BURTON LAZARS RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Saturday 2nd April 1864
Final meeting: Saturday 27th March 1939
The Leicestershire village of Burton Lazars, some 2 miles south east of Melton Mowbray, first held racing in the mid 1800s. The village of barely 500 inhabitants was named after Burton Saint Lazarus and is famous for a leper colony which was opened in the village in the 1100s by Roger de Mowbray. Meetings were organised by the Melton Hunt Committee, taking place between Burton Flats and the Leesthorpe Hill, although it is thought that the course was only a temporary one laid out especially with flags for the annual races which were generally held on a Monday in March. The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, now contested at the annual Cheltenham Festival in March, was held at Burton Lazars on three occasions, starting on Saturday 2nd April 1864 when Game Chicken came second to Cooksboro’ but appealed to the stewards that the winning jockey was neither a farmer nor a gentleman and should not be classed as the winner. The appeal was upheld, notching Captain Arthur Smith another winner. In 1871 Daybreak, also ridden by Captain Arthur Smith, was successful, while Friar John won in 1901 in the hands of Herbert Sidney. The meeting on Monday 7th April 1897 was a personal triumph for local jockey Mr W Gale who was successful on all of his 5 rides, beginning with Gamester, followed in order by Pirate, Arran, Erin’s Beauty and Glamis. The races, which continued until 1939, were so well respected that Edward, Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Gloucester attended regularly, some staying in the village for the duration of the races. Indeed, the Prince of Wales rode Kinlark in the Open Steeplechase Plate in 1923, finishing a very creditable fourth behind Culprit, and went on to ride Little Christy in the Ladies Plate, although the horse refused behind Don Jose. At that meeting the Prince of Wales brought Prince George with him and they both stayed at the Craven Lodge Club overnight. The final meeting took place on Saturday 27th March 1939, although after the War successful point to point meetings were held, continuing today at Garthorpe.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Melton Hunt Committee, Captain Arthur Smith, Mr W Gale
Principal Races

National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, Leicestershire Hunt Chase, Melton Open Handicap Chase, Ladies Purse

The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, over 4 miles and 24 fences, is now contested at the annual Cheltenham Festival in March, but on 3 occasions it was held at Burton Lazars, and the results are shown below. On the first occasion in 1864 Game Chicken came in second to Cooksboro’ but appealed to the stewards that the winning jockey was neither a farmer nor a gentleman and should not be classed as the winner. The appeal was upheld.
1864 Game Chicken ridden by Captain Arthur Smith
1871 Daybreak ridden by Captain Arthur Smith
1901 Friar John ridden by Herbert Sidney

The meeting in 1897 was a personal triumph for local jockey Mr W Gale who was successful on all of his 5 rides.

I am grateful to John Fergusson for the picture of his great-grandfather winning the Ladies Purse in April 1907. If anyone can provide more details of the race, or indicate other occasions when Arthur Hughes-Onlsow was successful, then email me.

Wednesday 28th March 1923
Melton Open Steeplechase over 3 miles 1 furlong
1. Culprit, 12st 3lbs owned by Colonel G Paynter
2. Climber, 11st 3lbs owned by Mr Gordon
3. Oliver III, 11st 3lbs owned by Mr G Payne
4. Kinlark, 11st 3lbs owned by HRH the Prince of Wales
Betting: 2/1 Culprit, 4/1 Hopeful, 5/1 Kinlark

The final meeting took place on Saturday 27th March 1939

I am grateful to Paul Hill for providing a map showing the location of the Burton Lazars racecourse. It was taken from the 1967 Second Impression News Motorists Touring Maps and Gazetteer, by John Bartholomew and Son Ltd, Edinburgh.

Course today

I am grateful to Paul Hill for the aerial shot of the village of Burton Lazars shown below. The possible location of the old racecourse is indicated on the map in red. The races, which continued until 1939, were so well respected that Edward, Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Gloucester attended regularly, some staying in the village for the duration of the races.

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 johnwslusar@gmail.com

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:-

London Illustrated News

Racing Illustrated 1895-1899

The Sporting & Dramatic Illustrated

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

Copies of the above books are only available by emailing johnwslusar@gmail.com stating your requirements, method of payment (cheque payable to W.Slusar) or Bank transfer, and the address where the book(s) should be sent.
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