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Earliest meeting: Sunday 10th August 1727
Final meeting: Friday 9th March 1866

The Bedfordshire town of Leighton Buzzard, situated near the Chilton Hills, first held racing in 1727. Today the town boasts a population in excess of 37,000 and lies midway between Luton and Milton Keynes, but in 1727 there was sufficient support from local racing enthusiasts to sustain their own racecourse. The word Leighton derives from a term meaning ‘farm clearing’ whilst the word ‘Buzzard’ was added in the 12th Century by the Dean of Lincoln who merely used the name of his local Prebendary Theo de Busar. Baily’s Racing Register first provided detailed results from races held at Leighton in 1727, with the ‘County History of Bedfordshire’ confirming that racing did take place at Leighton Buzzard in that year, although John Cheney, when compiling his ‘Historical List of all Horse Matches in 1727’ placed Leighton Buzzard in Buckinghamshire, rectifying his error the next year. In 1727 Leighton races were of local interest only, with Lord Essex’s Smiling Ball beating Mr Cole’s Roxana, although some prominent landed gentry were supporters, including the Duke of Hamilton, Sir John Newdigate and Sir Arthur Hazelrigg. In 1728 the programme consisted of two races run in heats, one for a £15 prize for galloways in the form of a ‘Give and Take’, and the other a £50 purse, and they each needed two heats before getting a conclusive result. In 1730 a Selling Race with a £40 prize was added to the programme, and although the Duke of Ancaster and Lord Podmore were sending runners to the meeting at this time, fields were never large, with the largest field recorded at the meeting being six.  It is not surprising therefore that Cheney drops Leighton Buzzard from his ‘Lists’ after the 1734 meeting. Racing continued intermittently for over a century, although there were few sustained periods of racing, with the final meeting under rules taking place on Friday 9th March 1866, although pony and Galloway races continued to be held on Tower Field well into the 20th century.
This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Lord Essex, Lord Portmore, Mr Bertie
Principal Races Leighton 80 Guineas Plate, 50 Guineas Plate

Sunday 10th August 1727

Leighton 80 Guineas Plate
1. Smiling Ball owned by Lord Essex
2. Roxana owned by Mr Cole

Saturday 5th August 1730

Leighton 50 Guineas Plate
1. Lady Thigh owned by Mr Bertie
2. Miss Pert owned by Lord Portmore

The final meeting took place on Friday 9th March 1866
Course today On the Tower Field.
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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