Warwick Racecourse celebrated three centuries of equine entertainment in style yesterday as thousands of racegoers braved the weather to join in the festivities.
Marching bands, Horse Guards and Olympic riders all converged on the site to celebrate 300 years of racing at the town's track. The Midland course has a proud history and is believed to have been the birthplace of National Hunt racing.
Thousands of fans attended the celebrations, which included six races, arts stalls and a host of family entertainment. Managing director Huw Williams said the large crowd had helped to make the anniversary a historic occasion.
He said: "The weather could have been better, but it didn't stop more than 2,000 people enjoying themselves. It was a great crowd and a great spirit."
Mr Williams added: "This is an exciting year for Warwick Racecourse. In addition to the 300th anniversary celebrations, there is a £2 million revamp taking place, including a new glass-fronted restaurant.
"There will also be new weighing and changing rooms for the jockeys; the winner's enclosure is to be relocated to the parade ring, and there is a new start for six-furlong races."
Festivities began at 11.45am with a marching band striding from Warwick's Market Square to the course escorted by Horse Guards. The highlight of the afternoon was the £26,000 totesport.com Eternal Stakes.
Warwick, which stages 23 race meetings each year, holds an important place in the history of racing, as it was the first course to include a jump race in its programme. That proved to be a crucial step in establishing National Hunt racing as we know it.
The course has played host to many famous thoroughbreds in its time, with future Grand National hat-trick legend Red Rum making a rare outing on flat ground in 1967.
And Warwick's Grand National links are commemorated by the Chandler Suite, named after the 1848 Grand National winner. Chandler is widely regarded as one of the finest horses ever to take to the turf and in an 1847 race at Warwick, cleared the third fence "Gog Brook" with a leap of 37 feet, the longest on record.