Racing at Carlisle was first recorded way back in 1559 at Swift (the racing venue prior to that used today) during the second year of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, when the Carlisle gold bell, donated by Lady Dacre, was presented for the first time.
The Large Bell is inscribed 'The sweftes horse thes bel to tak for mi lade Daker sake' which translates as ‘The Swiftest horse this bell to take for my lady Dacre's sake’. A second, small bell is inscribed 1599 HBMC which is believed to stand for the Mayor of Carlisle at this time, Henry Baines.
Many years on, the bells are still the prize for the winner of Cumbria’s most celebrated flat race, The Carlisle Bell. The race is run every June and is seven furlongs and 200 yards for three-year-olds and above.
In 1904, the racecourse was moved to its present day Blackwell location, with its first grandstand appearing not long after.
On the 2nd July 1929, Carlisle was part of a significant moment in British horse racing when the newly-formed Tote (Totalisator Board) operated their betting for the first time on a British racecourse.
Carlisle also had a King’s Plate – a race for five-year-olds in three-mile heats – developed by George III in 1763. However, interest in the race declined after its prize of 200 guineas was halved around 1839.
Since 2002, Carlisle has offered a new, state-of-the-art grandstand, which takes the race day atmosphere to a whole new level.