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Sunday , 17 December 2017
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Yarmouth Eastern Festival is this week

This week’s three-day Yarmouth Eastern Festival is the track’s main meeting of the year. The John Musker Stakes, a Listed race for fillies and mares first run in 1993, is Wednesday’s highlight. So Mi Dar won it last year.

Yarmouth’s racecourse is on North Denes. However, before 1920 it was at South Denes.

The first course opened in 1715 after Yarmouth Corporation leased the South Denes land to a group of local innkeepers for holding race meetings. But it wasn’t until 1810 that they were deemed of sufficient importance for the results to be included in the Racing Calendar.

By 1820 the meeting offered 100 guinea cups as prizes and it grew in stature throughout the 19th century. However, its future looked in doubt in 1843 when magistrates banned all betting on the course and in the town’s inns. The prohibition was soon rescinded.

Yarmouth Eastern Festival had ground issues

The South Denes course was much different to today’s. It resembled Salisbury. It had a straight mile, but races of more than one mile ran the reverse way up the course and round a loop. The field entered the straight six and a half furlongs from home. Also, it had two winning posts, situated 41 yards apart.

As with Windsor today, many racegoers came by boat. The boats left South Quay and landed close to the course.

The local authority took over ownership of the South Denes course in 1904. After the Great War, the local fishing industry required the land in order to expand. Thus, in 1920 the course moved to its present site at North Denes.

Northern Racing later bought Yarmouth racecourse from the local authority. Arena Racing Company now own it. Arena carried out major track improvements in 2014 to remove undulations in the straight. However, when it reopened in the 2015, two days of the Yarmouth Eastern Festival had to be abandoned on safety grounds. Hopefully all will go well this week.

About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including ‘A Long Time Gone’, chronicling Britain’s lost racecourses, and ‘Go Down to the Beaten’, stories of jockeys who didn’t win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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