It’s been over 5 months since there was last racing at Pontefract, but the 2017 season is almost upon us and the West Yorkshire track kick off their 16 day campaign on Tuesday 11th April. The total prize money of £1.13 million on offer is the highest ever provided at the West Yorkshire track and it promises to be another season of top class racing and fantastic entertainment.
At the annual Press Luncheon held on Wednesday 1st March, Norman Gundill outlined exciting plans for the year ahead. Following the success of The Art Of Racing Raceday last year, the event won the “All About the Horse” category at the Annual RCA Showcase Awards in November whilst the Rugby League Evening was one of four shortlisted in the “Events” category. Both will be back in 2017 – indeed there’ll be two Art of Racing Racedays due to the demand from people wanting to take part!
Pontefract will also have two Friday Evening Music Night Meetings. 80’s Night on Friday 26th May will feature Bananarama while Cheryl, Mike and Jay, formerly of Bucks Fizz, will be back to perform after racing on Red Shirt Night on Friday 21st July which will also include a Beer Festival.
Ladies Day is on Wednesday 9th August. The first prize for the Best Dressed Lady this year will be a week’s holiday for 2 courtesy of Riu Resorts and Hotels in Sri Lanka. Second prize will be a weekend at the new Riu hotel in Dublin.
In keeping with the strong family tradition at the track, there are also 3 Family Sundays in 2017, each with over £100,000 worth of prize money. The much loved Flat Cap and Whippet Family Day is on 25th June, the Go Racing in Yorkshire Festival Family Day is on 30th July and the Inaugural Sunday Service Family Day is on 20th August . This race meeting sees the Racecourse zoned into different areas – the Jockey Zone, the Industry Zone, the Horse Zone, the Newcomer Zone, the Tipster Zone and the Kids Zone!
The EBF Highfield Farm Flying Fillies Stakes on this day will be the richest race to be run at Pontefract in 2017 with prize money of £55,000. The race fulfils the BHA’s aim of improving black type races for fillies and mares and the Racecourse are hoping to one day run it as a Group 3.
On the track
The quality of the racing promises to be as good as ever with record prize money and 5 Listed Races offering a combined total of £220,000 in prize money.
In 2016, Loving Things (Luca Cumani / Martin Lane) won the totepool Pontefract Castle Stakes in June off a rating of 95. She ended her season rated 108 following a close 3rd in the Group 3 Lancashire Oaks at Haydock and a Group 3 win at Saint-Cloud.
In 2003, James Fanshawe sent out the admirable Macadamia to win the Pipalong Stakes at Pontefract before going on to win the Royal Hunt Cup and the Group 2 Falmouth Stakes. In 2016, Macadamia’s daughter, Spirit Raiser, ridden by Freddie Tylicki was sent off favourite to emulate her mother and made no mistake in doing so!
Convey (Sir Michael Stoute / Ryan Moore) was considered to be one of the most frustrating horses in training. He’s not short on talent but doesn’t always bring it to the track. In taking the Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes in scintillating style he becoming the highest rated horse to win at Pontefract in 2016 with a rating of 111. Having been gelded over the Winter, he started his 2017 campaign with a taking victory in the Group 3 Winter Derby at Lingfield.
Mehronissa (Ed Vaughan / Freddie Tylicki) was a taking winner of the Highfield Farm Flying Fillies Stakes. She went on to finish a close 4th in the Group 1 Sprint Cup behind Quiet Reflection before being sent to America for the Breeders Cup.
Godolphin won the EBF totesport.com Silver Tankard Stakes with D’bai (Charlie Appleby / William Buick) who had previously finished an excellent 3rd in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster. He’s still engaged in both the English and the Irish Derby as well as the QIPCO 2000 Guineas.
They weren’t the only equine stars seen at Ponte in 2017. Maleficent Queen and Yalta both won at Pontefract before ending their seasons in Group 1 Company while Khairaat remained unbeaten for the rest of the season after winning his Maiden impressively at the track. Godolphin’s Memorial Day kept up the good record of Godolphin in the Simon Scrope Dalby Screw Driver Handicap. He was their 3rd winner of the race in the last 4 years, winning easily by 7 lengths. He ended his season in Group 3 company at Newbury.
Promotions and admission
Admission prices to the Premier and Grandstand & Paddock Enclosures have both increased by £1 but the price of the Silver & Picnic Enclosures has been fixed for another year. However, many racegoers have already taken advantage of the huge 50% off early bird booking discount which ran throughout December until the 16th January. 25% discounts ran from then until the end of February.
With the cost of a joint Annual Badge working out at just over £8 per person per day for the whole season, the excellent Loyalty Card scheme and the FREE Postcode Lottery promotion all in operation this season, there are plenty of bargains to be had.
Racegoers will also be able to win some fantastic prizes in the Wall of Fame promotion. Anyone who visited the track in 2016 could appear on the new mosaic artwork which graces the Grandstand & Paddock Bar.
Brian Ellison will host the Pontefract Annual Badge Holders visit in 2017. A group of 50 will be taken to the yard before returning for the meeting on the 11th July, hopefully armed with a few winners!
The Parade Ring has been rebuilt over the Winter. The new, modern Paddock has been built in the same footstep as the old one but the slope has been reduced and new Fornells fencing and Quattro surfacing have been laid. At a cost of just under £½ million, the new Parade Ring also incorporates more extensive terracing, better viewing for race goers and much improved facilities for horses and stable staff.
The Course have also continued the programme of refurbishing their existing facilities. This winter they have started work on Phase 1 of the Dalby Stand with the refurbishment of the Main Entrance Foyer and Staircase.
With just over 4 weeks to the start of the racing year at Pontefract these are exciting times for the Racecourse who look forward to welcoming punters, new and old, back for the 2016 season.
Full details of all the Pontefract race meetings to be held this year can be found at their website on www.pontefract-races.co.uk.