Stratford’s racing pedigree and what the future holds - The Stratford Observer

Stratford’s racing pedigree and what the future holds

Stratford Editorial 1st Mar, 2024   0

It would be difficult to find a sport with as much enduring popularity as horse racing. Originating with the Olympic Games in 700 BCE and brought to these shores by the Roman Empire, it has long been a staple of public entertainment. Over time, the sport’s appeal has spread all around the world, making its way to eastern territories as the British empire began to expand in the 17th century. Today, horse racing in the UK is booming with multiple well-established racecourses and a packed racing calendar. Whether you’re a regular attendee at your local venue, or you just follow the most prestigious events on TV, horse racing undoubtedly remains an indelible part of British culture.

History of the Stratford races

Long before the first running of the iconic Cheltenham festival, Stratford-upon-Avon’s very own Shottery Meadow played host to the earliest recorded Stratford races way back in 1718 – just seven years after Queen Anne founded the very first racecourse in the country, the famous Royal Ascot. Racing has remained an integral part of life in our town ever since, with events being scheduled regularly between March and November. The venue welcomes individual guests and families alike to watch a race and enjoy a picnic.

The future of horse racing

The UK horse racing industry is set to undergo some major changes this year with improvements in key areas such as safety, sustainability as well as diversity and inclusion firmly at the forefront. Stricter veterinary checks are coming into force, and course conditions and riding helmets are being held to a higher standard to ensure the safety of horses and jockeys alike. Racecourses, including Stratford, are also doubling down their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, introducing new water conservation and waste management measures and setting up new, greener, facilities and transportation.

The country’s leading racing organisations have also spoken in recent years of their commitment to creating an environment where everyone feels welcome to watch, and take part in, the sport. We may soon be seeing more jockeys from underrepresented groups realise their dream of competing in the coming years thanks to academies upping their initiatives to broaden inclusivity. Khadijah Mellah’s historic win at Goodwood in 2019 is evidence of the talent coming through from diverse backgrounds.

Technology will continue to enhance the fan experience, for both race-goers and those following the action from afar. One can use a greater range of data and statistics to find their favourites at Cheltenham than ever before, there are more ways to watch or listen to races from home or on the go, tickets and travel can be sorted more easily thanks to smartphones and high-speed internet. The sport’s global reach looks set to expand too. Over several centuries, it has garnered fans all around the world and will only continue to do so in the coming years and decades. Not only is it one of the most watched sports in the UK but, in recent years, the Japanese market has particularly seen sizeable growth. According to the National Association of Racing (NAR), approximately 2.1 million people attended horse races there in 2022. And interest seems to be steadily increasing throughout Asia too, with Hong Kong, China, and Singapore also hosting several of their own events. The US is still the dominant territory, however, with its market size on course to more than double in value by 2030 – up to just over $800bn!

Horse racing at Stratford-upon-Avon and beyond

Horse racing has been massively popular for thousands of years, and that will never change. Historic racing towns in the UK such as Stratford-upon-Avon and surrounding areas are thriving and drawing more visitors than ever before. The future of the sport certainly appears to be in rude health.


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