Ross-on-Wye Civic Society

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Ross-on-Wye & District Civic Society newsletter Autumn 2003 (number 81)

It may not be widely known that 80-odd years ago Ross had its own racecourse, where official races under National Hunt rules were staged, i.e. the equivalent of racecourses such as Hereford and Chepstow today.

The course was at Moor Meadow, which is the flood meadow between the A40 and the River Wye, which one passes immediately after leaving Wilton on the way to Monmouth. The course was roughly circular within the "U" shape the river makes at this point. A contemporary commentator notes, "The going in bad weather is very heavy". Passing the flooded fields in winter, one thinks that "choppy" might be a better description of the going! At least the course was all grass, whereas other racecourses at that time sometimes incorporated stretches of plough.

There is a report of steeplechasing at Ross in 1836, making it one of the earliest established venues for jump racing. However use of the course seems to have been intermittent, perhaps because of its liability to flooding. There were races between 1897 and 1905, and then a revival in 1921 and 1922, but the 29th September of that year saw the last ever fixture, although the site was subsequently used for trotting races.

The standard of racing and the prize money seem to have been on the low side - in 1921 each race was worth 58 to the winner - but the fixtures did attract some famous racing names. One was a gentleman who rejoiced in the name of The Hon. Aubrey Craven Theophilus Robin Hood Hastings. He trained four Grand National winners, riding one of them himself. At a 1902 Ross meeting he won two races with the same horse, winning a hurdle race and then an hour later a steeplechase. Racehorses were evidently bred to be tough in those days.

Although Ross no longer supports a racecourse, the area has remained a centre for the training of National Hunt racehorses. Until recent years Caradoc Court at Sellack housed a successful training yard, and now Venetia Williams, one of the country's leading trainers, operates from Aramstone, Kings Caple.

*Information from "A Long Time Gone" by Chris Pitt, a book about lost racecourses.

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