Newcastle Racecourse is located at Gosforth Park and stages major races on the flat and over jumps. The course is clearly sign posted from the A1 and A19 and on main approach roads to Newcastle. Newcastle Central Station is only fifteen minutes from the track and there are free buses from Regent Centre and Four Lane Ends Metro on race days.
The flat turf track was replaced by an all-weather surface during an £11million redevelopment in 2016. Newcastle is left handed and they race on tapeta, the same surface that is used at Chelmsford and Wolverhampton. There is a straight mile and the course is floodlit for evening meetings. It is too early to distinguish any significant draw bias but a high draw in the Northumberland Plate is certainly a disadvantage.
The National Hunt course is a flat, galloping track but a steady uphill finish can test a horse’s stamina, particularly in soft ground. The fences are regarded as fair and it is a good place for a novice to start their chasing career.
Newcastle Racing History
Horse racing can be traced back to the early 17th century in the North East. The Northumberland Plate was originally held at Town Moor in 1833 and moved to its current site of Gosforth Park in 1882. The new venue featured a flat and steeplechase course, a new Grandstand and stabling for one hundred horses.
In the early days, the Plate was run on a Wednesday and was marked by a traditional holiday for local mine workers. It became known as “The Pitmens’ Derby” but the holiday was ended in 1949 with the race being moved to a Saturday three years’ later. Traditionalists bemoaned the move to an artificial surface in 2016 but the early signs are that the race is as popular as ever.
At the end of 2013, owners Arena Racing announced plans to replace the flat turf track with an all-weather surface. The first meeting following the development took place on 17th May 2016. The Northumberland Plate meeting is estimated to be worth over £30million to the local economy.
The Northumberland Plate
The highlight of the flat racing season at Newcastle is the Northumberland Plate meeting in June which always attracts a large crowd. This is a three-day meeting which also features the Gosforth Park Cup and the Chipchase Stakes. The Listed Burradon Stakes in March was introduced in 2017 and provides the opportunity for horses to gain points for a place in the Kentucky Derby.
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a recognised trial for the Champion Hurdle and is the only Grade 1 race staged at Newcastle. That takes place in November while the Eider Chase in February is one of the top staying steeplechases of the year. There are over sixty meetings at Newcastle each season, the majority being on the all-weather.
The Northumberland Plate is one of the most valuable two-mile handicaps in the world with around £150,000 of prize money on offer. The race has a long history with Tomboy winning the first officially recorded running in 1833. Underhand is the only horse to win three “Pitmen’s Derbys” between 1857 and 1859.
The Group 3 six furlong Chipchase Stakes in the only Group race staged at Newcastle. The race was established in 1994 and is one of only four Group races run on the all-weather in the UK.
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle was established in 1969 with the title being the nickname of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. It has always taken high rank among the best two mile hurdle races and was finally elevated to Group 1 status in 2004.
The Eider Chase is one of the most gruelling events in the National Hunt calendar. It is a handicap over an extended four miles with 25 fences. The race often takes place in soft or heavy ground and the emphasis is on stamina. The race was created in 1952 and is one of the leading trials for the Aintree Grand National.
Famous Races and Racehorses at Newcastle
There have been some high class winners of the Northumberland Plate. Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s dual purpose horse Attivo won in 1974. Sir Michael Stoute trained Dawn Johnny to win the Plate in 1981 and Karadar for His Highness The Aga Khan in 1984. Quick Ransom (1994), Sergeant Cecil (2005) and Overturn (2010) were all extremely popular horses with the betting public. Paul Cole is the leading trainer in the history of the race with three winners, all coming within the space of five years. Windsor Castle took the prize in 1997, Cyrian in 1998 and Archduke Ferdinand in 2001.
Tedburrow won the Chipchase Stakes twice in 2000 and 2002. Other notable winners include Branston Abby (1995), Fayr Jag (2006), Genki (2011) and Jack Dexter (2013). The second running of the Burradon Stakes in 2018 was won by Gronkowski who was immediately declared an intended runner in the Kentucky Derby. He met with an injury before that race but would later finish runner-up to Triple Crown winner Justify in the Belmont Stakes.
Comedy Of Errors won the Fighting Fifth Hurdle for three consecutive seasons between 1972 and 1974. Bob Turnell’s Birds Nest (1976, 1977 and 1979) also won the race three times. The roll of honour for the Fighting Fifth is littered with Champion Hurdle winners including Night Nurse (1975), Sea Pigeon (1978, 1980), Gaye Brief (1983), Kribensis (1989) and Buveur D’Air (2017).
Highland Wedding won the Eider Chase three times between 1966 and 1969. The 1968 race was abandoned due to snow and frost. The horse won the Aintree Grand National at the third attempt in 1969. Comply or Die won the race in 2008 for David Pipe before going on to win at Liverpool in the same season. Other notable winners of the marathon chase include Lucky Vane (1984), Into The Red (1993), Willsford (1995) and Merigo (2009).
Top Jockeys and Trainers at Newcastle
Richard Fahey leads the trainer statistics numerically and in terms of prize money at Newcastle. Mark Johnston and Jim Goldie also have plenty of winners in the north east. John Gosden does not send many runners north but it is worth taking note when he does. The Newmarket trainer has a strike rate of 35% over the past three seasons.
Jockeys Joe Fanning and PJ McDonald have enjoyed plenty of success at Newcastle and Josephine Gordon has a good strike rate. Sue Smith does extremely well with her chasers at Newcastle and Rebecca Menzies has a fine record with her limited number of runners. Scottish trainer Nick Alexander has rewarded his followers with a level stakes profit over hurdles and fences.