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Wolverhampton is an all-weather track at Dunstall Park and was the first racecourse to be floodlit for evening meetings in Britain. It is easily accessible from the A449 dual carriageway and is clearly sign-posted. There are frequent trains to Wolverhampton Train Station from London, Birmingham and Manchester. The station is two miles from the track and there are regular buses on race days.
The racecourse is left handed and one mile in circumference and has a Tapeta all-weather surface. Wolverhampton currently stages around 90 fixtures per year, making it one of the busiest in the country. Although it is quite a sharp track with a short home straight, there is only a marginal draw bias in favour of low numbers.
Wolverhampton Horse Racing History
Racing at Wolverhampton began in 1825 at West Park. The land was sold to the Corporation in 1878 and it was a further nine years before racing restarted at Dunstall Park. Both Flat and National Hunt Racing used to take place at Wolverhampton.
The course was given a complete overhaul in 1993, opting for an all-weather fibresand track to run alongside the turf track. A new Grandstand was built along with a hotel, restaurant and executive boxes. Floodlights were also installed at a cost of almost £16 million to accommodate evening racing at the venue.
Arena Leisure bought the course in 1999 and the turf and fibresand tracks were replaced with a single polytrack in 2004. The course was closed in 2014 while a new Tapeta track was laid down. This was the first Tapeta surface to be used for racing in Europe. It was pioneered by former leading National Hunt trainer Michael Dickinson in the United States. Planning permission has been granted for a further £26million expansion of the track facilities including a Casino. Wolverhampton now attracts around 120,000 visitors per year.
The biggest meeting of the year at Wolverhampton features the Lady Wulfruna Stakes in March. The Lincoln Trial takes place on the same card, part of the build-up to the first major handicap of the flat turf season. Wolverhampton stages numerous evening meetings under lights and regularly attracts an excellent Saturday night crowd. It is one of six all-weather tracks in Britain along with Lingfield, Kempton Park, Chelmsford City, Newcastle and Southwell.
Famous Races and Racehorses at Wolverhampton
Her Majesty The Queen had her first winner here in 1964 when Geoff Lewis won the Bushbury Maiden Stakes on Menai. In 1966 Saucy Kit won the National Hunt Hurdle Cup, a race celebrating 100 years of the National Hunt Committee. Saucy Kit would go on to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham the following year for Peter Easterby and Roy Edwards.
Sir Gordon Richards visited Wolverhampton for the first time in June 1922, finishing runner-up in the Apprentice race aboard Knight of the Orient. Tragedy struck at the course in 1924 when Captain Tuppy Bennett fell from Arden in the Oteley Handicap Chase and died from his injuries.
The most valuable race at Wolverhampton is the Lady Wulfruna Stakes, a Listed contest for four-year-olds and upwards over seven furlongs. The race was first run in 2002 and was promoted to Listed status five years’ later. It is a Fast-Track Qualifier for the All-Weather Championships at Lingfield Park. That means that the winner will qualify for a guaranteed free entry for the prestigious £1million Finals Day.
The inaugural running was won by Air Mail for Norma Macauley and George Baker. Border Music won the race in successive seasons in 2006 and 2007, trained by Andrew Balding. His achievement was emulated by Clive Cox’s Dunelight in 2010 and 2011. He became the oldest horse to win the Lady Wulfruna Stakes at the age of eight. Luke Morris kept him close to the pace from his wide draw and he was driven out to beat Docofthebay and Malcheek.
Other notable winners include Chookie Royale (2014) and Sovereign Debt (2015). Chookie Royale attempted a second victory the following season and was clear at half-way under Tom Eaves. Joe Fanning produced the popular grey Sovereign Debt to cut him down near the finish and win by a length and a quarter. The winner went on to claim the Group 2 Bet365 Mile at Sandown in 2017.
Second Thought claimed the prize in 2018 for William Haggas and Ryan Moore. He started odds-on favourite, having won a Listed race at Kempton Park the previous season. Big Country won the Lincoln Trial Handicap on the same afternoon for Michael Appleby and Luke Morris.
One of the most popular horses at Wolverhampton was Stand Guard who won eleven races here. He won 28 of his 84 races on artificial surfaces before being retired at the age of fourteen. He was involved in a thrilling duel with Southwell specialist La Estrella to become the winning-most horse on the all-weather. La Estrella was eventually retired after 27 victories with Stand Guard passing his total at Kempton in January 2017. Trainer John Butler called time on Stand Guard’s career a year later and he was retired to Butler’s Brickfields Stud near Newmarket.
Another piece of history was created at Wolverhampton in 1919 when a horse called Wild Aster won at the age of 18. He is one of only five horses to have won at that great age under rules.
Top Jockeys and Trainers at Wolverhampton
John Gosden and William Haggas regularly send runners up to Wolverhampton and both maintain an excellent strike rate of more than 30%. David Evans and Michael Appleby are the top trainers numerically at Wolverhampton and Tom Dascombe is also frequently among the winners. Archie Watson is rapidly emerging as a trainer to follow at the Midlands track.
Luke Morris has ridden over 100 winners at Wolverhampton over the past three seasons. That comes from a staggering 760 rides but shows a big level stakes loss. Adam Kirby has recorded a strike rate of around 20% and Oisin Murphy 25%. Josephine Gordon has also enjoyed plenty of success at the track and value seekers should also take note of booked rides for Edward Greatrex.