Hunting men competed in cross-country chases from the beginning of the 19th century, often at Hatherleigh Farm on the edge of Wincanton. Matches developed into races, mostly confined to qualified hunters, and in 1861 the National Hunt Committee was formed.
The first meeting of Wincanton Races was at Hatherleigh on 1st August 1867, with thousands of spectators, dressed to the nines ‘as though they were going to the Derby’. The first Wincanton Hunt Steeplechases took place on the 1893 Easter bank holiday. In 1897, with leases on land at Hatherleigh Farm, Wincanton Hunt Steeplechases were instituted under National Hunt Rules. Ownership passed to Wincanton Races Company in 1913.
In 1921, Lord Stalbridge became chairman, and, after the expiry of the Hatherleigh Farm lease in 1925, the company bought Kingwell Farm on the high ground above Wincanton. The first meeting on the new course was held on Easter Monday 1927. The racecourse was requisitioned by the army during the Second World War. In 1945, the dilapidated racecourse was saved by a syndicate formed by Harry Dufosee and ten sporting friends.
Now one of the Jockey Club Racecourses, Wincanton has been much improved over the years, holds 17 meetings a year during the jump season, and has hosted some of the world’s most famous horses, jockeys and trainers. Perhaps the all-time favourite is the much-loved, many times winner Desert Orchid.