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Earliest meeting: Thursday 3rd April 1862
Final meeting: Wednesday 18th March 1936
The first occasion races, organised by the Rugby Hunt Committee, took place in the Warwickshire town of Rugby was in 1862 on what was deemed to be a wholly unsuitable course at the time for steeplechasing.  However, over time the course at nearby Clifton-on-Dunsmore improved and the mile and a half circuit received praise from racing pundits. Its drainage was improved and its fences described as ‘natural’, especially the water jumps which were actual brooks that were 12 feet and 8 feet wide. However, on Thursday 3rd April 1862 a large crowd was in attendance to witness the third running of the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup which had been held on both previous occasions at Market Harborough. The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, over 4 miles and 24 fences, is now contested at the annual Cheltenham Festival in March, but in 1862 it was held at Rugby and won by Fidget, ridden by George Skipworth and owned by Mr Fitzoldacre. The very next year the racecourse was chosen to host one of the most prestigious meetings in the National Hunt calendar, the Grand Military Meeting. The winner of the first running at Rugby of the principal event was Rifleman ridden by Captain G W H Riddell, and it was held at Rugby in 1864 when Bell’s Life, ridden by Captain Arthur Smith, was victorious. Further Grand Military meetings were held here in 1865 and 1868, and from 1873 to 1876. This proved to be a great hunting ground for the rider Captain Hope Johnstone who won three times during this period. The last time the Grand Military Gold Cup was staged at Rugby was in 1880 when Cymrw was successful when ridden by Mr H Dalbiac. On Tuesday 29th March 1881 the jockey Charlie Cunningham had a ‘Frankie Dettori moment’ at Rugby when he claimed 6 victories. Although Frankie went through the seven race card at Ascot, Cunningham won on 6 of his 7 rides, and it was an 8 race card. Although the meeting ceased during the First World War, it returned soon afterwards, changing the day on which it took place annually. The final meeting was staged on Wednesday 18th March 1936.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 1 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.

Local Patrons

Captain E W Park-Yates, Major George Wombwell, George William Knox, Captain Hope Johnstone

Principal Races

National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, Grand Military Gold Cup, Rugby Hunt Open Chase

Thursday 3rd April 1862
National Hunt Cup over 4 miles
1. Fidget, 12st 7lbs owned by Mr Oldaker
2. Proceed, 13st owned by Mr Handley
3. Green Drake, 12st 7lbs owned by Mr Holyoake
Betting: 3/1 Proceed, 4/1 Fidget, 6/1 Czar, 7/1 Lutterworth

Although the meeting ceased during the First World War, it returned soon afterwards and changed the day on which it took place annually. The final meeting took place on Wednesday 18th March 1936.

Course today The course at Clifton-on-Dunsmore still exists today and is used by the Atherstone Hunt for its point-to-point meetings.
If you have photos, postcards, racecards. badges, newspaper cuttings or book references about the old course, or can provide a photo of how the ground on which the old racecourse stood looks today, then email

Much of the information about this course has been found using internet research and is in the public domain. However, useful research sources have been:-

London Illustrated News

Racing Illustrated 1895-1899

The Sporting & Dramatic Illustrated

Northern Turf History Volumes 1-4 by J.Fairfax-Blakeborough

The Sporting Magazine

A Long Time Gone by Chris Pitt first published in 1996 ISBN 0 900599 89 8

Racing Calendars which were first published in 1727

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

Copies of the above books are only available by emailing stating your requirements, method of payment (cheque payable to W.Slusar) or Bank transfer, and the address where the book(s) should be sent.
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  Quantity Cost
Volume 1 North of Hatfield £19.99 + £4 postage    
Volume 2 South of Hatfield £14.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 3 Wales & Scotland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 4 Ireland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volumes 1 - 4 £54.96 + £5 postage    
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