The history of horse racing in Hull

Yorkshire has strong ties to the horse racing industry. Although people often think of Newmarket, Aintree, Ascot, and Cheltenham when it comes to major racing events (and they’re right to), Hull has a history of horse riding excellence. Beverley Racecourse in the East Riding is the obvious connection, but there are more.

Image credit: (CC BY 2.0) by MBandman

The Sport of Kings has mainstream appeal

Before we dive into the history of horse racing in Hull, let’s put the sport in context.

Almost anyone with an interest in sport has heard of races such as the Grand National. The annual National Hunt race takes place in April and, every year, newspapers and websites are filled with Grand National Festival ante post tips from experts such as Tony Calvin. For example, in 2023, Corach Rambler is getting a lot of attention from tipsters at 7/1 odds after a strong showing at the Cheltenham Festival.

Such is the appeal and drama of the Grand National that it’s become a national pastime, with millions of people watching and betting on it. From seasoned punters to casual fans, the Grand National is ingrained in British culture. Between the Grand National and other major festivals, including Royal Ascot, the Guineas and Cheltenham, the British racing industry generates over £4 billion worth of economic activity and contributes £300 million in tax for the Exchequer.

Put simply, horse racing is a massive sport and, if we scroll through the annals of time, Hull has contributed to its current state. Beverley Racecourse opened its doors in 1690 and, since then, it’s welcomed millions of racing fans and some of the best runners ever to race around a track. While Beverley Racecourse shines brightest, racing also took place on Anlaby Common during the 18th century. Although the area is now famous because of the MKM Stadium, it was once the site of early races, including the Great East Riding Handicap and the Hedon Plate.

From Anlaby Common to Hedon

Image credit: (CC BY 2.0) by MBandman

Records show that local patrons such as the Duke of Cleveland were instrumental in organising the races and putting up purses worth £50. However, after successfully running races from 1751, the events stopped in 1796 when jockey George Herring, a former St Leger winner, was killed riding Gypsy. The end of racing on Anlaby Common didn’t dampen interest in the sport. Efforts to host flat events at Hedon began in 1883 and, by 1888, the Great East Riding Handicap and the Benninga Cup were born. The East Riding Club oversaw races at Hedon until the Hull Racecourse Company Limited took charge in 1901.

The Hull Racecourse Company Limited managed the course until its final meeting in September 1909. Like the demise of Anlaby Common, the end of Hedon didn’t mean the end of racing in Hull. Beverley remains a hub for racing activity, while top trainers such as Harriet Bethell have shown that Hull can produce world-class racing talent. It may not be the biggest draw in horse racing, but Hull has a history in the sport that can’t be denied. That’s something we can all be proud of as Hullensians.