The Andover area has had a long equine tradition and the town once had its own racecourse on Andover Down. When it started is yet to be determined but the racecourse certainly existed in 1759, when Isaac Taylor published his map, just a few years after the turnpike road improvements between Basingstoke and Lopcombe Corner. Indeed, the upgrading of the nearby road may have prompted the laying out of a viable course. Jockeys, trainers, owners and sundry enthusiasts, together with the racehorses themselves, would attend a succession of different meetings over a wide area during the horse-racing season, and racecourses that could only be reached by travelling along ill-kept, rutted tracks and roads were unlikely to be well-attended.

Both the Hampshire Chronicle and the Salisbury and Winchester Journal, which both started in the 1770s, report briefly on the results of Andover Races during that decade but the reports die out after 1777, when the course may have ceased to operate and it would certainly have been swallowed up by the Inclosure Awards of 1785. Nearby Danebury, close to Stockbridge, may have become the popular venue for racing after the demise of the Andover course. However, Danebury was likely the earlier course of the two and much of the local gentry had an interest in horse racing and kept stables for breeding and sale of stock so it was an ideal venue.

Andover was bred by William Etwall who had stables at Longstock. A batchelor, he lived in the manor house there with three servants, and was a younger son of the Andover Etwalls whose house stood at the top of New Street on the church side of the street. It burned down in 1935, after which the ground was bought by the church council to provide St Mary’s incumbent with a more convenient rectory.

The Etwall family was prominent in the history of Andover during the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th, there being a succession of Ralph Etwalls, the first two being talented lawyers and at various times serving as bailiffs, deputy stewards and town clerks, whereas Ralph Etwall III became one of the two local MPs between 1831 and 1847. Unfortunately, the latter was not of the same calibre as his two predecessors and eventually had to leave the country, having gone bankrupt. William Etwall, the breeder of Andover, was a magistrate and a brother of Ralph III.

Andover has been described as a ‘strongly built bay horse with one white foot, standing 15.2 hands high’. His sire was another champion racehorse named Bay Middleton, who had also won the Derby in 1836, and an unnamed dam that went on the produce a colt, Anton, which was to win the St James’ Palace Stakes.

However, before it ever began racing, William Etwall sold Andover as a yearling to a retired prize-fighter called John Gully. He sent it to be trained at Danebury by John Barham Day, a pre-eminent local trainer whose family was intrinsically linked with the course at Stockbridge. Andover first ran at Goodwood in 1853, finishing third in the Ham Stakes and winning the Molecomb Stakes. The following month he was at Brighton where he won twice. An injury prevented any further outings that year but at the end of May 1854, he was entered for the Epsom Derby.

The field comprised 27 runners and Andover was second favourite at 7-2. The prize was worth almost £6,000. His jockey was Alfred Day, a younger brother of the trainer. Coming from behind in the early part of the race, he began to catch up and came into the straight behind the winner of the 2000 guineas, The Hermit, and the Derby favourite, Dervish. Over the final quarter mile, Andover pushed ahead, shaking off a challenge from King Tom who threatened to overtake at the last.

Despite developing a swelling of the hock, Andover won at Stockbridge at the end of June, at Goodwood in July and at Brighton where he won the Champagne Stakes. He had now won the last seven races in which he had been entered. A final win came at Doncaster but after this, although he was kept in training he never ran again.

Finally, Andover was bought for £1,450 by Yorkshireman and leading breeder Sir Tatton Sykes for his Sledmere Stud. However, before any of his offspring were old enough to race, he was sold to a stud in Russia in 1856.

If you are interested in local history why not join Andover History and Archaeology Society? Details can be found at