Everything You Need To Know About Sandown Racecourse
Last updated & tested: 2020-03-28
Sandown Park opened in 1875 on the outskirts of Greater London near the town of Esher in Surrey and is known for creating a number of innovations in horse racing. It was the first venue in England to have a members’ enclosure. Sandown races encompass both Flat and National Hunt, like Ascot some 20 miles or so away in the neighbouring county of Berkshire. This track used to be home to the National Hunt Chase before the 4m endurance test for amateur riders was moved to Cheltenham and became part of the Festival held there in March. There are major Sandown Park events throughout the racing year and we’ll tell you more about the big races at this course below.
The significance of Sandown results can shape the betting at Cheltenham over jumps, Royal Ascot on the level and for the following season across both spheres too with a number of key trials that happen here. There’s something going on in Esher racing wise throughout much of the year and that is a distinct advantage of it being a dual-purpose venue. They include six Grade 1 events in National Hunt and the prestigious Group 1 Coral-Eclipse which is a highlight of the Flat calendar during midsummer.
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What Sandown Park events can you bet on?
As you may already know, Sandown horse racing is a regular fixture during the course of the racing year. It is home to both top class jumps and Flat contests. National Hunt is more of a staple in the winter months, notably from December through until April. Any Sandown Park events run on the Flat course, which like the National Hunt one is a right-handed galloping track that really tests horses, tend to be from April through until the autumn. Let’s learn more about Sandown races meeting by meeting…
Tolworth Hurdle gets New Year off to a flier
The first weekend in January is best known for being when the FA Cup third round ties are played and the big Premier League clubs enter the competition. Going up against this rich footballing tradition on the Saturday, however, is a Grade 1 race for novice hurdlers in the form of the Tolworth Hurdle.
A 2m event open to horses aged four and up, the honour roll includes the great Desert Orchid (1984), French Holly (1998) and some very useful sorts in recent years. L’Ami Serge (2015) is the most recent of five winners trained by Nicky Henderson – the most successful handler in Tolworth history.
The 2018 renewal of this was particularly strong as the winner Summerville Boy and runner-up Kalashnikov both came out and won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and Betfair Hurdle – a fiendishly tricky handicap at Newbury – respectively. Supporting the Tolworth are a Listed mares’ hurdle over 2m 4f and a number of handicap races.
Scilly Isles turns on the style in February
About a month or so after the Tolworth, there’s more top jumps action at Sandown racecourse as a card headed by another Grade 1 – the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase over an extended 2m 4f – takes place. Best Mate (2001) is by far the most famous winner of this race and he went on to land three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup renewals between 2002 and 2004.
Before 1988, the Scilly Isles was a two-mile race but since then has been become an event for potential stayers. Seven Barrows trainer Henderson is the top handler in this race as with the Tolworth, having saddled six winners in total and four since 2013. They include Oscar Whisky, who was a very useful hurdler,
Also on the Scilly Isles card is a Listed conditions race called the Contenders Hurdle, which as its name suggests has been used by some of the contenders for the Champion Hurdle as a prep run for the big one at Cheltenham. Famous winners include National Spirit, Lanzarote, Sea Pigeon, Binocular and Buveur d’Air, who all landed the race twice. One-time Contenders Hurdle winners include triple Champion Hurdle hero See You Then, Rooster Booster, the mighty Desert Orchid and Bird’s Nest.
There’s a Grade 3 handicap hurdle for stayers on this day too over about 2m 7f and the French trained Baracouda (2004), who also landed many of the top prizes in this division in the UK, is a notable victor. The Gainsborough Chase – a 3m handicap over fences – used to be a key Gold Cup trial won by the likes of Mill House, Desert Orchid, Crisp, Burrough Hill Lad and Bregawn and held Grade 2 status previously. This event has been downgraded since those great staying chasers stopped turning up at Sandown races and prepped for Cheltenham elsewhere.
Get in the mood in March with Grand Military Gold and Imperial Cup meeting
One of the wonderful things about the armed forces and the British Army in particular is the rich military tradition of horseback riding. That is celebrated at Sandown on the Friday before the Cheltenham Festival with the Grand Military Gold Cup for amateur riders from the armed forces over 3m.
The following day the pros take over with the Imperial Cup – an equally competitive handicap hurdle at an extended two miles. A bonus is offered to any horse and connections who are willing to take the winner of this race on to the Cheltenham Festival to contest the County Hurdle six days later.
There’s also a Grade 3 novices’ handicap hurdle over almost 2m 4f limited to four to seven-year-olds which was landed by Albertas Run in 2007 – the only horse to date who has won the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham more than once. A Listed mares’ bumper or National Hunt Flat Race as this event type is officially known rounds off the main races on the Imperial Cup card.
Gordon Richards Stakes and Jumps Finale back-to-back in April
Sandown horse racing is known for being across codes and nowhere is this celebrated than during their two-day meeting at the end of April. The Friday is all about the Flat with the feature races being the Group 2 Sandown Mile and 1m 2f Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes for older horses, plus the Classic Trial over the same trip for three-year-olds.
That latter contest hasn’t really been much of a trial for the Epsom Derby, though Benny The Dip who was runner-up in the race in 1997 went on to land the spoils in the premier Classic. This Flat card also contains the Esher Cup Handicap – a stern test over a mile for three-year-old horses. The competitive nature of this Sandown card is certainly matched on the Saturday when the end of National Hunt season Jumps Finale event takes place.
Formerly known as the Whitbread Gold Cup, the feature race is a Grade 3 staying handicap chase over almost 3m 5f. Arkle, Desert Orchid, Mill House and Mr Frisk are great winners of this contest which in more recent years has developed a reputation for producing shock Sandown results.
The Celebration Chase is the big Grade 1 2m race on this card won five times by Ditcheat trainer Paul Nicholls, though long-time rival Nicky Henderson has dominated recent renewals. Sire de Grugy and Altior are two of the three dual winners of this revent.
There’s also a Grade 2 race over fences in the Oaksey Chase over nearly 2m 7f which was dominated by Menorah, who won it four times. Completing the main events on this day is a similar grade affair over hurdles, the Select Hurdle over an intermediate distance of more than 2m 5f. Owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede won back-to-back runnings courtesy of L’Ami Serge and Call Me Lord.
Brigadier Gerard card the Thursday night delight in May
The flat season really starts to heat up in May ahead of The Derby Festival at Epsom and Royal Ascot in June. While the month starts with the Guineas at Newmarket and Dante Festival at York, Sandown also has a part to play on its Brigadier Gerard Stakes evening on a Thursday towards the end of the month.
It’s a cracking card headed by a Group 3 event over 1m 2f for the older horses named in honour of Brigadier Gerard – a classy colt who was beaten just once in his career when contesting the race we know today as the Juddmonte International at York’s Ebor Festival. As for the Brigadier Gerard Stakes itself, Sir Michael Stoute has trained 10 winners down the years.
Supporting that main event are a couple of Listed races. The National Stakes for juveniles over the flying five furlongs is one of those, while the other is the Heron Stakes – a mile contest for three-year-old also won 10 times by Stoute. Another Group 3 in the Henry II Stakes for older stayers over 2m adds great variety to the action on offer at Sandown on this card, with the Whitsun Cup Handicap also contested by four-year-olds and up at a mile.
Coral-Eclipse – The summer highlight in July
Coral sponsor the entire card of the day that Eclipse Stakes is run in early July. It’s a long-standing partnership between the bookmaker and Sandown racecourse which, from a Flat perspective at least, has this Group 1 test over 1m 2f as the jewel in its crown. Open to three-year-olds and up, the Eclipse was first run in 1886, yet in all that time just five horses have won it more than once.
Mill Reef (1971), the aforementioned Brigadier Gerard (1972), Sadler’s Wells (1984), Dancing Brave (1986), Giant’s Causeway (2001), Sea The Stars (2009), Nathaniel (2012) and Golden Horn (2015) are just some of the modern greats to have won the Coral-Eclipse. With a generous weight-for-age allowance for the three-year-olds, many Epsom Derby or 2000 Guineas winners target this event against their elders
A Group 3 sprint over 5f won by Battaash in 2017 who went on to be the top rated Flat horse in his sphere anywhere in the world is one of the main supporting races on the Eclipse card. A Listed event for fillies only over a mile is another and there is a similar grade affair for stayers and some competitive handicaps for punters to tease out too.
Solario Stakes centre stage in September or August
Depending on when the Ebor Festival at York falls, the following weekend can either be in August or September and it’s on this day when a couple of Group 3 races at held at Sandown. The more historic of the two is the Solario Stakes – a 7f juveniles only contest that was famously won by Oh So Sharp (1984), who is the last filly and horse to complete the Flat Thoroughbred Triple Crown.
More recent Solario winners include subsequent Classic heroes Kingman (2013, Irish 2000 Guineas) and Masar (2017, Epsom Derby), who scored big successes as three-year-olds the following season. The Atlanta Stakes, meanwhile, is a mile event for fillies and mares only where a weight-for-age allowance is given to any female who is three.
Tingle Creek Festival – A December dish
And the final major meeting of the year for Sandown horse racing is the two-day Tingle Creek Festival. This event is usually the week following the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup) at Newbury and the week before The International meeting at Cheltenham, so is an established part of the National Hunt calendar.
The Grade 2 Winter Novices’ Hurdle over almost 2m 4f is the feature race on the Friday and is a trial for horses that go on to contest either the Ballymore or Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival. Many great stayers have come out of this race, including subsequent King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner See More Business (1995), triple World Hurdle hero Inglis Drever (2003) and 2012 Grand National victor Neptune Collonges (2005).
Tingle Creek day itself, the Saturday has some big racing supporting the main event. The Listed 2m December Handicap Hurdle, like the 3m 5f London National Handicap Chase, is often a tough nut to crack for punters. As for the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, this Grade 1 contest over 2m which, has thrown up some very useful sorts when subsequently stepping up into open company. Altior (2016) is by far the most famous winner of this race.
But nothing quite compares to the roll of honour for the Tingle Creek Chase over the same course and distance as the Henry VIII. Some of the finest over fences in modern times have landed the spoils here and they include Desert Orchid (1988), Viking Flagship (1994), Flagship Uberalles (1999, 2000, 2001), Moscow Flyer (2003, 2004), Kauto Star (2005, 2006), Twist Magic (2007, 2009), Master Minded (2008, 2010), Sprinter Sacre (2012) and Un De Sceaux (2016). The Tingle Creek was a handicap until 1994 when it was awarded Grade 1 status.
Who is the best bookmaker for betting on Sandown racecourse events?
In light of the fact they have a long-standing sponsorship in place with the Eclipse Stakes and that is the biggest prize on offer at Sandown, Coral are our recommended bookie for betting on all the action at Esher. This stalwart of the High Street are involved with the entire card on Eclipse day and that means there’s plenty of extras and bonuses on offer to you as a punter. Coral often lay on a bet through the card new customer offer if you haven’t signed up to them before, giving you bonuses to use on the rest of the races if you join and bet on the first.
Even if you’re an existing Coral customer, then there’s something for you too. Extra places and enhanced terms on each-way bets are common on the handicaps here and throughout the season. The Coral Bet & Get Club also gives you bonuses to use if you’re a regular punter and place a certain amount of bets in money before the weekend so you get a little something extra to play with then. Coral also offer the best odds guaranteed on all UK and Irish horse racing, so you know you’ll get winnings paid at the starting price if horses you back are returned at bigger odds.
All the Sandown races betting tips you need right here
There’s a lot going on horse racing wise at Sandown throughout the course of the year then, and that means you need a place where you can get great betting tips whether it’s Flat or jumps. And that is where we come in. OpenOdds employ expert tipsters with horse racing backgrounds and years of experience who will have all angles covered. This helps you to make an informed choice. Modern life is busy and there’s not always time to study all the form yourself. Our experts are happy to do that legwork for you and based on it will put forward the horse they think is the value bet and most likely to win. Given how competitive many of the great races taking place at Sandown are, however, means that there will like as not be dangers to the main selection. We’ll also tell you which horses look most likely to lay down the biggest challenge.
For big handicaps, each-way betting is an essential part of your gambling strategy, so our tipsters will always look at those with bigger prices that could outrun their odds and make the frame at least. It almost goes without saying that we’ll direct you the top prices available at the time of writing, but please remember horse racing markets are subject to constant change. You’ve got a great service that you can count on when you look at the betting tips on offer through OpenOdds.
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Take some expert advice onboard before betting on Sandown races
There are also many other things to consider when it comes to Sandown Park. If you’re thinking of taking a long-term punt in an ante post market on a big race like the Tingle Creek or Coral-Eclipse, then it’s all well and good knowing past Sandown results but it’s entries that matter for these early closing contests. You can find all the latest news on major horse racing events whatever the course on OpenOdds. Rest assured, we take a betting first approach to announcements of entries and weights so you understand what is happening in the top class group and graded events, plus handicaps. Our experts are in the know and that means you can be too!
We’re also doing something for people who are new to gambling. After pledging to help inexperienced punters become clued up to the world of horse racing and sports betting, we’ve produced the OpenOdds glossary which is full of articles that explain key terms of both industries to you in an easy to understand way. Want to know the difference between a trifecta and a Tote placepot? Now you’ve got a handy resource at your disposal right here! We’re on a mission to equip you with the essential knowledge needed that underpins betting on the horses.