Chester Racecourse

The Racecourse, Chester, CH1 2LY - Map & Directions
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Chester Racecourse, also known as Roodee
The Roodee (David Dixon /

Otherwise known as the Roodee, Chester Racecourse is officially the oldest racecourse still in use in England with the first recorded race taking place there in 1539. Lying on the banks of the River Dee, the east side of the course is topped by Chester’s ancient city walls, which offers a free viewing opportunity for passers by, as the entire course is visible. A predominantly flat course, Chester has a strong affiliation with Bangor-on-Dee racecourse due to the two courses having the same Clerk.

The first grandstand at Chester was finished in 1817, before being rebuilt in 1900. After arson attacks in 1985, the entire stand was replaced with an improved one, which is still in use today. Chester is extremely accessible to the public, as it is just a short walk from the city centre. Chester is available via the M53, M56, M6 or A483 which all have direct links to Chester, with directions to the course well signposted on race days. If travelling by train, Chester station is just a 20-minute walk from the course through the city. Mersey Rail offers a circular bus service every six minutes on race days, which goes from the station to the course.

Ticket Prices

Tickets are reasonably priced for all race days, with entry to the course starting from just £10, whilst the Dee stand is a slight increase at £13. The Tattersalls Stand and concourse are priced a little higher, starting at £30 and £38 respectively, depending on the event. On all race days those who are aged 15-years-old and under are allowed entry free of charge.

The Course

Chester Flat Racecourse Map

Among those that follow racing, Chester is well known for being the smallest racecourse of any significance in England, measuring at just 1m1f in a circle and covering a mere 65 acres of space, right on the edge of the city centre.

As small as it is sharp, the left-handed grade 2 course ensures horses are almost constantly on the turn. With a short-run in of just 239 yards to boot, this unique test is absolutely not one suited towards the long striding types, with smaller and more agile runners generally to be favoured. This is a course where previous wins really count and course specialists are not too uncommon.

Draw Bias Unrivalled

Another small course in the north of England, Beverley, is the only course in the UK that can come close to matching Chester in terms of draw bias but even that falls short. You won’t find another major racecourse in the UK offering such bias, even in middle distance races.

The sheer sharpness of the turns at the Roodee means those on the inside enjoy a huge advantage, particularly in larger fields. When looking at races during September 2009 and July 2019 between 5f and 8f with at least 12 runners, those drawn low won three time most often than those drawn high. That’s not a stat punters can ignore, even if it is one that will usually be factored into the odds.

When reducing the field size, the bias isn’t quite extreme but there’s still a significant benefit from a starting spot by the rail. The correlation between how far out a horse starts and their win rate is incredibly strong. In virtually all circumstances, the higher the draw, the worse horses fare. If you fancy the look of a horse who’s unlucky enough to be drawn outside in a well-attended contest, be aware that they’ll need to run an extra special race if they are to prevail. Of course, if they manage to do that, chances are you’ll be well rewarded, with odds higher than they would have been had the horse had a better draw.

As fascinating as the bias is by itself, it’s equally as interesting – or even more so for punters – that the bookies don’t appear to appreciate its full magnitude. They are, of course, aware there is a bias, but perhaps the market somewhat tempers it. Using data from a 10 year period starting in 2009, races one mile or shorter featuring eight or more runners have low drawn runners posting a level stakes loss of £64 compared to £291 for mid-drawn and £537 for high drawn runners. To put it simply, backing lower drawn runners blindly would still leave you better off than opting for badly drawn horses.

Early Pace So Vital

Opportunities to overtake are so limited at Chester that taking up an early position at the forefront is something jockeys will almost always seek out during sprints. It’s incredibly difficult to win from the back and even those that settle midway are much less likely to prosper as they lack sufficient time to make up ground during the short run-in.

The success of front runners holds true for seven furlong and one mile races, albeit to a lesser extent, so even in the longer races so it pays for jockeys to be brave. With a strike rate of 30% (as of August 2019), few seem to know that better than Ryan Moore, although, of course, Moore is brilliant at most places to be fair!

Major Meetings at Chester

The May Festival
The May Festival (Jeff Buck /

The major meeting at Chester each year is the event that kicks off their season – the May Festival. The main race there without a doubt is the Cheshire Oaks, which often serves as a trial for the Epsom Oaks. The Oaks was established in 1950 and is a flat race run over 1m3f.

The other main race is the Chester Cup, which started in 1825 and is slightly longer, measuring 2m2f. As well as the May Festival, there are a number of sponsored and charity events throughout the year and with Chester being a popular racecourse a lot of their main race days are aired on Channel 4 Racing.

Dining and Hospitality

Chester Racecourse & Grandstand
Chester Racecourse & Grandstand

Hospitality at Chester offers a wide range of private boxes for those that prefer a little bit more privacy and luxury added to their race day experience. The hospitality boxes are priced in three tiers – Prestige, Vintage and Premier – priced at £246, £199 and £179 per person, respectively.

There are also chalets and paddock rooms on offer for groups of guests, all available at similar prices to the private boxes. Not only this, but on non-race days the hospitality team at Chester are more than happy to allow businesses to host private functions and conferences, as well as those wishing to make use of the facilities for parties, weddings and exhibitions.


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