British racecourse to make history with earliest ever start time – and 8.30am cocktails – on Grand National day


HISTORY will be made next weekend with Britain’s earliest ever raceday – as punters prepare to be served 8.30am breakfast cocktails on Grand National day.

Chelmsford racecourse will open their gates early with the first contest on its seven-race card due off at 10am.

GettyHistory will be made at Chelmsford racecourse next Saturday with their first race due off at 10am[/caption]

SplashRacegoers can pile into the track from 8.30am and will be served breakfast cocktails[/caption]

Savvy bosses at the Essex track are looking to take advantage of the biggest Saturday in the racing calendar with some ‘unique’ early-morning action.

The last race is due off at 1.05pm so they will be finished by the time runners and riders line up for the first at Aintree at 1.20pm.

Lingfield was due to host what would have been the earliest raceday ever earlier this year.

But their January meeting, which would have seen the first race off at 10.30am, was pushed back due to other fixtures being abandoned.

It’s not uncommon for meetings on a busy Saturday to start before noon – but Flat all-weather venue Chelmsford is breaking new ground with this 10am start.

Yet far from having concerns about the number of punters willing to attend – with a general admission ticket costing £20 – director of racing Neil Graham says there has been huge interest.

He told Racing TV: “We bought this fixture last autumn because we thought it was an interesting innovation.

“It’s currently a seven-race card, that could go to eight, and there is £129,000 in prize money.

“The prize money is nearly triple the minimum value for all those races through the morning, so I’m hoping we get a strong card.

“People will be in betting shops, watching racing from early on as it’s Grand National day.

“We’ve had a huge amount of interest. We have a contingent from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce coming, some 200 people.

“They came last year in the summer and now they’re coming back on this Saturday morning – they loved it that much!

“We were a little worried about the crowd to begin with but since it’s been out there we’ve had a huge uptake in the restaurants.

“The other restaurants are full and it’s proved not to be an issue, people do want to come.

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“I can see it’s a long way to come for some people but maybe they’ll come the night before, stay and leave after racing.

“If you put the money up, people will come.”

Next Saturday, April 13, will be a huge day of racing in Britain with further meetings at Chepstow, Newcastle, Yarmouth and Wolverhampton.

Aintree is the big one though, with the Grand National due off at 4pm.

The £1million race will look different this year, with the biggest change being the number of runners slashed to 34 from 40.

It looks like Harry Redknapp may fall foul of that rule change, despite his horse, named after a West Ham fan, being the most backed with Paddy Power since they went non-runner money back.

Shakem Up’Arry was a brilliant winner of the Plate Handicap Chase at Cheltenham Festival.

And he has been backed into 33-1 from 66s – but at 44th on the list of potential runners, he needs another ten to drop out to get a run.

Graham said Chelmsford will remain open for punters if they wish to stay at the track and watch the action from Merseyside on TV.

He added: “We’re just trying to find out what the level of interest is and whether it’s financially viable

“But if people want to stay, have lunch and bet through the afternoon and watch the Grand National, then we’ll make that available to them.”


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