Chelmsford City Racecourse Guide

Welcome to our official guide to Chelmsford City Racecourse. In this section we explore this all-weather flat racing racecourse in detail, looking at its history, a guide to the tracks, hotel picks, fixtures, travel information, betting guides and even the weather!


The newest horseracing course in the UK, Chelmsford City Racecourse has operated for less than a decade and already has an eventful history! It is the first completely new course to open in Britain since Taunton Races, which opened back in 1927.

Chelmsford City Racecourse opened in 2008 but only has operated successfully for less than five full years of racing. It was originally known as Great Leighs racecourse (which is geographically accurate, as it is located in Great Leighs, halfway between Chelmsford and Braintree) but was renamed when purchased by Betfred in 2015. It’s often just referred to as ‘Chelmsford Racecourse’.

The track at Chelmsford City Racecourse is an all-weather left-handed course in an oval shape just over a mile in length, and hosts one mile and seven furlong races starting at different spurs. The course is Polytrack, so this combined with the oval shape of the course means that it is often compared to horseracing tracks in the USA.

Chelmsford City Racecourse has yet to have operated for long enough to have fully developed and established its place in the British horseracing scene, but that’s not to say it isn’t already making waves! The track design has been described by critics and commentators as ‘immaculate’, and the facilities on-site are modern and accommodating. Indeed as a result, Chelmsford City Racecourse plays home to plenty of non-racing events as well as the usual race meets, and its location, set in 150 acres of parkland, means that it’s a favoured picturesque venue for businesses and events of all types.

As a new and purpose-built modern course, Chelmsford City Racecourse plays an important role in the development of British horseracing. It runs ‘kids’ clubs’ for aspiring jockeys and trainers and works closely with the British Horseracing Authority to develop the business and offering where it can.

Racecourse History

Despite being the newest course in the country, Chelmsford City Racecourse has already made quite a mark! The course was designed and constructed by entrepreneurs John and Jonathan Holmes, who sought to open a course to serve the community of Essex, Hertfordshire and East London, as the nearest venue in the area was Newmarket. Chelmsford City was due to open in 2006 but due to delays did not manage to until April 2008, when invited attendees saw Temple of Thebes win the opening race. The course, however, drew criticism, as much of the visitor attraction was unfinished and not yet open. Within a year, the administrators were called in and its racing licence was revoked.

Several deals were pitched but none failed to materialise. By 2010, the administrators confirmed that they were discussing a new use for the venue so that it wouldn’t remain closed. However, MC Racetracks bought the course in 2011. They were unable to obtain a racing licence right away but went on to be granted one for 2015 after a syndicate, headed up by Betfred boss Fred Done, managed to convince the British Horseracing Authority to proceed. Some 12 fixtures were set and run.

In 2017, Chelmsford City Racecourse announced plans to build an on-site casino and a new turf course inside the existing track, but neither have yet happened.

Main Races and Events

Chelmsford City Racecourse doesn’t have the most packed of race schedules, but it is still a fledgling course and finding its feet amongst the other 59 in the UK. Notable races include April’s Cardinal Stakes, run over a mile, May’s Chelmer Fillies Stakes, run over seven furlongs, and June’s Queen Charlotte Fillies Stakes, run over six furlongs.

Other Events

Chelmsford City Racecourse is fast becoming a major events venue in Essex and so plays host to non-racing events as well as standard race days. The Clockstock music festival has taken place here for two years running (with future years planned) and darts evenings, including The Icons of Darts, have proved popular.

How To Get To Chelmsford City Racecourse

Chelmsford City Racecourse
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Chelmsford City Racecourse is just five miles north of Chelmsford and easily accessible by car. All parking on-site is free. Somewhat unusually, sat nav devices pick up the postcode just fine and will lead you straight to the car park entrance!

Buses from Chelmsford to Braintree stop close to the course, but are not ideal as there’s a busy dual carriageway to cross upon alighting. However, taxis do regularly pick up from the drop-off point and carry passengers directly and safely to the course.

Trains to both Chelmsford and Braintree run regularly from London Liverpool Street.

Hotels near Chelmsford City Racecourse

The nearest hotel to the racecourse is the Holiday Inn Braintree, just three minutes’ drive away. Other hotel options are split somewhat evenly between Chelmsford and Braintree, with some countryside accommodations as well.

As a fairly rural area, you’ll also find some great country pubs with rooms too, including The Compasses, Channels Lodge and The White Hart. As Chelmsford City Racecourse has yet to host many large events, you shouldn’t struggle too much to book a room in the surrounding areas, even at fairly short notice.

Betting Shops Local to Chelmsford City Racecourse

On-site, Chelmsford City Racecourse has several Tote kiosks (at least one in every enclosure) as well as roving Tote staff to help you place a bet even without visiting a dedicated area or shop. There are also independent bookmakers by the track on race days, but not as many as you may expect to see at other racecourses.

Chelmsford isn’t the biggest place in the world, but you’ll find branches of Ladbrokes, Coral and Betfred in the centre. Braintree has the same as well as branches of William Hill and BetCentral. Mobile signal in the area is good, so if you’re unable to bet in a shop, you can do so online through your mobile device.

Other racecourses

Our team as of May 2020 have reviewed these racecourse that you can also bet on: