York Racecourse is looking forward to the opening of its latest racegoer facility, the Premier Racing Lounge, which will see its first racegoers on Wednesday 15 May, the opening day of the Dante Festival.

The new concept has converted the ground floor of the existing Melrose Stand into a pre booked Premier Lounge, which offers a reserved seat in a great location (adjacent to the Parade Ring) combined with the benefits of modern technology, all delivered with a touch of luxury. The project has seen the transformation of a space that was previously a back of house area behind a bank of tote windows. New Tote positions on the exterior of both sides of Lounge are part of the reconfiguration.

As an indication that the new area looks set to prove popular, it has already sold out for all three days of this May Festival.

Designed as an upgrade from the traditional County Stand Badge, the Premier Racing Lounge will have a capacity of 132 racegoers, who will benefit from the reserved seat in a first class location, a bar serving premium drinks, dedicated betting facilities from both Totepool and William Hill, as well as having its own toilets.

Floor to ceiling windows towards both the track and Parade Ring aspects offer a bright feel, as well as creating a connection with the live sport unfolding outside. Tables are configured for parties of four, with new furniture handmade in Yorkshire by Andy Thornton, offering the choice of a comfortable casual chair with arm rests or the elevated style of a plush poseur stool.

There will be the convenience of table service for a range of premium drinks including local artisan gins such as Slingsby or Brittains. A courier service will offer the ability to place bets from a seat that the racegoers will have reserved in advance.

Located with easy access to a range of existing places that serve lunch, the decision was taken to devote the maximum space to racegoer use, so it does not include a kitchen. There will however be the option to enjoy a range of Proper Platters as well as premium treats from behind the bar. The Gimcrack Restaurant, Princess Mary Seafood Bar, as well as the John Carr Griddle are all easily reached for guests looking for something a little more substantial, safe in the knowledge that their seat is reserved in the Premier Racing Lounge.

Three 86 inch HD screens, alongside multiple conventional sized televisions, will showcase the racing from York as well as from other racecourses and the wider sporting world; as Yorkshire looks forward to hosting an Ashes Test Match and the World UCI Cycling Championships in 2019. This means the Lounge has the ability to host Premier Sports Events on non racedays; whether that is coverage of international racing or global sports events, such as World Cup Finals.

The popular William Hill Betting Shop at the southern end of the development, has also benefited from a refurbishment, serving racegoers inside the Premier Racing Lounge as well as in the wider County Stand.

For those with a sweet tooth, the Yorkshire Ice Cream counter remains in the area with the sweetie shop being found a new home, next to the nearby Ebor Stand.

Racegoers are able to book their seats and Proper Platters from the York Racecourse website (yorkracecourse.co.uk) with the benefits of the Premier Racing Lounge being priced to reflect the wider raceday. Starting at £56 for the Friday afternoons in June, July, October; with the Dante Festival at £65; £82 for Summer Saturdays & Music events; then £115 at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival in August. These prices are inclusive of admission to the wider County Stand as well as VAT and a racecard. Special advance booking deals will continue to be a part of the wider York proposition.

A six figure budget has been invested in the project, which follows the successful redevelopments of both the wider Northern End of the Racecourse and the Clocktower Enclosure, in the last five years. Up and coming Yorkshire architecture practice, Dawson Williamson Architects, have designed the scheme; with the structural works delivered by Lindum Construction of York.

Commenting on the new opening, William Derby, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course said; “This latest scheme makes a great use of premium space near the Parade Ring and I believe will bring an extra dimension to coming racing at York. The opportunity to reserve a seat in a well-appointed racegoer facility in a prime location is new for racegoers outside hospitality. I am proud of how the team have worked hard to deliver this next phase in the development of York, as part of our ongoing programme to continue to improve the experience of racing at the Knavesmire; it is a tribute to them that it is already proving so popular.”


ROGER Varian is hoping that his Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes entry, Surfman, can deliver on his significant promise for owner breeder Peter Winkworth.

Surfman, a half-brother to Group 1-winning filly Kitesurf, has already shown huge potential in easily winning his last two races, after making his debut at Nottingham last October.

Now the son of Juddmonte Farms star Kingman, is poised for a step up in class at York after yesterday’s confirmation stage saw 12 colts remain in the £165,000 Group 2.

Varian said: “We’ve always held him in the highest regard and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that he’s as good as we think he might be.”

Surfman broke through in a Nottingham novice race a month after his first outing. But it was on his seasonal reappearance at Newcastle on April 30 that he really stood out as an exciting prospect, landing a mile and a quarter novice contest by 14 lengths.

Varian assessed: “He beat a poor field, let’s be honest. He didn’t beat a lot but he beat them 14 lengths on the bridle. And it did the horse good to get out there – get an away-day from Newmarket.

“We didn’t learn much about him – we knew he was a nice horse and he proved he was a nice horse. But we didn’t learn how nice he is. His next start, we will do.”

That next engagement looks likely to be on Thursday in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai backed Dante Stakes, the mile and a quarter race, still regarded by many shrewd observers as the most informative Derby trial.

Surfman, who holds an entry for the most famous Classic of them all, warmed up for York with a piece of fast work in Newmarket on Friday morning.

Varian added: “He has worked well and he has come on for his run.

“He’s a highly promising colt. He has always worked at home like a pretty smart colt – we’ve got high hopes for him going forward.

“And if we do run in the Dante that’s going to tell us a little bit more where we are.

“I think York – a galloping track, a flat track – should suit him well. It looks a very hot race – we’ll have to see what shows up and see how we measure up. But I think he’s pretty good himself, so fingers crossed.”

If Surfman could triumph on the Knavesmire it would be a romantic result as Varian and Winkworth are old allies, stemming back to the days when the latter used to train.

“Peter is one of the sport’s enthusiasts and he has put a lot into the game over the years,” said Varian.

“I actually rode him a winner in my very short and undistinguished riding career. He supported me back then as a teenager – I was a 7lb claimer and it was over hurdles that I rode him that winner – and it’s nice that he has supported me as a trainer as well.”

Among the possible rivals that Surfman may face is last year’s champion two-year-old, Too Darn Hot, who was forced to miss the Qipco 2,000 Guineas after suffering a small setback. His trainer John Gosden is also represented by Turgenev at the latest forfeit stage.

Ballydoyle trainer, Aidan O’Brien, has left in a brace of geographically named contenders in Japan and Western Australia. While there are three Yorkshire based entries; record-breaking Mark Johnston from Middleham, has Dark Vision and Nayef Road as possible runners, while Karl Burke from nearby Coverham, could saddle Kadar.

The Dante Festival runs from Wednesday 15 May 15 – Friday 17 May 17 inclusively.
For tickets please call 01904 620911 x 225 or visit www.yorkracecourse.co.uk


Evening meetings are always extremely popular at Pontefract and the first of three this season is 80s Night on Friday Evening 24th May. It’s the first of two Music Nights (the other being on Friday Evening 19th July) and with one of the world’s biggest international male soloists from the 80s, Billy Ocean, playing after the last race, it promises to be the best 80’s Night yet!

Billy Ocean has sold over 30 million records in his lifetime to date. With number one hits in the UK, USA, Australia, Germany and Holland, he’s achieved extraordinary success as both an artist and songwriter.

Born in Trinidad, Billy settled in London’s East End when he was just seven and was quickly inspired by the likes of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
His first big break came when ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ reached No. 2 in the UK charts and No. 12 in the US. Other huge hits, including ‘Red Light Spells Danger’, followed on, before the million selling, Grammy Award winning, US Number 1 ‘Caribbean Queen’, ‘Loverboy’ and ‘Suddenly’.

There were even more huge hits with ‘When The Going Gets Tough (the tough get going)’ and ‘There’ll Be Sad Songs (to make you cry)’ before the now classic ‘Get Outta My Dreams; Get Into My Car’ gave Billy his third US No. 1.

With a back catalogue like this, the 24th May promises to be one of the best music nights that Pontefract has ever seen! With tickets limited, Racegoers are encouraged to secure their place early.

On the track, the highlight is the 6 furlong £25,000 EBF VW Van Centre [Leeds] Ltd Youngsters Conditions Stakes. There is an impressive list of previous winners and last year’s victor, Ninetythreetwenty, went on to finish 6th to Calyx at Royal Ascot and has now been sold to continue his racing career in Hong Kong. The race always attracts some interesting and precocious juveniles looking to stake their claim for Royal Ascot glory the following month.

The Racecourse welcome back Alamo Business Systems, Constant Security and Napoleons Casino Bradford who are all continuing their generous sponsorship of races at the West Yorkshire track.

There’s also a special mention for Virginia Beardsley who will be celebrating a very special birthday at the Course on this day!

If you’re bringing a car to this meeting, don’t forget to pick up your voucher for two free bottles of Harrogate Spa Spring Water water. Keep an eye out for the Ponte team handing out vouchers in the car parks. You’ll be able to redeem these at any of the ‘Designated Driver’ points around the Racecourse.

It’s going to be a fantastic night of racing, laughter, music and nostalgia and many racegoers will be taking advantage of the fact that the dress code is relaxed on this night when they pick out their best fancy dress outfit and hope to pick up one of the spot prizes provided by tiesplanet.com!

There are still discounted tickets available. The Premier Enclosure badges are currently £23 while Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure tickets are £15 – both prices include the concert after racing. Entrance tickets bought on the night will be full price (£25 and £17 respectively) so make sure you get your tickets before the night! Advance tickets can be purchased via the racecourse website at www.pontefract-races.co.uk or over the phone on 01977 781307.