DURHAM RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Tuesday 20th April 1613
Final meeting: Tuesday 19th July 1887
Early records indicate that a meeting was held at Woodham Moor in Durham before 1613. This is known to be the case because a paper of that year recorded that ‘horses have to weigh in at the usual weighing place on Woodham Moor’ for the meeting which took place on Tuesday 20th April 1613, the Tuesday after Palm Sunday. The course was an oval of circumference one mile on a sound surface of grassland, with a sprint section of 6 furlongs which was flat. The first time the Racing Calendar mentions Durham races was in 1773, the first official year of the Calendar. Racing continued until 1851 when there was a two year break before racing returned in 1854. It held a single meeting in 1859, and again in 1864 for a prolonged period until its final meeting in 1887. The track was situated on what is now the University recreation ground of Smyddyhaughs and was described as a ‘tight little circular track’. Durham struggled for popular support throughout its operation, but enjoyed tremendous sponsorship by some wealthy northern families, notably the Lambtons, Vyners and Shaftos.

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

Local Patrons

Lord Strange, Sir R Henderson, Sir William Dalston, Sir William Wilson, Sir W Vavalour, Honorable J S Barry, Sir R Wynn, Lord Londonderry, Major Healey, Marquis of Londonderry, Lord Kelburne

Principal Races Durham Gold Cup, Durham Silver Cup, Whitton Hunt Stakes, Welter Cup, Freemen & Innkeepers Purse

Baily’s Racing Register first provided detailed results from races held at Durham in 1733, with the meeting being held in July and the result shown below.

Friday 10th to Monday 13th July 1733

Durham Four Year Old 30 Guineas Purse
1. Swaddler owned by Mr Langley

Durham Five Year Old Ladies Purse
1. Creeper owned by Mr Hutton
2. Bumper owned by Captain Appleyard

Durham 50 Guineas Purse
1. Faustina owned by Mr Jenison
2. Sweepstakes owned by The Duke of Bolton
3. Thumper owned by Mr Pennyman

Prior to 1733 it was not the norm to have one official Judge, but at Durham Races in 1733 the limitations of this policy were well illustrated. There were 6 Judges, or ‘triers in the Chair’ that day when two horses finished so close together in the Durham Stakes that 3 of the Judges thought that one horse had won, and the other 3 thought that the other horse had prevailed. In the end the Stake was divided to avoided appeals to Newmarket.

19th to 24th July 1762

Durham 2 mile Purse
1. Gentle owned by Mr Hewetson
2. Patch owned by Mr Dixon
3. Batchelor owned by Sir William Dalston

Durham 2 mile Stakes
1. Flashing Molly owned by Mr Pearson
2. Druid owned by Lord Strange
3. Figure owned by Mr Cunningham

Monday 15th to Saturday 20th July 1782

Durham Freemen & Innkeepers Purse over 4 miles
Shepherd owned by Mr Carter
Mut-O-Mint owned by Mr Barry
Anybody owned by Mr Fenwick

Thursday 6th, Friday 7th May and Saturday 8th May 1824

The Whitton Hunt Stakes over 2 miles
1. Rallyasco owned by Mr D Lambton
2. Eliza owned by Mr J Burrell
3. John O’Gaunt owned by Mr M Woodfield

The Welter Cup over 2 miles
1. Tom Paine owned by Mr Watson
2. Kate owned by Major Healey
3. Pecunia owned by Mr Lambton

The Durham Silver Cup, value 50 guineas, over 2 miles
1. Bigottini owned by Lord Londonderry
2. Sir Roger owned by Mr Brotherton
3. German owned by Mr Lambton

In 1809 the Durham Gold Cup, over 3 miles, was contested for the first time. The inaugural winner was Whitworth owned by Mr Shafto. Subsequent winners are shown below:-
1810 Laurel Leaf owned by Mr T Duncombe
1811 Laurel Leaf owned by Mr T Duncombe
1812 Laurel Leaf owned by Mr T Duncombe
1813 Cap-a-Pee owned by Mr Maitland
1814 Biddick owned by Mr Dawson
1815 Arabella owned by Mr Fletcher
There was then a lapse in the running of the Gold Cup until 1829 when Felt, owned by Mr J scott, was victorious. It was run for a further 8 years, with the Duke of Cleveland’s Jordan being the final winner.

In 1820 the Durham Silver Cup was contested for the first time. The inaugural winner was Lord queensberry’s Fair Helena. Subsequent winners are shown below:-
1821 Cavalier owned by Mr Lambton
1822 Cavalier owned by Mr Lambton
1823 Wanton owned by Mr J Ferguson
1824 Bigottini owned by Lord Londonderry
1825 Caccia Piatti owned by Mr Russell
1826 Forester owned by Mr Portman
1827 Don Antonio owned by Mr Skipsey
1828 Robin Hood owned by Mr Golden
By 1829 the Cup had reverted back to the Durham Gold Cup, with winners shown above.

The final meeting took place on Tuesday 19th July 1887.
Course today What is now the University recreation ground of Smyddyhaughs.
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:-

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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