Beverley residents are rightly proud of the historic horse racing venue in the town. You may wonder whether this is one of the oldest racetracks in the world to still hold races.
A look at some other venues around will help us to get a better feel for its position in the racing world.
The Age of the Track
The official site for Beverly Racecourse states that it first opened its doors in 1690, meaning that it is now 330 years old. On the site, we can also see that the first grandstand here was built in 1767, which was some 15 years after the Jockey Club was founded.
The first annual meeting occurred in 1767, the same year that £1,000 was spent on the new grandstand. There was also a break in activities around the end of the 18th century. More recently, it cost £90,000 to construct a new stand in 1968.
Obviously, the venue has changed completely since its early days. However, if we take 1690 as the official start of racing in Beverley, we can compare it to other places.
Compared to Other British Venues
In the UK, the oldest horse race still being run today is the legendary Kiplingcoates Derby that takes places under 20 miles away from here. It was first run in 1519, so it is clear that organised horse racing took place in the UK 171 years before races were run at Beverley Racecourse.
There are 60 racecourses dotted across the UK, and the one with the longest history is in Chester. The Roodee is small but it has a rich history, including the story of how a cross there marks where a statue of the Virgin Mary was buried after it fell on the wife of the Governor of Hawarden and killed her.
There has apparently been racing at Chester racecourse since 1539. This figure is difficult to confirm, but it seems clear that it does indeed have a longer history than Beverley. The Carlisle Bell trophy that horses compete for here in June each year is said to be the world’s oldest sporting trophy.
Around the rest of the UK, we can see that there are a few other contenders for being older than Beverley Racecourse. For instance, there is evidence that horse racing was carried out at Doncaster Racecourse by the end of the 16th century.
A few years later, Newmarket started its rise towards becoming the home of English racing, although it was 1636 before the current racecourse was founded. It also holds the distinction of being the only British track where a reigning monarch has won a trophy.
Incredible as it may seem, a 330-year old history still leaves Beverley Racecourse well behind some other iconic horse racing venues in the UK. Yet, it is still older than Ascot (1711) and Cheltenham (1815). What happens when we look further afield?
The Oldest Racetracks Around the World
Is there a foreign racecourse with a longer history? In North America, the first venue for horse racing was said to be at Newmarket in Salisbury, New York. It was founded in 1665, which was 25 years before the track in Beverley. However, it is now long gone. Racing in the US only become hugely popular after the Civil War.
Pleasanton Fairgrounds Racetrack dates back to 1858 and is possibly the oldest surviving racecourse in the country. These days, many racing fans in the US look for the latest odds on the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.
Across the rest of the world, it is perhaps more difficult to get exact dates for the oldest horse racing venues. In Ireland, the Curragh’s history can be traced back to 1727 but it is believed that it was used for horse racing before then.
Laloubere is the record-holder in France. Racing started here in 1809, with Marie-Therese de France, the daughter of King Louis XVI, among the spectators. Around the same time, horse racing venues sprung up in places likes Australia and India.
Beverley Racecourse can be counted among a select group of British tracks with more than 3 centuries of history. It is also extremely likely that there are no horse racing venues outside the UK that have been running for longer.