SUTTON PARK RACECOURSE

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Earliest meeting: Wednesday 19th June 1844
Final meeting: Wednesday 20th August 1879
The earliest record of racing in Sutton Park was on an informal course in the early 1830s, with racing continuing intermittently until a final card on Tuesday 20th June 1843 when the Sutton Park Stakes was won by Victoria, whilst the last Sutton Park Hurdle on the course saw Kitty triumph. Spurred on by the success from that informal course, a new course was developed on Sutton Park in the Holly Knoll area of the park. The racecourse was an oval of just a mile, with an uphill run-in of 3 furlongs. The first two day meeting on the new course was on Wednesday 19th and Thursday 20th July 1844 when the Windley Park Stakes was won by Mr Wesley’s Counsellor, while on the next day the Sutton Park Stakes went to The Rhine. It was at the Sutton Park meetings that John Sheldon first came to prominence. He was a landlord with more than a passing interest in horse racing, and produced the race cards for the Sutton Park meetings. He and his family later played a similar role in the development and running of other racecourses in the Birmingham area, notably Four Oaks Park. Sutton Park’s Holly Knoll course was a popular, well-attended venue for 16 years and it came as a surprise that the two day meeting held in June 1850 proved to be the last at the course. The first days racing went without incident, but on day two the West Bromwich Stakes had a field of just 3 runners and was scheduled to be run in heats with the usual ‘heat rules’ to apply. The crowd became more and more agitated as the contest wore on. Heat One went to Clara; Heat Two was won by La Malherease; Heat Three was won by Sarah after the other 2 were disqualified for taking the wrong course. The norm would then be a fourth heat with winner taking all, but the scene was chaotic with the Steward, himself a stand-in, ruling that Sarah had won because the others had been disqualified. Appeals were lodged by the two unsuccessful owners and all the time the crowd became more and more restless. It was to prove to be the final day of racing at the track and within 5 weeks an auction was held to sell the Grandstand and other racing items from the track. It took Sutton Park 18 years to recover before racing returned to the Park. The new course was situated by Westwood Coppice in Longmoor Valley and was ready for its first meeting, a two day affair, starting on Thursday 9th July 1868. The Park at this time was a vibrant place with numerous attractions, including Royal Gardens, the Parson and Clerk pub and, to cap it all, a newly opened railway line. The course was an oval of approximately 10 furlongs in circumference and had a 7 furlong straight which allowed for sprint races. John Sheldon had been the driving force behind developing the Holly Knoll racecourse and the family interest was maintained when the Longmoor Valley course was financed by his son, also John Sheldon. Racing was marred at the course by gangs, thefts and welching bookmakers, but the racecourse operated for 11 years, welcoming some of the biggest names in racing, including the legendary jockey Fred Archer. He first rode at the course in 1872, gained his first winner there in 1873, and achieved a four-timer in 1874.The final two-day meeting was held on Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th August 1879, with the Erdington Plate falling to Little Sutton, while the Hunters’ Optional Selling Plate was claimed by Restoration.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Mr John Sheldon, Mr Flintoff, Mr Barton
Principal Races Windley Park Stakes, Sutton Park Stakes, Erdington Plate

Wednesday 19th & Thursday 20th July 1844

The Windley Park Stakes over 2 miles
1. Counsellor owned by Mr Wesley
2. Pickwick owned by Mr Halford
3. Nix-my-Dolly owned by Mr Hawker

The Sutton Park Stakes over a mile
1. The Rhine owned by Mr Flintoff
2. Valentina owned by Mr Price
3. Glideaway owned by Mr Barton

The final meeting took place on Wednesday 20th August 1879
Course today

The park remains a relaxing place to visit, although little evidence remains of the two courses that once welcomed racegoers in their thousands. A wood with a wide variety of pines, oaks and ash trees cover what was once Longmoor Valley racecourse.

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.
ORDER FORM
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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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Email order form to johnwslusar@gmail.com