Welcome to the definitive guide to racing in Newcastle. There are two main forms of racing, involving horses and dogs, and Newcastle has tracks for both disciplines. We’re currently busy working behind the scenes collating fixtures, stats and information and will shortly be adding a whole host of new information about racing in our fine city.
Other Forms of Racing in Newcastle
It will not be much of a surprise to most people that horse racing and greyhound racing are the two most popular forms of the discipline in Newcastle. After all, no form of racing is more popular with the public than those two anywhere in the country. That being said, it would be misleading to suggest that they are the only forms of racing that take place in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, or have taken place over the years. Until August of 2022, for example, the Newcastle Diamonds were a speedway team that raced in the city.
Sadly, a lack of spectators heading to watch the speedway events meant that a decision was taken to liquidate the Diamonds. That drew to a close a club that had been running since 1929, but threatened closure the year before. At the time the liquidation was confirmed by the owner and promoter Rob Grant, the club still had 11 Championship matches to take part in. Grant appealed to possible buyers who might want to keep the speedway team alive, but none were found by August. As a result it was closed, but it is possible that it might come back in the future.
The Great North Run
Does a half marathon count as racing? Whilst it might not do for the people dressing up in silly costumes in order to raise money for charities, it is certainly the case that those that are able to compete take it very seriously indeed.
Devised by former Olympic 10,000 metre bronze medallist, Brendan Foster, the Great North Run was based on the Round the Bays Race that he’d seen taking place in New Zealand.
It was first run in 1981 and 12,000 people took place. Nowadays, the event is limited to 60,000 people and you need to apply to take part.
If you’re interested, you can discover a list of previous winners of the Great North Run. The fact that such information is kept is proof, perhaps, of the fact that it very much is considered to be a race by those that know such things.
Between 1991 and 1996, the race was won by either Benson Masya or Moses Tanui, both of whom are from Kenya. Between 2014 and 2019, meanwhile, Mo Farah was the only winner, setting a record not only for successive wins but for wins outright.
There is also a wheelchair race that takes place at the same time.
History of Horse Racing in Newcastle
As you might imagine for a city as historic as Newcastle, racing has taken place there for hundreds of years. In fact, horse racing in the North East began in the early part of the 17th century, taking place in the town of Killingworth in 1621. George II instigated a race that involved three mile heats in 1753, calling it the King’s Plate and limiting it to five-year-olds. It was common practice at the time to sell life-tickets in order to raise money to build grandstands, with Newcastle selling silver subscribers tickets in 1800 for 15 guineas apiece.
The area of common land in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, known as the Town Moor, hosted the Northumberland Plate for the first time in 1833. It was a £15 handicap sweepstake and the first winner was a horse called Tomboy, who had been asked to carry eight stone and two pounds. The race remained there until 1881, when it was transferred to High Gosforth Park, with new flat and chase courses being built there in time for the 1882 running. There was also a new stand for spectators, as well as stables that could welcome around 100 horses.
This was after the Gosforth Park Company was formed, working under the direction of Fife Scott and Charles Perkins. At around the same time, the first enclosed coursing meeting took place in the same location. Boasting 812 acres, High Gosforth Park became Newcastle Racecourse’s permanent home, with the first Northumberland Plate there being won by Victor Emmanuel, who went on to win two Goodwood Cups as well as the Ebor. It is fair to say, therefore, that racing in Newcastle was considered prestigious almost from the get-go.
Despite a chase course having been built at Gosforth Park early on in the course’s development, it took until 1951 for the first National Hunt event to take place there. The Eider Chase was the most important event, with other races soon following. Indeed, the 1975 running of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle is considered to be one of the best races that Newcastle has ever seen. It saw Comedy of Errors, Sea Pigeon and Night Nurse battling it out against one another at the height of their powers, with Night Nurse eventually prevailing.
The course then entered a period of decline in the years that followed. It wasn’t until it was bought by Northern Racing in 1994 that Newcastle Racecourse began to return to some form of its previous glory. Chaired by Sir Stanley Clarke, the company invested a large sum of money to revitalise and modernise the course. In the modern era, the main races are the Northumberland Plate, the Eider Chase and the Fighting Firth Hurdle; though it’s worth noting that Newcastle Racecourse hosts around 32 fixtures across the course of the year.
In terms of the races themselves, the Northumberland Plate is also known as the Pitmen’s Derby. That is because it was a day’s holiday in the pits in the North East, allowing the men there to attend the race. It was first run over two miles and 56 yards back in 1883. The Fighting Fifth Hurdle has been run over two miles, taking place for the first time in 1969, whilst the Eider chase got its debut 15 years earlier. Newcastle isn’t the only place in the North East to enjoy a long history of horse racing, with Durham seeing a race take place in 1613.
History of Greyhound Racing in Newcastle
Though horse racing is the most popular form of racing across the country, with Newcastle being no exception, greyhound racing is also a popular pastime. Of course, its popularity has waned considerably since the sport’s height, when tens of thousands of people would turn up on a weekly basis. The site where Brough Park was built was chosen in 1928, having previously contained part of a football ground as well as garden allotments. It was constructed to the south of the Fossway, with resident kennels being built on the route of Hadrian’s Wall.
In actual fact, Brough Park wasn’t Newcastle’s first greyhound racing stadium. That is because White City Stadium had been built and opened just 28 days before Brough Park could open its doors. It was squeezed in between the Redheugh Branch railway line and the river. The Greyhound Racing Association had an interest in the venture, which boasted a circumference of 485 yards and was considered to be a very good galloping track. Despite its excellent facilities and strong business interests, it closed down in 1951.
In the meantime, Gosforth Greyhound Stadium opened in 1932, showing evidence of just how popular greyhound racing was as a sport at the time. The venue had previously been operating as an athletic ground, having opened in 1900, but underwent major reconstruction in order to welcome the greyhound racing. With its 456-yard circumference, the track was licensed by the National Greyhound Racing Club and the British Greyhound Tracks Control Society at various times. It saw an improvement to the people running it when White City Stadium closed and the Racing Manager, amongst others, moved.
Gosforth began to race independently in 1985, largely because of a decision two years earlier to stop Brough Park trainers from supplying them with runners. It was, sadly, the beginning of the end for the track. It was sold for re-development in 1987, with the final meeting being held there on the seventh of August that year. Nowadays, the site is occupied by an Asda, demonstrating the extent to which the popularity of greyhound racing has nose-dived in the modern era. Indeed, the only greyhound racing track still open in Newcastle is Newcastle Stadium.
Brough Park now Newcastle Stadium
The city had long been a fan of greyhound racing, as evidenced by the fact that the sport was introduced to Redheugh Park in 1937. It didn’t last long there, however, ending in January of 1966. As a result, it is just Newcastle Stadium, formerly Brough Park, where you can watch greyhounds run in Newcastle. It is the home to some prestigious events, such as the All England Cup, which was run for the first time there in 1938. That saw many of the country’s top greyhounds heading to Newcastle to take part, ensuring its state as a respected venue was locked-in.
It was a good grass track in the early days, having a circumference of 430 yards and the ability to host races over 295 yards, 500 yards and 520 yards. It used a sledge-trackless hare, whilst the Northumberland Stakes and Northumberland Cup were introduced in the years that followed. If there was any debate about the respected nature of Brough Park, that will have been put to bed after the running of the All England Cup in 1946. The English Greyhound Derby champion, Mondays News, went up against the Irish Greyhound Derby winner, Lilac Luck, the Scottish Greyhound Derby winner, Lattin Pearl, and Negro’s Lad, the Welsh Greyhound Derby champion.
The Totalisators and Greyhound Holdings became the stadium’s owners in 1964, with the hare being switched to become an outside Navan. The distances were now 525 yards, 650 yards, 700 yards, 750 yards and 880 yards, as well as a hurdle race run over 525 yards. The ownership changed again in 1974, which was when the TGH was taken over by Ladbrokes. Stadium improvements were introduced, including the addition of a new restaurant. The Trainers Championship was brought in three years later, which involved a series of races for the best greyhounds in the country.
It eventually became a sand track in 1980, but three years later Ladbrokes sold it to Glassedin Greyhounds Limited and its future became unclear. The kennels were sold for redeveloped, then in 1984 it was sold again, this time to Bernard and Joan Neesham. They, in turn, sold it to Kevin Wilde just two years later. In the decade or so that followed, Newcastle Stadium trundled along without any major talking points, other than the constant threat to its future. This was brought to a close in 2003 when William Hill bought it.
The bookmakers decided to plough major investment into it, following the same path that the company had trodden with Sunderland Stadium the year before. It was under William Hill’s ownership that the decision was taken to re-brand it from Brough Park to Newcastle Stadium, on account of the fact that it was the only greyhound racing stadium left in the city. The investment into the track and the facilities saw Newcastle Stadium rewarded with the running of the Television Trophy in 2009, with the standard of the greyhounds considered to be amongst the best in the country.
Newcastle Stadium was bought, alongside Sunderland Stadium, by Arena Racing Company in 2017. It took on the Laurels from the Greyhound Racing Association that year, with the hope being that it would be able to re-gain its Category 1 status as a result. In 2021, the Northern Flat moved to Newcastle after the closure of Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester, showing that it is likely to remain one of the country’s most prestigious greyhound racing venues for the long-term. The threat of closure is now all but over for Newcastle Stadium.
A Brief History Of Speedway Racing In Newcastle
Speedway is a sport that, like greyhound racing, was extremely popular during its formative years but has seen its popularity drop year-on-year.
The speedway track used by the Newcastle Diamonds was built in the middle of the greyhound track at Brough Park, with the speedway team having been inaugural members of the Speedway English Dirt Track League in 1929.
The team joined the National League in 1938, but did not race in the league from 1952 to 1960. Newcastle joined the Provincial League in 1961, winning its first major trophy three years later.
In the decades that followed, the Diamonds enjoyed mixed success as a speedway racing team. In 1976, for example, after not racing in four of the previous five seasons, the team won a National League and Knockout Cup double.
Fast-forward a few decades and 2010 was a very successful campaign, with the Diamonds winning most of the silverware on offer. It was awarded the Team Of The Year Award for that season.
In spite of its relative success over the years, damage from the likes of Brexit and Covid meant the team was liquidated in 2022 and speedway in Newcastle was drawn to a close.
Attending a Meeting
If you’re either in Newcastle or planning on heading to the city in order to attend a race meeting, you’ll be well-placed to have a good night. If you want to head in to the town after the racing is concluded, you won’t find many better places in the United Kingdom. Perhaps only Liverpool and Glasgow can challenge Newcastle in the ‘Great Night Out Stakes’, such is the fun you’re likely to have. The question is, what do you need to know about attending meetings in the two sports? What are the major differences in terms of what you’ll get?
Off To The Horse Racing
We will start by having a look at what you should expect if you head to a meeting at Newcastle Racecourse. The first thing that you’ll want to know is what to wear, with horse racing meetings tending to see people dress up a little bit more. Precisely what you wear will obviously depend on a number of factors, including when in the season it is that you’re going to the races and where your tickets are for. Certain sections of the racecourse will ask you to wear suits and dresses, for example, whilst others will allow fancy dress.
The facilities at Newcastle Racecourse are such that you can look forward to a nice meal and access to plenty of bars, depending on where you’re heading. At the very least, you’ll be able to get some fast food from some of the stalls around the course. The fact that Newcastle has been an all-weather course since 2016 means that racing is available all year round, so you’ll want to wrap up warm if you’re heading there in the winter months and get your finest light-weight suits and summer dresses on in June and July.
There are as many as 32 meetings held throughout the year at Newcastle Racecourse. This means that you’ll have plenty of chances to get to go and see some top-class horse races. That being said, there are five notable events that you might want to put into your calendar in order to see the best of the best. The Eider Chase and the Fighting Fifth Hurdles are the two biggest jump races, normally taking place in February and November respectively. In terms of flat racing, the Burradon Stakes is usually run in March, whilst the Chipchase Stakes and Northumberland Plate both tend to be held in June.
Going To The Dogs
The reality of greyhound racing is that it is typically a working class sport. Whilst horse racing boasts the likes of Royal Ascot, dog racing is much more down-to-earth, wherever in the country it is that you’re going to watch it. When it comes to racing in Newcastle, the people there don’t like to get too above their station, so a trip to Newcastle Stadium is usually one that is all about enjoyment and less about fine-dining and the likes. That isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy a good sit down meal in the restaurant if that’s what you fancy, though.
There are usually a number of fast food locations at greyhound stadiums and Newcastle is no different on that front. Most of the people that head to the venue to watch the dog racing will be getting their food in that manner, given that you’ll normally need to book the restaurant in advance. Similarly, there are a couple of bars where you can head to get a drink, with alcohol and soft drinks served with equal gusto. As you might well imagine, the entire atmosphere at Newcastle Stadium is a relaxed one, with fun at the top of the agenda.
In terms of what you’ll want to wear, this is much more of a jeans and nice top experience than it is about getting dolled up to the nines. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be allowed in if you’re dressed up nicely, just that it’s more about having fun and being relaxed than anything else. If you’re in the restaurant, you might want to dress a little smarter, whilst normally the only thing that is pretty much considered to be off-limits are football tops. There are plenty of different places that you can head to in the venue to see the racing, including an outdoor area.
It isn’t always easy to know how to approach betting if it isn’t something that you do on a regular basis. Some people will be more than familiar with all of the different terms and how you place a bet, whilst others will have no idea whatsoever.
The important thing to know right from the outset is that there is no ‘right’ way to be in terms of your gambling knowledge. Even those that are well-experienced will get things wrong from time to time, with bookmakers and Tote workers always happy to help out if you aren’t sure on anything.
The good news is that the rules of betting are pretty much the same, irrespective of whether you’re placing wagers on the horse or on greyhound races. That is to say, a Win bet and an Each-Way wager will be the same type of bet, whether you’re hoping to see a dog finish first or a horse. Equally, when you lose your bets you’ll lose in the same way regardless of the sport that you’re watching and betting on.
Here, we’ll look to explain some of the most basic betting terms so that you can feel comfortable and confident when heading to the bookies.
What The Odds Mean
First things first, a quick look at the odds. For the purposes of simplicity, we’re going to focus on fractional odds here, rather than decimal ones. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry as you don’t need to. It is simply that some bookmakers will offer the odds in a decimal format (so 2.00, for example) rather than a fractional one. Regardless, you’ll be looking to figure out how the odds work and what it means in terms of placing a bet and either winning or losing your stake money depending on what happens in the race.
Your stake is the amount of money that you’re willing to put at risk when placing your bet. The odds are effectively the chance that the bookmakers are giving the horse or dog of winning their race. The longer the odds are, the less chance the bookies think the animal in question has of winning, whilst the shorter the odds the more likely it is that they’ll win their race. Just because odds are long doesn’t mean they have no chance, however, just as short odds don’t mean that they will end up winning.
The thing to bear in mind is that odds are offered in full pounds. Odds of 2/1, for example, mean that for every full £1 you bet, you’ll get £2 back if the selection wins. Similarly, 10/1 would mean you’d get £10 back if your selection won for each £1 in your stake. If you staked £10 on a 10/1 greyhound to win and it won, you’d be paid out £100 in winning as well as get your £10 stake back for a total payout of £110. If the dog didn’t win, however, you’d lose your £10 stake in its entirety.
Sometimes the second figure in the fractional can be higher than one, such as odds of 7/2, known as short odds. The system still works in the same way, though. This time, a £2 stake would pay out £7 in winnings. In essence, it is the same as if the odds had been 3.5/1, but bookmakers don’t offer decimal odds like that, which is why they’re rounded up. All you need to know is that the first number is what you’ll be paid out for every unit of the second number that you pay in your stake in the event that your selection wins. A £4 bet on a 7/2 offering would win £14, as well as your £4 stake back for a total payout of £18, or lose £4 if your selection doesn’t win.
What Is The Starting Price?
You might well have heard of the expression ‘Starting Price’ when it comes to betting. This can be a useful guide when it comes to what the chances of the horse or dog winning were when the race got underway, but always take it with a pinch of salt. The Starting Price is usually an average price offered by bookmakers at the moment that a race gets underway. There is a complicated way in which the SP, which is how the Starting Price is sometimes written, is worked out, but you don’t need to worry about it too much. All that matters is what the price was.
The thing to bear in mind is that all sorts of things can influence a horse or a greyhound’s Starting Price. Bookmakers will come up with odds that they think are fair for the horse or dog taking part in an event, but if a lot of people bet on it or a lot of money is placed on it then they might adjust their thinking and lower the odds. Similarly, if not much money is put on it then they will make their odds longer in the hope that it entices people to place bets on it and give them a chance of balancing their books where possible.
The big thing to remember when it comes to bookmakers’ odds is that their vigorish, or Edge, is built into them. In other words, the true odds of the horse or greyhound will be longer than the ones being offered by bookies, but they add in an Edge in order to ensure they make a make money regardless of the outcome. This means that odds don’t really reflect the likelihood of a specific outcome happening, which is why you shouldn’t use them alone when trying to decide what chance a horse or dog has got.
Best Odds Guarantee
On the subject of Starting Prices, it is worth drawing your attention to an offer that some bookmakers will put forward for certain races. This is the Best Odds Guarantee, sometimes explained merely by the acronym BOG. A Best Odds Guarantee is a way of saying that you’ll get paid out at the best price, regardless of when you place your bet.
Imagine a scenario in which you’ve placed a bet on a horse to win a race an hour before the race takes place. You’ve taken odds of 2/1, but by the time the race begins they’ve moved out to 5/1.
In a situation where you have placed your bet with a bookmaker that doesn’t offer a Best Odds Guarantee, you’ll be paid out at 2/1 and that’s it. If they do have a BOG offer in place, however, you’ll be paid out at the better of the two odds, which in this example is the Starting Price of 5/1. The bookie will only consider the odds at the time that you place the bet and the SP, though. Which is to say, if they start at 2/1, drift to 5/1 and then drop to 3/1 for the Starting Price, you’ll be paid at 3/1, not the 5/1 that the odds briefly were.
Best Odds Guarantees are typically only offered on bets placed on the day of the race. When big race meetings come around, such as the Grand National or the Cheltenham Festival, some bookmakers might make BOG offers active for a week or so beforehand, but that isn’t typical. Bets placed well in advance of a race or meeting, as in days, weeks or months, are known as ante-post wagers and lots of the protection that you get for bets placed on the day, such as your stake back if your horse is a non-runner, don’t apply.
The last thing to mention is the different types of bets that you can place. The most common bets are Win Singles and Each-Way wagers. A Win Single is a bet on your horse or greyhound winning the race. Any result other than your selection coming first in their event will result in your losing your stake. It really is that simple and straightforward. Each-Way bets, meanwhile, are actually two different bets, so you’ll find that your stake is doubled when you place it. You are placing both a Win bet and a Place bet.
Place bets are bets on your horse or dog placing in one of the positions that a bookmaker will pay out on. Imagine a scenario, for example, in which your bookie has said that they’ll payout if your selection finishes in the first four places in a race. With an Each-Way bet, you’ll get paid for the Win part of your bet and the Place part, in the event that your horse wins, or just the Place part if they come second, third or fourth. What makes things complicated is that your odds will be divided by an amount, such as 1/4, for the place payout.
Let us imagine a situation in which you’ve placed an Each-Way bet on a horse with odds of 10/1. Your stake was £5, which becomes £10 when you make it an Each-Way wager. £5 of that goes on the Win, £5 of it on the Place. If your horse wins, you’ll be paid out 10 x 5, which is £50, plus your £5 stake for an amount of £55 on the Win part of the bet. The terms of the wager say that the Place pays out at 1/5 odds, so your 10/1 becomes 2/1, meaning you’ll be paid 2 x £5, or £10, plus the £5 stake that you originally placed.
Where a Win single would pay you £55, including your stake money back, an Each-Way wager would pay you £55 plus £15, again including your stake, for a total payout of £70. That sounds good, but don’t forget that you’re risking £10 on an Each-Way bet rather than £5. If you want to, you could bet £2.50 Each-Way for a total wager of £5, but all of your payouts would also be halved and you’d receive less money for a winning bet. If you’re betting online, you will see your possible payout for your wager when placing your bet.