This history of the Haverfordwest Racecourse is kindly provided by John Slusar. The source of this text and his photos can be found here.
Earliest meeting: Tuesday 30th August 1768
Final meeting: Thursday 11th April 1901
The earliest recorded race meeting to take place in Haverfordwest, the county town of Pembrokeshire, was in 1768 when a two day meeting was held on Tuesday 30th and Wednesday 31st August. On the first day the Purse was won by Mr Wilkin’s bay horse Lofty after two heats, defeating Rambridge and Nonpareil, while the next day a Hunter’s Plate saw Mr Bowen’s Garret beat Brown Charlotte. After a day off for hunting on the Thursday, the Town Purse was scheduled to take place on Friday but only two horses entered, each being awarded five Guineas.
The Bath Chronicle provided a detailed report of the meeting held on Tuesday 29th June 1773 ‘to cater for gentry pursuits’ on Portfield, or Poorfield, a large area of common land just outside the town. A few days prior to the meeting subscribers had to meet at the Castle Inn in the town to register their entries; the Inn also played host on the day of the races by providing Ordinaries. Celebrations at that inaugural meeting extended over a 5 day period to include three days of horse racing, a boat race and a yacht race. The principal race at that early meeting, the Hunters Purse, was won by Mr Bowen’s chestnut gelding Garret, getting the better of Crab and Childers.
Meetings continued for almost 40 years until a three day event from Monday 10th to Wednesday 12th August 1812. The meeting opened with a four mile all-age Handicap which was won by Mr Powell’s Ad-Libitum from Kill Devil owned by Mr Colby. The next day the four mile race was restricted to horses bred in Wales, with Mr Batine’s Surprize springing a surprise against the more fancied Mountain Lass. The festival concluded on the Wednesday with a Free Plate sponsored by Mr Campbell which provided Ad-Libitum with a second victory at the meeting.
By 1829 the meeting moved to a new location bisected by the B4327 Dale Road; the former racecourse was later taken over by the Cricket Club, the oldest Cricket Club in Wales founded in 1824. The initial two day meeting, staged from Wednesday 26th to Thursday 27th August 1829, opened with the Tradesmen’s Plate run in 2 mile heats. Only two heats were required before Mr Lucas’s The Deuce was declared the winner. The remainder of the two day meeting was dominated by Mr Allies brown 6 year old Sailor, winning the County Members’ Plate on the Wednesday; the Plate sponsored by local MP Sir R B P Phillips, the Orielton Stakes over three and a half miles, and the concluding one mile Handicap Sweepstakes.
There was then a prolonged, continuous spell of racing which ended in 1845, although results towards the end of this period were not included in the Racing Calendars. Racing was revived for a single year in 1862 when a meeting took place on Thursday 20th November 1862, opening with the Town Plate when Mr Powell’s Biscuit defeated, amongst others, Gingerbread. The Handicap was won by Mr Yates’ Southampton and the Farmers’ Stakes by Mr G Thomas’s Freshwater.
Both Flat and National Hunt racing were revived between 1887 and 1901 at a much improved Portfield course, although they were often billed as ‘Pembrokeshire Hunt’, the very last meeting to be staged on Portfield Common was on Thursday 11th April 1901.
Further information can be found in John’s book “Volume 3 of ‘Racecourses Here Today and gone Tomorrow” (ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7) which contains a brief history of Havefordwest Racecourse as well as all current and former Welsh and Scottish racecourses. Scroll to the bottom of this page for details.