Thursday, 27 December 2012

Why Race Courses are Clockwise or Anti Clockwise

From the Horse Racing Hall of Fame Library


Australia offers both right (clockwise) and left handed (anti-clockwise) courses, with right handed being the order of the day in New South Wales and Queensland, and left handed in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

In his Histrory of Australian Thoroughbred Racing (vol 1, p.232), Andrew Lemon explains how these differences in courses came about: “The Melbourne Racecourse (ie. Flemington) inspired imitations across the colony, and nearly all adopted the same left-handed (or anti-clockwise) way or running, the opposite to the favoured way in New South Wales. The main reason for this difference was simply geograpic, as in England, where the site of the racecourse dictated the direction of the running. But once the leading town had made its decision, the country courses followed unless there were compelling reasons to the contrary. The first official racing calendar in the colony, the “Turf Register”, listed a number of Victorian courses that raced right handed (Bairnsdale, Bendigo, Kerang, Sale, Talbot and Warrnambool), although within twenty years all of them had changed to the Melbourne way”.


England is distinguished by having both left and right-handed courses, the reason being the particular topography of each location. The courses are as follows:

Left-handed (21): Ayr, Bath, Brighton, Catterick, Chepstow, Chester, Doncaster, Epsom, Ffos Las, Yarmouth, Haydock, Lingfield, Newbury, Nottingham, Pontefract, Redcar, Southwell, Thirsk, Wolverhampton, Warwick, York

Right-handed (14):  Ascot, Beverley, Carlisle, Folkestone, Goodwood, Hamilton Park, Kempton, Leicester, Musselburgh, Newmarket, Ripon, Salisbury, Sandown Park, Windsor

United States of America

American courses are uniformly left-handed (and uniformly oval in shape and mostly of dirt surfaces).

The noted English racing journalist, David Ashforth, believes that 18th century colonial politics were influential in persuading the Americans to race left-handed. Thoroughbred racing in colonial America was centred on Virginia where it was an elitist activity, identified with the ruling British authorities. Races were run right-handed. The War of Independence brought a reaction against all things British, including the way in which racing had been conducted. In the 1780s an American pioneer settler, Colonel William Whitley, established the Sportsman’s Hill course in Kentucky where the horses ran left-handed (on dirt), and the spectators were able to participate in a democratic manner, on equal terms with each other. Sportsman’s Hill quickly became the model for racing throughout the United States, and by the time of Whitley’s death in 1813, left-handed tracks had become the established practice.. In 1993 a monument was erected on the site of the course “dedicated to the racetrack that changed the direction of horse racing in the US”.

Two determined, but ultimately futile, attempts were made during the 19th and early 20th century to re-introduce right handed racing in the United States. Monmouth Park, a right-handed track in New Jersey, was opened in 1890, but was forced to close three years later because of public and industry opposition to it. In 1905 the grandest and most opulent racecourses in the country, Belmont Park, was opened in New York. Its founder, the banker, August Belmont, had participated successfully on the English turf for many years, and determined that it should race right-handed. The experiment, however, was not successful, and in 1921 it was changed to left-handed. The last right-handed race run on the course was Man o’ War’s victory in the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of his Triple Crown triumph.


Have both left-handed and right-handed courses.


Have both left-handed and right-handed courses.

New Zealand

New Zealand has both left and right-handed tracks

South Africa

South Africa has both left and right-handed tracks

Hong Kong

The two courses, Happy Valley and Sha Tin, are both right-handed.


The ten racecourses under the control of the JRA include both left and right-handed courses


The Meydan course is left-handed.


  1. Man o'War did not win the Triple Crown. He won the Preakness and Belmont, but did not run in the Kentucky Derby.

  2. The United Kingdom is NOT England. It includes Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. The Ayr, Hamilton Park and Musselburgh race tracks you list under England are all in Scotland.

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  12. man o war did not win the triple crown as we all know it (ken. derby, Preakness, bel. stakes) he did win three big Belmont races some called triple crown.he was one of the greatest ever, tho & his son war admiral won the crown soon after man o wars run

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