Horse racing in Wales gained national popularity around the late 1780s, but it wasn’t until the early 1830s that Welsh horseracing received international attention. Haverfordwest, Brecon, Wrexham, and Cowbridge hosted some of the most popular Welsh horse races during those days. Almost 200-years later, Wales has both developed and maintained its long-running equestrian traditions with due reverence even to this day. As we get ready for another year of horseracing in 2022, let us take a quick look at the Welsh horse racing traditions and events before they kick-off.

The 3 Racecourses in Wales

There are three racecourses in Wales. Two of these have become as much a part of the Welsh horse racing tradition as they are now a part of the local culture itself. The brand new Ffos Las Racecourse, on the other hand, has not seen much elite horse racing action yet.

Chepstow Racecourse

Chepstow Racecourse is the most important venue out of the three racing grounds in Wales. It was inaugurated almost a hundred years ago in 1926, on the Piercefield House grounds in Chepstow, Monmouthshire. Several Graded races are held at Chepstow racecourse each year, including the Welsh Grand National (Grade 3) and the Finale Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1).

Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse

The Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse is by far, the oldest racing ground in Wales. Established way back in 1859, the ground is intricately connected to the horse racing history of Bangor that spans almost 14 decades. Unfortunately, the racecourse does not have a grandstand and neither does it play host to any of today’s Graded races. Nevertheless, the old racecourse hosts several ungraded point-to-point, aka steeplechase races each year, acting as a preparation ground for trainers, thoroughbreds, and jockeys practicing for the National Hunt season.

Ffos Las Racecourse

The racecourse in Ffos Las was only established in 2009, making it the youngest of the three racing tracks in Wales. Built on top of the closed Ffos Las coal mines in Carmarthenshire, the Ffos Las Racecourse hosts the Welsh Champion Hurdle in October each year. It’s the only National Hunt race held at the venue so far though, which is surprising, given that the 600-acre, £20 million racecourse was built to support several listed and graded National Hunt events every year.

The Biggest Racing Events in Wales

As you may have guessed by now, most of the year’s biggest racing events in Wales are held traditionally at Chepstow Racecourse. The same tradition will continue in 2022 as well. As for the races themselves, let’s get to know them better next.

Persian War Novices’ Hurdle (3,914-Metre)

The Persian War Novices’ Hurdle is a Grade 2 National Hunt Hurdle (10) for 4yo+ thoroughbreds. It replaced the Crick Hurdle 45-years ago in 1977 and has since established itself as one of the most celebrated jump races at Chepstow. The total prize pool for the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle was revised and reset at £60,000 in 2021.

Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle (3,914-Metre)

Also scheduled as part of the October Jumps Season Opener Meet, the Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle is always held on day two since its inception in 1988. Following up on the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle from day one, the nearly identical hurdle race is a Grade 3 National Hunt event with £40,000 in prize pool.

Robert Mottram Memorial Trophy (3,914-Metre)

The Robert Mottram Memorial Trophy was inaugurated in 2011, but the October steeplechase for 4yo+ thoroughbreds did not become a Listed Race on the National Hunt Calendar till 2017.

Welsh Grand National (6,154-Metre)

The Welsh Grand National is the most popular race overall in Wales. One of the longest jump races of the year in the UK, this 127-year-old Grade 3 National Hunt steeplechase (23) is somewhat comparable to the Grade 2 National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup (6,018-metre), which is held on Champions Day at the Cheltenham Festival in March. However, the Welsh Grand National is lengthier by 36-metres and has a higher prize pool of £150,000.

Finale Juvenile Hurdle (3,228-metre)

The Finale Juvenile Hurdle is the only Grade 1 thoroughbred race that’s held in Wales. The National Hunt hurdle race has always been a December event by tradition, opening up the British National Hunt Calendar to juvenile hurdles for the season.

There is a lot of room for development and growth for the sport in Wales, as its list of major prize events could certainly improve over the coming years. The Ffos Las Racecourse in particular needs to step up, as it has almost everything a racecourse needs to host several Graded races each year.