food Market” and is located in the Surrey Hall of the main grandstand. It was serving up a number of standard selections and, to be fair, a few new ones, which is always nice to see. Examples include fish & chips at £12.00 per portion. Sausage & mash, fish cakes, and chicken curry, each at £11.00 per serving. Vegan options of plant based sausages and aubergine curry were also £11.00. More unusual delicacies, such as a pork & herb sausage trio, were also offer for £11.00. Cans of soft drinks such as Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta, or Lemonade were £3.00 each. Bottles of sparkling and still water for £2.30.
Some of the food & drink options - Sandown Park
Hot drinks, such as a regular-size tea, cost £2.60 a cup. Specialty tea, coffee, cappuccino, latte, flat white, etc. cost £3.60 per cup, and a hot chocolate costs £3.80 per cup. The downside to the "Food Market" is that once again, the racecourse management has made the decision to go down the McDonald’s route of self-ordering via a touch screen and self-pick up from the serving counters, which we believe is a retrograde step. It may reduce the number of serving staff required, and therefore the overheads (and it doesn’t improve the customer service, regardless of what they tell you), but it also reduces the overall "Customer Experience" and gives the whole place the feel of a motorway service area, which is unfortunate.
In the numerous bar areas, draught Guinness was £7.30 a pint, as was, Atlantic pale ale, Staropramen larger, and Aspall’s cider. Both house red and white wines were £8.00 for a 175ml glass (£5.50 for a 125ml glass). House Rose is £8.30 (6.00 for a 125ml glass). If fizz takes your fancy, then a bottle of Prosecco is £46.50. House champagne will set you back £80.00 a bottle, and if you are backing a few winners, you can splurge on a bottle of Moet Brut champagne for a mere £110 a bottle. So, not cheap, but to be fair, this is a London based track, so London prices are to be expected. Rating: 7/10.
Guinness Standard: Draught Guinness is available for £7.30 a pint, so it is at the upper end of the racecourse Guinness pricing scale. It was served in those flimsy plastic pint pots where you need at least two of them together to make drinking it possible. It was however, a very nice pint of the black stuff, and it wasn’t served in those absolutely dreadful biodegradable paper pint points like we had at Newbury, thank goodness. Rating: 7/10.
Viewing: The viewing from the Grandstand at Sandown is excellent. You can see the horses virtually all the way around the circuit, with the exception of the 5-furlong sprint races. For some reason, these races are run on a separate track, that runs directly through the centre of the main circuit / course and has a different finishing post that is virtually in the car park (see the diagram of the track layout above). Apart from it being a dead straight track, we genuinely, cannot understand why this is done. 5-furlong sprint races could easily be run on the main course, where the viewing is much better as the home straight is much closer to the stands.
The Viewing Experience: The main Grandstand (top left). The Eclipse Pavilion (top right). The view from the Grandstand (bottom).
On the main course, there is a large TV screen situated just before the winning post. The Grandstand is of more than a decent size, and there is plenty of tiered standing space, with rows of seats at the back of the stand. There is also plenty of standing room on the sloped concourse, directly in front of the Grandstand. The aspect from the stands onto the course and beyond to the London skyline is also impressive. Rating: 8/10.
Parade Ring / Winners Enclosure: The viewing of the horses from the pre-parade ring to the parade ring, then onto the track itself, is in our opinion, absolutely superb. They are all situated directly behind the Grandstand. The parade ring is oval in shape and is set in a natural amphitheater. It has plenty of tiered and seated viewing from the front and raised viewing from the back, also with seats. Access to the full circumference of the parade ring is only available if you are situated in the Premier Enclosure.
The Parade Ring - Sandown Park
However, this is more than compensated for by the fact that when the horses are leaving the parade ring before the race and returning after it, they are sent down a chute that runs right down and past the Eclipse Pavilion. So once again, they can be seen and viewed at close quarters for a considerable amount of time. The winners’ enclosure is situated outside of the parade ring, to the left, adjacent to the pre-parade ring, and directly in front of the owners & trainers bar. Once again, access and viewing are first class. The whole setup in this area is one of the best we have seen on our travels, without a doubt. Rating: 10/10.
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: No shortage of bookmakers in front of the stands on the main course heading down to the racecourse. On the day of our visit, there were around 25 pitches in action.
The main bookmakers pitch - Sandown Park
This, coupled up with the on-course William Hill concessions, and the numerous Tote counters, makes it very straight forward to get a bet on and pick up. Rating: 10/10.
Friendliness of Course Staff: Lots of very helpful, polite, and cheery course staff both outside and inside the racecourse, all of whom were very friendly. A special mention goes to Olivia in Customer Services, who was brilliant, and even managed to get us a couple of free race cards on the day. Also a mention to Ron, on the meet and greet side, who was super helpful and again full of useful information, as he was at Kempton Park a couple of days previous. Top marks for the racecourse in this area. Rating: 10/10.
Pros & Cons: Sandown Racecourse is a top notch, Premier League horse racing venue. It is very well laid out, picturesque and the London skyline can be seen on the horizon. With the exception of the 5-furlong races, the overall viewing experience is very good. The set-up of the pre-parade ring, parade ring, and winners enclosure is up there with the best of them. As for catering facilities, there are plenty of choices, and we doubt you would go hungry when visiting this racecourse. Very friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable course staff, who do go out of their way to be helpful.
As stated previously, unless you are approaching the course from the M25, you will need to navigate through a number of towns and country lanes, with next to no signage or directions. The straight 5-furlong track that runs through the centre of the course is a strange setup, and the viewing at the start and finish of these races is not exactly ideal. While there are plenty of catering options, the main “Food Market” area had a ‘motorway services’ feel about it. That said, we had an excellent day out at Sandown Racecourse, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would not hesitate to return. 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: 8.5/10
The full day's racing results can be found here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/fast-cards/97973/2023-06-16/unknown
Facilities & location layout of Sandown Racecourse: (image: courtesy of & acknowledged to The Jockey Club)
Aerial View of Sandown Park Racecourse: (Image acknowledged & credited to Google Earth)
Disclaimer: The reviews contained in the content of this website are just the opinions of the authors. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the authors, and not necessarily to any other group or individual. Any content or opinion provided in our reviews are not intended to malign any party, group, club, organisation, company, individual or anyone or anything whatsoever on any matter.