In January 2017 the worrying news broke that Kempton Park’s future could be terminal. Under plans announced by the Jockey Club, the track would be sold for millions of pounds and redeveloped into housing, whilst the money raised would fund upgrades at near-by Sandown Park and a new, state of the art floodlight track in Newmarket. It seems the course, opened in 1878, is set to be the sacrificial lamb in a political battle about the need for more housing for London. So the clock is now ticking on the venue with the closure scheduled for 2021.
Kempton Park stages National Hunt and flat racing, with the most famous race being the grade 1 King George VI Chase held every Boxing Day along with the Feltham Novices’ Chase whilst on the last weekend of February Kempton also hosts the grade 3 jumps BetBright Chase.
The course offers one main grandstand, with a superb panoramic restaurant on the 2nd floor that is open to all. It has an all-weather floodlight track meaning that winter midweek evening meetings are popular.
Every Sunday the course hosts a car boot sale whilst at various times during the year there are other non-racing events such as a Christmas Market.
Our last visit – October 2016
What to buy the girl who has been there, done that for her birthday? Obviously, a night at the races! Whilst there were only a few hundred at Kempton Park for a Tuesday night meeting in October, the warmth of the staff and the customer experience put the track up there with the best. The bonus of coming to Kempton is the Panoramic restaurant, with a trackside booth secured with just a single email to the efficient sales staff.
Alas, our “friend” the M25 led to a delayed arrival and missed the first race. However, with drinks sorted and the girls happy in the warmth with a perfect view of proceedings, we had a good feeling about the second, where Isabella’s Willow Spring duly delivered the first return of the evening with a 12/1 e/w in second.
I’d worked no more than 2 miles away from Kempton for over 3 years but scandelously neglected visiting bar for a midweek lunchtime during Christmas market season. The news that the track had been pencilled in for closure is sad, although located so close to Sandown Park probably didn’t do it any favours when decisions were being made.
A very pleasing 25/1 e/w in the third race with Island Cloud was followed by 20/1 Golden Nectar in the 6:55pm. This was turning into some birthday evening for CMF. In the fifth I ventured down to the on-course bookies looking for some value. Iron Lady at 66/1 it had to be, remembering that Maggie was a Libran. “Good luck with that one” said the bookie – what do they know about racing anyway? Well quite alot as it finished 6th out of 7 horses.
The final race saw a Jimmy Quinn trained 50/1 outsider. Could it, could I? Sod it, let’s do it. £1 e/w and lo and behold it finished 2nd. This is officially CMF’s best birthday ever. Of course I hide my smile as I return to the table – alas Lolly’s newly acquired GCSE Maths means she has already worked out I’d won a nice sum. “Champagne” she cried…don’t get too carried away, Prosecco will do fine.
Whats the track like?: One of the most versitile tracks in England with flat, jumps and a flood-lift all weather track. Horses run anti-clockwise, coming up the hill to the finish line.
Admission: Kempton is one of the most reasonable venues to watch horse racing in the UK with advanced admission starting from just £9 for many races, especially those midweek meetings in the winter. For the bigger meetings advance tickets can be picked up for around £16. Kempton also offer a “Winners Package” which includes Food/Drink/Racecard/Free Bet.
Food & Drink: There’s plenty of eating options inside the main stand as well as on the concourse area. But the shining star at Kempton is the Panoramic Restaurant on the 2nd Floor of the Main Stand which offers excellent value food as well as superb views over the track. The restaurant can be booked in advance as well as for quieter meetings, walk ups. Email them beforehand to try and bag a window seat.
Address: Kempton Park, Staines Road East, Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, TW16 5AQ
Directions: One of the easiest race courses to find and get to. It is located on the A308 between Sunbury on Thames and Hampton Court, less than one mile from Junction 1 of the M3 via Junction 12 of the M25. At the Sunbury roundabout take the A308 Staines Road East, go over the railway bridge then turn left into the car parks. Parking is free for most meetings although there is a charge for the grade 1 and 2 races.
Kempton Park boasts its own train station – Kempton Park – which is situated 200 yards from the North entrance. Trains run every half an hour direct from London Waterloo with the journey time being just 40 minutes.
Hotels near-by: The Holiday Inn Shepperton is located just 3 miles away from Kempton Park, set in 11 acres of ground with plenty of free parking, leisure club including indoor pool, 185 bedrooms and extensive food and beverage facilities. Call them on 01932 899900.