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Earliest meeting: Saturday 1st April 1876
Final meeting: Monday 7th April 1928
The Grafton Hunt was named after its founder the Duke of Grafton and has enjoyed hunting for over 2 centuries. However, it took the visit of an Empress to extend the Hunt Groups interest beyond hunting and into steeplechasing. It was in December 1875 that the ex-King and Queen of Naples came to England to enjoy their sport of fox-hunting and took up residence at Park View, on the south side of Towcester, Northamptonshire deep in the heart of the Grafton Hunt district. Her Majesty enjoyed hunting so much that she invited her sister, the Empress of Austria, to visit her. In March 1876, Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of Austria, came on her visit to England and rented Easton Neston House near Towcester. The Empress used the pseudonym Countess Hohenembs while in England to avoid publicity. She first experienced an event at Hopping Hill and was so thrilled that the Empress decided to establish a race meeting of her own to be called the Grafton Hunt Steeplechase. A course was laid out in Easton Neston Park and a stand erected for guests. She requested the top London Jewellers Hancock’s to make a cup for the winner, called The Hohenembs Cup. To enter the race the horses were to be from the Grafton, Pytchley or Bicester Hunts.  A special marquee was also erected so that all the people who had helped her during her stay could be entertained, with the food ordered from a top London caterer. The meeting took place on Saturday 1st April 1876, organised by the Empress, the Duke of Grafton, Earl Spencer and the ex-King and Queen of Naples. It offered a 5 race programme, although in the end the Towcester Stakes did not fill and was therefore abandoned. The first Cup race went to Mr W George’s Ploughboy, while the later Da Castro Cup went to Mr S Johnson’s Chance. However, the highlight of the meeting was the Hohenembs Cup, presented by the Countess Hohenembs (aka Empress of Austria), and was won by Musketeer by 3 lengths when ridden by Captain Middleton. The Grafton Hunt Cup was contested annually on Easter Monday on the Easton Neston course until Monday 7th April 1928. Once Towcester Racecourse opened in 1928 the race was transferred there and is still contested to this day.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Empress of Austria, Ex-King & Queen of Naples, Duke of Grafton, Earl Spencer
Principal Races Hohenembs Cup, Grafton Hunt Steeplechase Cup

Saturday 1st April 1876
The Hohenembs Cup
1. Musketeer ridden by Captain Middleton

I am grateful to Margaret Webb for providing the images shown below:-

The final meeting took place on Monday 7th April 1928.
Course today On the Easton Neston Estate.
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:-

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 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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  Quantity Cost
Volume 1 North of Hatfield £19.99 + £4 postage    
Volume 2 South of Hatfield £14.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 3 Wales & Scotland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 4 Ireland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volumes 1 - 4 £54.96 + £5 postage    
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