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Earliest meeting: August 1730
Final meeting: Wednesday 1st October 1873
The earliest record of racing in Bedford was when John Cheny made reference to a meeting in 1730 organised by the 3rd Duke of Bedford and his friend Sir Humphrey Monoux. The meeting was on the outskirts of Bedford in Cow Meadow, close to the Bedford to Ampthill road, on an oval track of a mile circumference. By 1731 the executive was able to secure very fair entries for the three races they advertised, although the 30 Guineas Purse was restricted to horses which had never won a 30 Guineas race before. The other two races were a 20 Guineas Purse, and a 50 Guineas Purse, each with the precondition that horses which had won 20 Guineas or 50 Guineas races in the past were exempt. Although racing had ceased by 1740, meetings resumed on Monday 13th August 1753 with a three day meeting. Later records show that a three day meeting took place from Tuesday 3rd to Thursday 5th August 1762 when the 4 mile Purse saw the orange colours of Lord Grosvenor’s Honest Billy defeat Charlotte, while the Give and Take went to Mr Douglas’s Dart. The first purpose built course, situated just outside of Bedford on Pear Tree Farm in the village of Elstow, was a flat, circular course of a mile and a half with a 2 furlong run in. At a two day meeting on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th September 1810 the card opened with the Woburn Stakes which was won by Lord Suffield’s colt by Ambrosian, while the following Duke of Bedford ‘s Plate went to Janette, owned by Mr Fulwar Craven, forcing Lord Suffield’s Aquilina into second place. The meeting concluded with the Bedford Town Plate which saw Mr Howorth’s Jeremy beat Gift and the interestingly named Jeremy-linkum-feedle. The final flat meeting took place on Wednesday 1st October 1873, although Bedfordshire Hunt organised steeplechase meetings beginning in 1810 which continued until Wedmesday 27th March 1901.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.

The ‘County History of Bedfordshire’ records that the earliest meeting in 1730 was mentioned by Cheney and consisted of two races, a £20 Plate and a £50 Plate. By 1731 the executive was able to secure very fair entries for the 3 races they advertised, although the 30 Guineas Purse was restricted to horses which had never won a 30 Guineas race before. The other two races were a 20 Guineas Purse, and a 50 Guineas Purse, each with the precondition that horses which had won 20 Guineas or 50 Guineas races in the past were not allowed entry.

Local Patrons

Duke of Bedford, Lord Grosvenor, Lord March, Lord Portmore, Sir C Eversfield, Lord Tavistock, Lord Derby, Earl of Offory, Colonel Wilson, Colonel Lautour, Colonel Peel

Principal Races Duke of Bedford Stakes, Woburn Stakes, Oakley Hunt Stakes, Corporation & Town Plate, His Majestys' Plate

3rd to 5th August 1762

Bedford 4 mile Purse
1. Honest Billy owned by Lord Grosvenor
2. Charlotte owned by Mr Quick
3. What You Please owned by Mr Smith
The winner wore Orange colours and won both of the heats

Bedford 4 mile Give and Take
1. Dart owned by Mr Douglas
2. Miss owned by Lord Portmore
3. Asmodius owned by Mr Crosoer

Wednesday 14th to Thursday 15th August 1782

Earl of Offory Stakes over 2 miles
1. Brisk owned by Lord Derby
2. Snail owned by Mr Hale
3. Unnamed filly owned by Mr Golding
The winner carried Green and White stripes.

Wednesday 25th August to Thursday 26th August 1824

Woburn Stakes over 2 miles
1. Unnamed filly by Soothsayer owned by Colonel Wilson
2. Minimia owned by Mr Messer
3. Isabella owned by Mr R Wilson

Oakley Hunt over a mile and a furlong
1. May Day owned by Colonel Lautour
2. The Abbot owned by Colonel Hay
3. Potemkin owned by Mr T Polhill

Wedesday 28th September to Thursday 29th September 1836

His Majesty's Plate was run for 100 guineas at the Wednesday meeting on September 28th. It took place over 3 miles with the following result:
1. ROYAL GEORGE 3 years old 7st 11lb Owned by Mr W Edwards
2. RIOTER 5 years old 9st 9lb Owned by Mr Sowerby
3. THE PROFESSOR 3 years old 7st 11lb Owned by Colonel Peel

At the same meeting the Duke of Bedford gave a purse of 50 sovereigns for a race over 2 miles with the following result:-

1. ZENANA 3 years old 8st 4lb Owned by Colonel Peel
2. GORHAMBURY 3 years old 8st 7lb Owned by Mr Coleman

1. SHERIFF 2 years old 8st 7lb Owned by Mr Phillimore
2. TALE BEARER 2 years old 8st 4lb Owned by Mr Stevens
3. PAPHIAN 2 years old 8st 4lb Owned by Mr Cooke

1. PRODIGAL 3 years old 6st 9lb Owned by Mr Hall
2. WATER NYMPH 3 years old 6st 9lb Owned by Mr Mason
3. GORHAMBURY 3 years old 7st 3lb Owned by Mr Coleman

On Thursday 29th September records show that 2 races took place with the following results:-

1. PRODIGAL 3 years old 7st 0lb Owned by Mr Hall
2. WATER NYMPH 3 years old 6st 11lb Owned by Mr Mason
3. GORHAMBURY 3 years old 7st 3lb Owned by Mr Coleman

1. JANE 4 years old 8st 10lb Owned by Mr G Ongley
2. WATER NYMPH 3 years old 8st 0lb Owned by Mr Mason
3. NEEDHAM 5 years old 9st 0lb Owned by Lord Alford

James Whyte’s History of the British Turf records the 1839 races as:-
The Oakley Stakes once around the course;
The Farmers Plate once around the course;
and notes the Stewards of the day as The Marquis of Taverstock and Honorable M Ongley, with W.Brown as the Clerk of the Course.

The final meeting took place on 1st October 1873
Course today Initially on Cow Pastures and latterly at Pear Tree Farm in Elstow.
If you have photos, postcards, racecards. badges, newspaper cuttings or book references about the old course, or can provide a photo of how the ground on which the old racecourse stood looks today, then email

Much of the information about this course has been found using internet research and is in the public domain. However, useful research sources have been:-

Northern Turf History Volumes 1-4 by J.Fairfax-Blakeborough

The Sporting Magazine

A Long Time Gone by Chris Pitt first published in 1996 ISBN 0 900599 89 8

Racing Calendars which were first published in 1727

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

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