GUILDFORD RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: May 1718
Final meeting: Thursday 25th August 1870
Guildford, a large town in Surrey situated 27 miles south west of London, can trace its roots back to Saxon times. The earliest record of thoroughbred races taking place near the town, on Merrow Downs, was in May 1718 when a prestigious King’s Plate was held. However, prior to this meeting Galloway Plates were being contested on the Downs as early as June 1715. The first occasion Baily’s Racing Register included results from races held in the town was from the Whit Tuesday meeting on Tuesday 3rd June 1727 when the principal race was His Majesty’s Plate over 4 miles which was claimed by Sampson, owned by Lord Halifax. The Historical List of Races of 1751 was undertaken by Reginald Heber following the death of John Cheney, who had initiated the project many years earlier, and he recorded a 4 day meeting being held at Guildford from Friday 28th May to Monday 31st May 1751. Lord Onslow sponsored a race which was won by Benjamin Rogers’s Garland, while the Third Hundred of Kings Guineas went to Shakespear (sic) owned by Mr Meredith. Meetings continued on a very regular basis for a further century and were always well supported by an impressive band of noblemen and gentlemen. On Monday 2nd July 1840 entries were accepted at the Railway Arms Hotel and none other than Lord Palmerston won the Queen’s Plate with his Priam filly. On Monday 25th April 1870 a steeplechase was held in the town when the card featured the Albury Chase won by Newburgh, and the Grand Annual Steeplechase claimed by Atalanta. However, the locals complained about the disruption the meetings were causing, and the final meeting took place on Thursday 25th August 1870.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 2 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.

Tuesday 3rd June 1727

His Majesty’s Plate for 100 Guineas over 4 miles
1. Sampson owned by Lord Halifax
2. Dotterell owned by Mr Greville
3. Creeping Kate owned by Mr Kitchenman

The Racing Calendar of 1751 was undertaken by Reginald Heber following the death of John Cheney who had initiated the project many years earlier. He records that Guildford held a Four-Day meeting in May 1751, with race details shown below.

Local Patrons

Duke of Kingston, Lord Grosvenor, Lord Baltimore, Lord Portmore, Sir J Moore, Sir M Featherstone, Sir Charles Bunbury, Sir John Shelley, Lord Grantley

Principal Races Town Plate, His Majesty's 100 Guineas Plate,Town Purse, Members Plate

Friday 28th May to Monday 31st May 1751

Third Hundred of Kings Guineas
1. Shakespear owned by Mr Meridith
2. Snail owned by Captain Hartley

Lord Onslow’s £50 Plate
1. Garland owned by Mr Benjamin Rogers
2. Little John owned by Mr Sparrow
3. Spider owned by Mr Been

1st to 3rd June 1762

Guildford Kings 100 Guineas over 4 miles
1. Leeds owned by Mr Wildman
2. Hackney owned by Sir J Moore
3. Kenton owned by Lord Grosvenor

Guildford Purse over 2 miles
1. Willing But Weak owned by Sir J Moore
2. Massinissa owned by Mr Churchill
3. Aristotle owned by Mr Bladon
The winner won both heats and carried the Darkest Green colours of Sir J Moore.

Tuesday 21st to Friday 24th May 1782

Guildford Gentlemen’s’ Purse over 2 miles
1. Young Pantalon owned by Sir J Shelley
2. Nephew owned by Sir Charles Bunbury
3. Cottager owned by Mr Compton
The winner’s colours were Purple with a Black cap; the second’s colours were Pink and White Stripes.

Guildford Members‘ Plate run over 4 miles
1. Ulysses owned by Sir Charles Bunbury
2. Britannia owned by Mr Shute
The winner wore Pink and White Stripes

Guildford Town Purse run over 2 miles
1. Catch owned by Mr Douglas
2. Standby owned by Mr Freeman
3. Clandon owned by Sir J Shelley
The winner wore Black with a White cap and the second wore Purple with a Black cap.

Wednesday 23rd and Friday 25th June 1824

Guildford ‘His Majesty’s Plate over 4 miles
1. Blunder owned by Mr T Scaith
2. Elfrid owned by Mr Wyndham

Guildford Town Plate over 2 miles
1. Unnamed filly by President owned by Mr D Page
2. Unnamed filly by Soothsayer owned by Mr Brown
3. Peggy owned by Mr Holbrook

Guildford Members Plate over 2 miles
1. Unnamed filly by President owned by Mr D Page
2. Gossoon owned by Mr Smith
3. Evergreen owned by Mr Cockburn

The final meeting took place on Thursday 25th August 1870.
Course today

Today the old two mile racecourse on Morrow Downs has been turned into a thriving golf course.

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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