With its large crowds and huge funfair, Cartmel rekindles the spirit and traditions of the original steeplechase meetings - it's a mix between a local festival, a sporting event and an annual pilgrimage for racing enthusiasts.
Cartmel only stages National Hunt (jump) racing. The earliest meetings traditionally coincided with the Whit Monday Holiday which is now fixed as the final Bank Holiday weekend in May - and this is still one of the most popular days for Cartmel racegoers. The racecourse now offers a total of seven days racing including the popular 2-day "barbecue" fixture in July when Cartmel's most valuable race is staged - the Cumbria Crystal Cup.
The season ends with the August Bank Holiday meeting which will have a new feature in 2014 - the highest class race ever run at Cartmel, a 2 mile 6 furlong Open Handicap Hurdle.
The course consists of a circuit of just over a mile which is almost oval in shape. The finishing straight bisects the circuit - running across the centre, splitting the racecourse into two enclosures. The spectators watch from either the Paddock Enclosure or the Course Enclosure, both of which are on the inside of the track, as opposed to on the outside of the track as you would find at most other racecourses. This enables Cartmel racegoers to get unusually close to the action.
The run-in (the distance from the last fence to the finish line) on the steeplechase course is the longest in the country at just over 4 furlongs.
The steeplechase course has 6 fences; these include an open ditch and a water jump. The hurdles course has four obstacles. However, as the course is narrow around the last hurdle, it is removed during steeplechase races, and then rebuilt for each hurdle race.
The narrow track, sharp nature of the bends, stiff fences and undulating contours make it quite difficult to win from off the pace. The course is ideally suited to front running course specialists.
Improvements to the track surface and drainage has helped to raise the quality of the racing at Cartmel and Nicky Henderson (2012/13 Champion Trainer), Nigel Twiston-Davies, David Pipe, Paul Nicholls and Donald McCain have all brought runners in the recent past. Donald McCain and Nigel Twiston-Davies each train a fair number of winners at the track, but it also pays to watch local trainers with smaller yards such as Jimmy Moffatt (who trains the other side of the village to the racecourse) and Dianne Sayer.