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Earliest meeting: Wednesday 1st April 1868
Final meeting: Wednesday 18th April 1928
The Nottinghamshire market town of Retford, standing on the River Idle, has witnessed a series of race meetings organised by different groups over almost a century. Races were first staged in the town from 1849 until 1864 when billed as ‘East Retford Cavalry races’, and then the United Hunt Committee organised a meeting on Wednesday 1st April 1868 when the Sandbeck Farmers Stakes was won by the delightfully named Gobbo, while the feature Retford United Hunt Steeplechase went to Gladiateur. However, after a gap of less than 10 years the town yearned for racing once more. The idea to revive races in the town was first mooted in February 1877 and by Monday 9th April the first meeting was launched. The new series of races took place on a right-handed racecourse situated about a mile to the north of the town centre on land owned by Viscount Galway. This initial meeting was a great success but, given that they only held one meeting per year, interest waned in the second year and the third meeting did not take place until 1894. In a bid to boost crowds, train excursions were laid on from most Midlands towns, and in 1898 a novel idea gave Tenant Farmers lunch in the Town Hall followed by a free pass to the races for families. Racing continued under the directorship of the Retford Hunt Committee until a final meeting before World War I in 1913. Racing returned to Retford after the War ended when a revival meeting was staged in 1921. The final meeting took place in 1928, although a meeting was scheduled for the next year but by then Viscount Galway had sold the land on which the racecourse stood. The final card took place on Wednesday 18th April 1928.

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

Viscount Galway, Sir John Astley, Lord Melgund, Lord Berkeley Paget

Principal Races

Retford Handicap Steeplechase, Sandbeck Hunt Steeplechase

Wednesday 1st April 1868
Retford United Hunt Steeplechase over 3 miles
1. Gladiateur, aged horse owned by Mr Atkinson
2. Flasher, aged horse owned by Mr Potter
3. Primrose, bay mare owned by Mr Astley
Betting: Evens Primrose, 2/1 Phillis, 4/1 Gladiateur, 4/1 Flasher

The final meeting took place on Wednesday 18th April 1928
Course today

A right-handed course a mile north of the town on land owned by Viscount Galway. Once the land was sold, memories of the old racecourse faded and evidence of its previous existence gradually disappeared to be replaced by housing.

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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